As shocking as it seems, the trip you planned and prepared for since last year is now over. Yet now is when the work begins. Now is when you start to digest the feast of experience that Guatemala offered.
Do not be quick or thoughtless about this process. It is work, and it should be intentional.
First, allow yourself to rest.
Enjoy sleeping in your own bed, eating familiar food, spending time with family, even flushing toilet paper down your toilet. Even while resting, your mind is mulling on your experience.
Second, allow yourself to feel.
Memory is rarely 100% accurate, so take some time to look back on the pictures, read your journal entries, scroll through the blog posts. Be reminded of the various moments that you experienced, then ask yourself, “How did this moment affect me?” Identify your feelings – perhaps fear or frustration or joy or confusion. (There’s no wrong answer.)
Once you’ve identified how you felt, ask yourself, “Why?”
Why were you nervous the first day we knocked on the blue gate of the school? Why were you sad as we drove over the bridge across el barranco (the ravine)? Why were you afraid when you walked down the steep stairs into the homes of the ravine? Why did you feel such joy singing “Oceans” together in the evening on the porch?
Believe it or not, how you answer these “why” questions matters. It reveals who you are. It reveals what motivates you. It reveals strengths and weaknesses.
As an added bonus, connecting feelings to memories cements those memories more securely in your mind. And these memories are not ones you want to forget.
Third, allow yourself to change.
You cannot see what you have seen and remain the same person. You know more. You understand more. And you are now accountable for more. The world isn’t composed of farmland and Wilbur chocolate and the halls of Lititz Christian. There’s a world that is dark and scary and hungry and hopeless.
You now need to grapple with difficult questions. Where do you go from here? How can you live a life of such wealth, when others suffer in the world? How do you keep from slipping back into your old way of thinking and living and moving through the world? What’s your role in all of this?
These are big questions and not ones to answer tritely. And no one can answer those questions but you. It is, of course, no coincidence that this trip comes at a time when you are looking out at a vast horizon of “the rest of your life” (so to speak). You’re planning your future. You’re making decisions that determine the initial trajectory of your adult life. So isn’t now the opportune moment to think about the person you are and the person you will become?
If you are waltzing down a road that isn’t God-glorifying, it’s not too late to change directions.
If you find yourself getting distracted from a goal that the Lord has set before you, fix your eyes determinedly on Jesus. Don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter in light of eternity.
If you aren’t sure of your next turn, turn to the Word and be still.
If you feel that all you have are questions with no answers, don’t give up. Keep asking your questions; the answers will come.
If you are discouraged that you are the only person making godly decisions in a sin-seeking world, don’t grow weary. His strength is made perfect in weakness, and His grace is sufficient.
We are always ever changing. So, with your mind deeply rooted in the Truth of the God’s word, allow yourself to change, to grow, to become.
My prayer for you is Psalm 91—the same as I prayed over Maria and her family while standing in her home in the ravine. I pray the Lord will shelter you and be your fortress, that you will not fear the terror of the night, and that you will make the Lord your dwelling place.
I am so proud of you, dear seniors. Thank you for allowing me and the other chaperones to travel and serve alongside you this past week.
With heaps of love,