On a Sunday morning right after Thanksgiving, I and 7 other team members got up before the crack of dawn and drove to church. Our destination? Chile. Trip length? 10 days. Goal? Light construction and encouragement to the local church.
Bags were weighed one last time, and loaded into the back of the ubiquitous church van, before we and our drivers (bless them; they didn’t have to wake up with us, but they did) piled in, too, and drove us down to Sea-Tac Airport.
I was ready to turn around and go home.
Not just because it was early (we’d met at 3:30am) … but because surely, somewhere along the line, there had been a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to go on this trip. Not at all. I could stay home and learn the same things, right? Surely God didn’t mean that, just because my trip application was accepted, funds came in (and then some), I spoke Spanish, etc., etc., I should actually go to Chile.
Even the pilot on the first flight leg (SEA>JFK) said, as they closed the flight doors, “This is your last chance to get off, if you’ve changed your mind.”
How badly I wanted to take him up on that!
If it weren’t for having to walk by my teammates and tell my supporters and prayer partners when I got home, “Thanks for supporting my trip, but I’m a wuss and staying home,” I would have been off that plane in a heartbeat. (Pilots, never give your passengers that option. Ever.)
This trip was a lesson for me in hyperawareness. I was alert and constantly on edge, checking my watch non-stop. One hour closer … two hours closer … one day left. And yet, amidst that hyperawareness that I was not home and that routine is blessed (until I get stuck in it) … God worked.
It just took a breaking point – and one that caught me by surprise.
Amidst all of our preparation, training, planning, and anticipation … I honestly didn’t expect to be hit with homesickness. Maybe a little, if any; but hey, I at least sort-of-knew the people I was going with, and I’ve been on enough trips that I thought it would be fine.
Alas, the homesickness semi-truck broadsided me. And then it backed up and ran over me again.
I’ve found that that truck gets around…but I’ll admit that on this trip, I thought it was just me. And I quickly had to learn to acknowledge the sentiment, but not wallow in it.
It’s there. It is what it is. Days passed before I realized that while I missed my loved ones, I really missed my routine. My three hours of solitude before I go to work. Being able to come home after work and do what I want, including not saying a word to anyone if I so choose. Weird, I know, but just stating the facts.)
I ultimately couldn’t sweep it under the rug or ignore it (believe me, I tried). But I knew I couldn’t wallow, either (for long, anyway). Moping isn’t attractive, and I knew it wouldn’t let God work in – or in spite of – me.
This trip further reminded me that homesickness (or any other struggle) is not a sign of weakness or failure, one that “must be hidden” or fought through solo. I tried that for two days, and finally had a meltdown on the third day. (The first of many, I will admit.) But that actually paved the way for some bang-up conversations with my trip leaders and with the locals we worked alongside, that I would not have had otherwise.
Amidst my fear that I would act out irrationally, becoming one of “those examples” of things not to do on mission trips, my leaders graciously spoke truth to me. They asked me the tough questions I didn’t want to answer about God, his goodness and plan. And the locals? When I walked into the kitchen bawling (the morning of the first meltdown), they came around me and prayed for me. I was so humbled and blessed by that!
One lady later came up to me and gave me cookies, saying how happy she was that I was smiling. Partly to resist the temptation of having four cookies all to myself, I ate one immediately and started to share the rest. This helped even more as I extended the grace and love I had been given to those around me – so satisfying.
When I proceeded to get caught up in homesickness after that, I quickly learned to find something to at least keep my hands busy, take a walk (with a buddy) … or maybe even sit on a table.
But I finally knew that with God, I could push through the hard times. I couldn’t do it on my own (and really didn’t want to do it at all), but He fought for me. He brought me fellowship I didn’t even know I needed, along with sweet alone time in His word, and showed me that His strength is truly made perfect in my weakness. (And I blessedly didn’t make it into the annals of What Not to Do on a Mission Trip.)
Meagan Davenport is a freelance editor who enjoys blogging about travel, missions, and books. She can be found on her website as well as lurking around social media: Facebook | Instagram |Twitter | Pinterest.