The huge white bus rumbled loudly. A small group of staff and parents waved goodbye as we pulled out from the Academy Center. ‘Here we are’, I thought, ‘ready and willing to serve!’ We left Northern California and traveled near the tip of Venezuela.
The heat and humidity was the first thing that greeted us tired travels as we stepped onto the island. Our vision that we had for this trip was to hold health meetings for the locals. God tremendously blessed! We partnered with NEWSTART for the meetings. Though sometimes people slowly trickled into our programs, those who did go through the booths couldn’t help but smile and show their genuine appreciation for what God was doing through us. On the second week of mission trip, we continued working day and night. In the mornings, we visited different schools. It was exhausting, yet so rewarding teaching about 800 kids about the love of Christ. Language was a huge barrier for us. And since many children couldn’t understand us, we had to be extremely animated and over emphasize everything we did. Our attempts to speak their language filled them with giggles. Their chubby little brown hands desperately reached for ours and they pulled us around to play games. One thing they absolutely loved was taking pictures. They would make silly faces and dance around. When I would pull out my polaroid, they were all so eager to crowd around for the picture! As we pulled away from each school, my heart broke as they asked us to come back. I miss them! I miss their faces, their overwhelming love, and their constant laughter.
Later in the evening, we would join the NEWSTART group in teaching adults about health. Through broken English and translators, the locals who went through our program thanked us the best they could.
Though we did work hard, we always looked forward to recreation on the beautiful beaches of the island. The clear waters unveiled to us the usually hidden creatures in the water. Turtles, tropical fish, eels and curious crabs poked out of their hiding places and watched us, snorkel gear and all, swim through the ocean. It was so soothing sinking our overheated bodies into the cool, refreshing water. Some of us would toss footballs and frisbees from in and out of the water while others would play volleyball with the locals on the beach. More daring individuals climbed a lofty cliff and jumped from its height to the depths below, being careful to avoid hitting a rock or the bottom of the ocean. The last Saturday on the island was bittersweet as we all sat on the beach, watching the sun spread its rays over the horizon. Mr. Chad challenged us to sit alone and talk to God. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I thought of all the blessings that happened on this mission trip. I realized just how much I would miss the hot humidity, the screaming children, and even the clanky van we drove around! But much more than that, I would miss the bonding of our group, the times we swam in the pool, the times we would roam around the city looking for ice cream, and the times we celebrated Mark’s birthday while eating ramen and playing ‘President’ for hours. Most of all, I was inspired to find God wherever I was, whether it was in the States or on a tiny island. The sun set over the horizon, sealing the end, or rather, the beginning of a life-long journey. This is true happiness, I thought, when we forget who we are to serve others.
The Photo Gallery
Photo Credit: Eryka Liu and Serafina Ream
Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gallant