Sorry this final update comes so late! It’s taken a while to recover physically and start to process this trip. It took quite a few hours to actually write this. This is a much longer update, fair warning… It only covers sentiments from the weekish after the trip, and even during that week things have been changing, so this is only an ad interim conclusion, if you will. I believe that God will continue to change me.
Saturday was a full day of travel, complete with customs in Houston and plenty of joking around/sharing pictures with each other. We arrived in the Austin airport around 6:40pm and Annie (David’s wife) was the first to greet us… and as our parents or spouses arrived there were the joyful reunions. Andrew tackled me and wouldn’t let me go during the entire baggage-claiming process. Love the guy.
When we had all our luggage, we all—including our families—gathered around for a final word of prayer. We thanked God for our feet and baggage safely on the Austin-Bergstrom tile, and we prayed that now we would not *return* to our regular lives, but that our lives would be thoroughly changed by what we experienced in Bolivia and that it would show, and we prayed for the health of Sucre and for the continued ministry in Sucre, and we prayed for the pastors and nationals continuing the ministry in Sucre, and if I’m remembering wrong and we didn’t pray these things, they were things on my heart that I prayed while my mom drove us home through night Austin.
TAKEAWAY 1: FIGHTING SATAN/FINDING JOY
Moments of this past week have been a different sort of challenging. I’m calling it Bolivia-withdraw, but it’s a different gloom from what I expected. It’s not that I’m shocked by our culture of waste, or depressed about the contrast between the waste and grandeur here and the poverty there, or anything like that. It’s just this intense sadness that the trip is over. I’m not working in Sucre anymore. I haven’t fully finished unpacking yet, partly because of laziness and partly because I want to keep the Sucre aura of excitement in my room, maybe. But I pass my suitcase every time I enter and leave my room and when I see it, I touch it and my chest is instantly so heavy, and I wish I could travel back a week and be back in Sucre. My suitcase, my backpack, the ring and bracelet Carmen gave me, even my travel-sized toothpaste tube all elicit this same sinking feeling; I wish I were back.
I’m worried that I’m having this reaction because I’m treating Bolivia as a paradise of sorts—a place to escape from normal life for a short period of time—and I’m just being re-weighed down by my regular life obligations and worries now. I’m worried that it’s just the drag of having to worry, again, about school, my future, piano, etc. and I’m just wishing that I could be back in that place where the thrill is in God is in the moment, and I’m just sad because the nine days I’d looked forward to for months—maybe even idolized as a special trip—are over.
But I’m thinking back to the family vacations I’ve been on: Grand Canyon, skiing, Europe, China. Even the summer camps I’ve been to: Kenyon Young Writers, AwesomeMath, Simon’s Rock Young Writers. And I remember a sense of relief at coming home—each was a fantastic experience, but it felt good to brush my teeth in my sink again and shower with a familiar water pressure. In the days after these experiences, I looked back at them with only a pleasant affection. Nothing like this; nothing remotely close to this bitterness that bites me with every mention of Sucre or text exchange with Carmen. And those vacations and camps were also essentially ‘escapes from reality’, so how do I explain my sadness when thinking of of this one?
According to David’s follow-up email: Satan. Quote: “Know that it is the Enemy that desires to destroy the Joy we have experienced.” I’d like to think that I have this gloom because God really used me in His mission field, and I was really meant to be in Sucre to do His work, and so Satan is really focusing on ruining me and my perception of the trip. That’s a nicer idea than me just being selfish.
It got really bad at some time and so I wrote a little something to Satan. Don’t read if you’re in a good mood.
So pray for my continued recovery and pray against Satan, would you? And for true joy to take his place in my heart. Sucre was an incredible experience, and I pray against that turning the rest of my life into a dump.
[UPDATE: I wrote this section a few days ago and it’s starting to get better, praise God. He answers prayers.]
TAKEAWAY 2: SPIRITUAL GROWTH
On to the coinciding, equally true, but more uplifting things!
God is saturating my day-to-day, routine moments. Speaking of prayer, if you read my Day 7 update, you know that we had a time of prayer outside Gloria Divinia (our church), during which God really revealed Himself to me. Prayer has a new electricity for me, now, after this trip. Even when praying for meals, the words in my head are charged with this excitement… causes me to still my soul and feel a certain connection I’d never experienced before. And “doing business with God,” as PG puts it, has a new level of emotion and my heart has this new level of tenderness.
In general, I think I’m newly excited about Christianity. What does that mean? I’m literally looking forward to my 35-min commute to and from Ballet Austin each day (doing the 3-week ballet intensive program, and my toes hurt), because I’m listening to past sermons while I drive and loving it. Church on Sunday didn’t feel like an isolated event—it was something I looked forward to all week, and the spiritual atmosphere felt like a continuation of the week, in the sense that I’d been talking with God, reading the Bible, and even listening to teachings regularly and meaningfully. Reading the Bible excites me; I have a 6-year-old Christmas-morning anticipation for it now. This sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. It’s only been a week, so if it’s simply a spiritual post-missions high, I hope it doesn’t wear off. I’m praying that it doesn’t ever wear off.
As maybe you can see, emotions have been as bouncy as uncooked boba (which make for great ammo when little brothers are annoying, not that I know from personal experience). One minute I’m driving down Caesar Chavez to the powerful PG exhortations coming out of my phone and feeling growth and learning like never before, next I’m thinking of Sucre and I’m bitter and this swampy sadness, and next I’m praying that God drive away Satan and give me peace and He does, and next Carmen texts me that she misses me so much, and then I’m probably crashed into a tree. But I feel an intimacy with my faith and Father—not only that, but a magnetic desire to develop this intimacy closer and deeper—and I think that’s what matters. God takes care of His children.
Speaking of PG…
TAKEAWAY 3: PEOPLE
I was going to title this one “PG’s Jokes,” just for kicks, because I swear, dumb jokes and tricks multiply in the guy’s head like baby bunnies, and being around him intensively for a week… Anyway, my point is that during this trip I forged new relationships with translators, nationals, and co. but I also became really close to the familiar faces I went in with. God wants us to fellowship with other believers and grow together in our faith, is an important point in the Evangecube gospel presentation. I think that there’s something special about having shared an experience like a short-term mission trip with people I see weekly—a deeper fellowship we can have, and different kind of support we can offer each other as our lives progress. I’m especially grateful for my teammate/partner-in-crime/pastor, who continues to check up on me and make me laugh, really really hard. I respect him and thank God for him, more than ever.
All around, from contacting my supporters to presenting the gospel to strangers to loving in these friendships… I think God used this trip to start building my confidence. I come away from Sucre with a greater understanding of what it means to take initiative, then step aside and let God do the work—I come away with a deeper trust in the Holy Spirit’s competence, when it comes to dealing with people.
Analogy time! At ballet last week, I did partnering for the first time (partnering is two people dancing together, aka boy & girl). It’s a lot harder than it looks, mainly because it’s scary trusting someone with all your weight/catching you in the air/keeping you on the right part of your toes/etc. And the thing is, you can’t just flail yourself around in the guy’s arms and expect him to fix you, or flop around limply in the air and expect him to catch you successfully—you have to use your own strength to offer resistance so he can handle you (imagine hoisting a giant floppy plastic tube of water versus a wooden plank), and you have to do your own part to have good placement. But if you do your part and trust the guy, it works and it’s beautiful… so I’m likening this to trusting the Holy Spirit. I can’t expect the Holy Spirit to magically make my friends ask me about the gospel, or magically transform them into Christ-followers, but if I do my part and pray for them, share with them, etc., He will do his part.
Praying for the people I met, the people I have strengthened friendships with, and the people God will use me to reach in the future.
If you’ve read this far, you deserve a medal. Thank you all for your prayers and support and kind words and everything… I really mean that. One last word—I hope the biggest takeaway from this trip is Sucre itself. Writing this post and seeing how I’ve been impacted, I realize that I’m really not ‘coming away from Sucre’ at all… it’s an experience that I’ll live with continuously, in the sense that I constantly draw from the lessons I learned and the maturity I gained as I go about life here… That sounds cheesy, but again it’s true. Cheese seems to be an accurate representation of life.
I’m so grateful to God for the city Sucre and the experience I had there and the experience I’m having because of it.
Let’s close with the word of God! Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
—1 Corinthians 15:9-10
May the glory, all of it, go to God.
Thank you for following my Sucre journey.
Isabella – 7/26/16