Wednesday, December 4, 2013

she can't forget

i handed her the pill and some water. watching her swallow, i swallowed right along with her. hard to believe just last week she was in the dominican republic serving on a senior class mission's trip.

now with thanksgiving behind us and christmas around the corner, our home is taking on a festive glow. a glow which isn't easily reconciled with where she's just come home from.

i can see the tree lights behind her as she sets down her water glass.

the malaria pills must be continued for a few weeks after returning to the states. we've set alerts on our phone and reminders on the fridge door. we can't forget.

no, we simply can't forget.

and that's it -- she can't forget either.

she's not so worried about her malaria pill, but what she can't forget is her time spent in the dominican republic.

i can see it in her eyes. she arrived home from her week in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language, living a foreign life. she arrived home and jumped feet first into the holiday hustle. home just in time to plop herself down at the bountiful thanksgiving table. just in time to count blessings and friends and the incredible number of side dishes.

thanksgiving morning she sat at our kitchen counter as i worked on a couple of casseroles and she talked on and on and on about her week in the "DR." when i had completed the strawberry jello salad, i sat with her and we scrolled through her 1500+ pictures. one image of need and brokenness after another spilling out from her computer screen. i'll be honest, it was hard to see. i was so glad she was home and wanted to hear all about her trip, but thanksgiving morning or any morning, it can be hard to take it all in.

she told how on the first day her group went to a big supermarket warehouse and purchased many bags of groceries. they filled their carts with staples and basics and then loaded these bags into their bus heading for a small village on the outskirts of town. a village literally in the middle of the jungle.

as i began to chop vegetables for our wild rice casserole, she went on to explain how shocking it had been when they arrived in the village with their groceries. it was only day one of their trip and she hadn't quite prepared for the enormity of need she would encounter. there was no training. no preparing. no getting ready for a village like this. the bus stopped and they climbed out with their bags and their high school innocence. they walked from house to house in the midst of small children running everywhere in excitement. some of these children only partially clothed. the students followed these children to the houses stepping around dirt and rubbish and random pieces of building material along the way. the homes were devastating to see. emily has been to guatemala and thailand on mission's trips, but these homes were some of the worst she'd ever experienced. the need was overwhelming. the heat incredible. the situation devastating. after offering groceries, they spent time inside some of the houses praying with a few of the people. one lady even insisted on praying for them.

emily gave her testimony in this home here to the right. "this structure was smaller than my bedroom, mom," she explained, "and seven people live here! they all live in this one room!"

and then just a week later, thanksgiving morning, and she was home, sitting in my kitchen telling stories of her first day in this impoverished community. i mixed the wild rice and sauted onion and listened as she talked on and on. one story of impact leading to another. there weren't enough minutes in our thanksgiving morning to hear everything.

how did my daughter leave that scene and then come home to sit at a beautifully appointed thanksgiving table a couple of days later watching us all eat until we could eat no more. how does this happen? how does a 17 year old girl transition between these two worlds? how can any of us easily reconcile the bounty and the burden?

these issues involve a deep wrestling in the spirit. until we go and see and experience life in villages like this, it is easy to forget about our need wrestle.

this week, the kids are back to school and we've stepped from our november holiday right into december. the house is in the process of getting decorated. we are debating big issues like white lights or colored. we are wondering why the garland seems dry and fussing over where to put our nativity scene. i found myself grumbling earlier today over  that stubborn string of lights on the tree which has gone out for the second time. we are making our lists and checking them twice not wanting to forget anything. i've been to the craft store and the floral store and the home goods store 32 times since saturday trying to pull everything together. not wanting to forget an item or a necessary thing.

and then i watch her this afternoon swallow her malaria pill and think about how she must be processing all of this. she was only just last week passing out food to unclothed children and burdened mamas and tired men. just last week she walked the halls of a leprosy center, fed lunch to disabled children at an orphanage, and bartered in the streets of santo domingo.
emily's good friend, kevin, awesome smile, awesome shirt, awesome kid!
i know my girl is full swing back into her suburban minnesota life. she is excited about the holiday season and she is excited about choosing her college and she is excited about things like coffee dates, christmas decorating and snowboarding. life resumes in all of its beauty and wonder, but i also know my daughter has come home changed.

she won't easily forget what she left behind in the dominican republic.

she doesn't need a malaria pill every tuesday to remind her of what she experienced, what she saw. she doesn't need these photos to help her remember. she came home with a heart impacted and eyes opened wider. she came home with a better understanding of need and brokenness and struggle.

in a time when we want to lose ourselves in the glow of the beautiful season, we must remember our blessings. not take any of it for granted. not spend too much time worrying over the casserole or the color of our lights or the gift items on our list.

i know it's just easier to look away from the struggle. it's just easier to focus on the beautiful. i know for my girl, it would be easier to just forget what she saw.

but just like that malaria pill  -- she knows she can't forget. her experience is seared deeply in her heart and it will go with her. it will change her. it will prepare her for another opportunity to go or serve or bless again.

it is probably harder this week for emily to make her list of christmas wants when she has only just come back from a place of such great need. but i would challenge us all to consider that christmas does need to be about the want of others. not just what is on our list ... but what we can do to bless others: how we can come alongside them? where can we meet a need? how can we bless? where shall we serve? what can we do?

maybe the next few weeks don't allow you the opportunity to walk through an impoverished village in a foreign country. but friend, i'd encourage you to look around. chances are you'll find someone pretty impoverished right here where you are.

don't just look, but ask yourself, "what can i do?"

emily went to the dominican to serve. if you think about it, she really wasn't able to "do" a whole lot. she was a 17 year old girl in a group of 60 some students. they were only there for a quick seven days. yes, they built a swing set, played with children, put on skits, shared their testimonies, prayed over people. yes! but considering the great need, someone might argue they didn't make a huge dent in the needs of this third world country. but here's the deal: they did what they could. they did what we are called to do. and maybe the dent they were supposed to make wasn't just in that country, but in their own hearts. maybe we serve and we go and we bless, so that we experience the impact and dent in our own lives. and when we're dented we are also softened and made more aware of what God wants us to do with our time here on earth.

yes, we go on mission's trips to serve others, but we also go to get dented. changed. maybe even wrecked a little bit for the normal things of our comfortable lives.

and then we go again. we serve again. we bless others again. maybe it's not about just doing this one thing  ... maybe it's about how doing one thing changes us in multiple things. in multiple ways. for multiple purposes.

and if it seems these students weren't able to accomplish much, you didn't see the smile on the face of the disabled little girl who had never before experienced a swing. these students built a swing set while they visited and her smile alone was worth the entire trip.

this morning i attended a chapel at the school where the seniors shared their experience with parents and the other students. it was amazing to hear student after student tell stories of their week.  this morning one of emily's friends, luke, was sharing about the time they spent with people at the leprosy center. luke said this, "it was so incredible to see the joy of these people. even though they had suffered so much, even lost limbs and been rejected by people ... even though they didn't have the
another "new swing" smile!
privileges we have, they had so much joy."

another senior girl, elisa, shared her experience when she was feeding a frail woman at the leprosy center. the woman barely had enough strength to swallow her food, but elisa started singing "open the eyes of my heart Lord" and in this morning's chapel,  she told us, "the more i sung, the more it was like i was praying a prayer over her and i couldn't help but think of that verse where Jesus said, 'whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

luke and elisa and emily and the rest of this senior class won't forget these experiences. these teens have come home with more than stories and pictures and incredible moments, these kids have come home with a few dents in them. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful dents.

they have a couple more weeks of malaria pills ... but they have a life time to remember the impact from their week in the dominican republic.

this is a home which was built in that jungle village.
this family once lived in one of those ramshackle structures pictured above. such hope!

emily said as they left the village these children chased their bus waving good-bye.

"truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least 

of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." 

~ matthew 25
emily's good friend, lauren, loving on one of the kids.
emily told me this girl is 17 like her...
the students got to play baseball with a group of kids and talk with them

emily with friends, braedy and kevin
the seniors did a drama for students at a public school - love the drama!
emily had a chance to share her testimony with the school kids
cow wandering the roadside eating a little garbage -- oh my!

finding some time to eno in the DR with friends jack and jacob!
peace out!

* for more, check out the slide show emily and her friends put together:  you tube video of DR trip  

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