3 years ago tonight, I stepped off an airplane fresh from the Philippines. I landed at Jackson International Airport, and my first thought was, “I don’t want to be here.”
One day I was sitting in a squatter village, sharing the truth of Jesus with about 30 women and their children (through a Tagalog translator), feeding hungry children on the railroad tracks, and pulling orphans into my lap for hugs. The next day I boarded a plane, flew for 24 hours, and stepped back into the American hustle-and-bustle of Christmas.
I didn’t have the time to decompress, debrief, or process anything. I just catapulted myself from one world to the other, with no transition in between other than a jet-lagged plane ride.
That was the hardest Christmas I’ve ever had. It was too fresh. I woke up Christmas morning and ate a big breakfast, wondering if those kids would eat at all that day. I opened gifts with my family, wondering if those kids even knew it was Christmas day. I was distracted, a little depressed, and frustrated with myself for not balancing my emotions well enough to enjoy the holiday and still reflect on the trip, all at the same time.
My little sister gave me an envelope, and inside was a receipt for a donation made in my name to feed starving orphans. I burst into tears.
It’s been 3 years since I stepped off that plane, and it still seems fresh.
Maybe it’s because it was our first “vision trip.” The first field that we felt a specific and direct attachment to and a longing to join. The first taste of missions from the perspective of a potential team-member rather than a short-term visitor.
But I think it’s because in each of those moments– sharing Jesus with lonely women, sharing food with hungry kids, sharing hugs with orphaned children –I had the distinct feeling that I was there. Present. Right where I needed to be. That God was saying YES…this is what I have called you to.
And maybe not the Philippines, specifically (as we now know). But ministry. Tangible, hands-on, gospel-soaked ministry that does those very things– shares Jesus, meets physical needs, and loves deeply.
In the three years since that trip, we’ve visited a few more locations, accepted a call to the field, and started raising money to be able to go to Latin America. We’ll learn the language, train under some amazing veteran missionaries, and begin planting Bible-preaching churches alongside local leaders in areas where there aren’t any. And we’ll do it by sharing Jesus, meeting physical needs, and loving people.
The Philippines has been on my mind alot this past week. My time there, the people there, the way God used that experience (and the disappointment I felt when we didn’t ultimately end up there) to prune my heart.
Three whole years, and it’s still fresh.