3rd Times A Charm - MCS 2016 DR Trip Recap
"So where does this trip rank in comparison to the other two?"
Wifey's question as we drove from Pearson airport caused me to pause and stammer a bit. It had been something some of our current first years asked me on our last day too and as with them, I didn't have a good answer. In fact, I still don't. Each trip brings with it unique challenges, choices, circumstances, comments and characters. While some of the elements might be the same (i.e. We'll always have classes during the trip since it is a class and not a traditional mission trip), how that translates into and through the life of a group of 18 to 24 year olds is never the same. Even how I experience these trips changes.
My first one was harder only because I was still in learning mode (new job, wasn't my boss who was a staple on these trips, 10 days away from home which was the longest i'd been away from my family, different expectation, etc.) but the win was that I had a great relationship with our mission hosts from a previous trip in 2009 with my own youth group. That was a learning trip where I made my mark as a campus pastor, became brothers with Nathan Flight, had to take a student to the hospital (which still deserves its own post), and figured out how I could fit in on such a team. That first class would tell you that they are a...unique bunch...yet we managed to make it work all together and we were bonded greatly because of it.That class was filled with pioneers and could be categorized by their desires to share Jesus and his kindness
My second one saw us more prepared class-wise through devotionals, prayer, practice. Our hosts didn't have as many hands to help them so we ended up taking a bit more of the prep load to help them out. Thankfully, our class was a bunch of workers who lived out the statement made at the beginning of out school year "#servantsoverstars" in a big way. They wanted to do more than was needed all the time, from work, to prayer to acts of kindness. I started figuring out a bit more about me too as a leader and a person which helped my own confidence across the board.
And then there's this year's #Squad, aka my class (I am their class rep). These ones experienced the trip in light of the recommendations made from the previous two years; meaning they had to do more stuff:) We stayed overnight in the countryside with pastors and their families while working on farm fields. We dug more, lifted more, talked more and prayed differently. Because my friend and sister Geninne spoke at the youth outreach this year, I was tasked with putting people in their spots at that event which has always been reversed for us. Students went "All In" for everything, learning songs that the local churches in Nagua sing as opposed to singing what we sing here in Spanish. My class defined flexibility. They really worked on the languages before the trip and during the trip. They earned their beach day because of all the work they did. And even though it rained, we STILL lined up as a crew and took over that beach for some time:)
On top of that, we got to spend the bulk of our time in connection groups, including our overnight. My crew had the distinct privilege to have Courtney Thomas hang with us too. Courtney moved from little sister to crew member really quickly and if you know Courtney, you're not surprised by that at all:)
My memories for the other trips are fuzzy, as you can imagine, but it doesn't discount what I or we experienced there. My memories for this recent trip are fresh but that it only because it JUST happened:) There are many differences but here are some proper similarities worth noting:
- Prayer is essential.
- Support missionaries. Just do it. Pray, give and go. Check out http://www.everydayministries.ca/ to learn about where we were and who we partnered with.
- You are only as strong as the team you have and the team you work with.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
- Don't act like you know everything...even if you do. Attractive leaders (not in looks but in character) are humble ones. Pride never comes across as admirable.
- The Spirit is only as active as we want him to be. What I mean is that I saw God do things in students that I feel took place because we stopped and said "Lord have your way". There's nothing like seeing a 12 year old boy get filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. Wow. YOUTH PASTORS: Make time for that. And if no one "gets filled", coach them through it and try again. Don't be like like how I was as a pastor and wait until retreat or convention so it wasn't "ON ME". Own it. Own the frustration of "why has it still not happened?" Own the conversations with your students. You'll be grateful for it. I wish I did more of that as a pastor.
- Coaching people through stuff is better than leaving them to peer to peer convos OR waiting to get home for a Google-a-thon.
- Work hard even when no one is watching because you can be sure that someone is watching even when you don't think anyone is watching.
- Laughing is fun.
- Juan is the best guy in the world. Such a great heart. Thankful that we got to see him give his heart to Jesus while we were there. Hermanos for life.
- Being spiritual isn't a switch.
- People are more blessed by kindness than by catchy logos, sayings and sermons.
- God is doing great things in Nagua. There are some elements that we need here but it doesn't mean that God isn't doing things here in Canada too. That said, can a brother see some more prayer time here in the Great White North?
- It was really cool to be out-preached and inspired by a 20 year old named Carlos in our first church. Dude made me go back and re-work my sermon for the following week. That was awesome! Iron sharpens iron even when the languages are different. "El es!!!"
- Translators are gifts no matter what their skill level is.
- Thank God for missionaries who choose to give up their lives here in Canada to pursue God. I honour the Thomas family & the DeWeerd family for their dedication to Nagua and I love our partnership.
- Students will follow you so know who you are, what you are about, why you do what you do and where you are going.
- Reading a whole paragraph in Spanish is easier when you practice AND when you remind the room that you don't speak Spanish. It always gets a pity laugh:)
- Better to say I don't know than to make something up to sound smart. I think that goes back to humility...?
- You become a grown up when you hand-wash your own laundry.
- Many hands make for light work. Shout outs to Jordan, Torie and Linnea for helping to lift the load for the EDMC lead team.
- Patience as a leader is a major thing. Because these are leaders training for ministry, the expectations are high so when one disappoints, it's easy to think the world is ending and the church is going to fall apart. Then I remember how dumb I was (and am) and I breath a bit. Mentoring and discipleship is about talking people through those moments. I am grateful for the few who did that for me and I am honour to be in a place where I can do that for others.
- Cold showers are still the worst:)
- Kindness is contageous.
So where does't it rank? Well, as my dad would say it's the "Same difference". Parts are unique and parts are similar and yet all are memorable.
I end by talking about the team I worked with this year. Graham Gibson, aka Obi-Wan Kenobi, is wise in the ways of "the force". If you have taken a class with him, you know what I mean by that. His discernment blesses me and encourages me. I trust that man with my life each year and he never lets me down. To think that he was my prof so many years ago and now we work to together is still crazy. Nathan Flight, aka Han Solo, is the rugged military man with a sensitive heart, wicked awesome sense of humour and a take no prisoners attitude. When he is around, you want to be better, especially if you're a man. This trip is the bookend to his MCS story and I am, with tears, glad that I was here for it. PLUS it meant hanging with Jordan who is my buddy forever! Geninne Bridge is our General Leia Organa, a leader's leader who carries herself like royalty. She is instantly likeable and leads out of her deep convictions. From being in school with her to seeing her lead thousands of students through moments with God, she gives everything she has to every task and honours her friends with loyalty and continual encouragement. I, as the Chewie in the crew, (I'm tall, hairy, always making sounds and only a few people both like and understand me) have been honoured to represent MCS with you all. Also, special shout out to our fifth member who had to stay home this year - Flora Anthony. We really missed you, friend.
To my class - remember Paul's words in 1 Thess 5:16-28. That's us, always. Dabb on the word.
Some last notes: I had to leave my wife with two kids for 10 days to participate on this trip. That is always hard. She always handles it but it is never easy. Thank you Keith and Sharon Preston for taking our kids to church (APC PK's for life) with you on the weekends so Becca could work (Thanks also to Vicky Regular for sending me a note letting me know that while Ellie was in class, she talked about boys at school who like her) and to Gary and Maria Campbell, our small group leaders at King Street Community Church for having Becca and the kids over for hang outs. I am really grateful for your willingness to invite us into your lives. Also shout outs to our neighbours who are just the best.