I'm a little embarrassed to tell you how awesome today was. It was today that made us question why we raised money for this trip! The Golden Rule School in Bogota today turned us into superstars.
Can I just brag a little bit about how incredible this school treated us? The sight that greeted us when we first arrived was a beautifully decorated entrance with maple leafs, kind words, and welcoming posters. Immediately, we understood why Golden Rule is such a precious school to our leaders. The excitement in the eyes of the kids even before we had said a word was so different from the shy curiosity of some of the other facilities. Golden Rule was completely decked out for us. They drew posters, and the 11th grade class actually designed a wall-sized poster with the words, "WELCOME TO COLOMBIA!" written in graffiti lettering.
For some, today was crazy difficult, and for others, it was simply the best. Upon arrival, our teaching groups were assigned to different age groups. My group was blessed to be able to spend the entire day with the Grades 7-12. It was incredible. Mostly, we ended up ditching our teaching curriculum, and we just talked. We asked the class questions, and they fired questions at us. We sang O Canada for them, and they proceeded to sing for us their Colombian National Anthem. We spent some time singing the popular worship chorus, 10,000 Reasons. It was so great to be able to sing along and worship with these beautiful people. Despite the frustrating language barrier, the music brought us all together under the same roof.
Eventually we stopped beginning the classes with a lesson, and got straight to the meaningful discussions. We would separate into groups, talk about Canada, talk about Colombia, and talk like teenagers. We talked about movies, books, games, sports, future plans, faith, and just life in general. By this point, I've grown so accustomed the being surrounded by Spanish speakers, so having to wait for a translation now comes naturally. We're practiced Gringos!
We felt like stars. There were many outdoor recess breaks today, for our sake. The school actually cancelled and rearranged its entire schedule just for us. (This is a pre-K to 12th grade school, just so ya know.) They whole day was focused on us- and it was both flattering and humbling. We weren't anything special. We were the opposite. We literally brought broken, quickly made posterboards with cheap materials to teach kids things they mostly know... and yet we were the celebrities today. Going outside, if I made eye contact with one girl or boy, there was instantly a flock. Correction: an army. They would crowd around and be giggling like maniacs. They wanted autographs, photos, hugs, and information. They had so many questions, and most did not get correctly translated, but it didn't matter. We spent quality time with quality people, and it made this Wednesday a high quality day.
Our final class was the eleventh grade. After scoring a sweet Colombian baseball cap from one dude and connecting so well with all the others, this was the icing on the cake. After splitting into our groups and chatting away, suddenly some of the guys stood up, demanding that we learn how to salsa. And boy, could they ever salsa! Hips are such a foreign concept back home... so learning how to feel the rhythm and match the Colombian moves was such a blast. I couldn't stop laughing, and I was reminded again of the beauty in the way God made us- to move. We learned to tango, salsa, and many other Latin dances that I certainly could not pronounce. The energy and hype in the room was tangible and so refreshing. What an amazing time connecting through movement and music. I can't get enough of this bridge connecting the differences in our lives. Our chances to relate to these teens never get old.
I could go on forever about Golden Rule, but we're heading back first thing tomorrow for another high quality day. The memories are as golden as the people, who are as golden as the school . . . .
And that brings me to my low.
Honestly, we have all been commenting on how many insanely amazing people we've gotten to meet so far on this trip. The many cooks, bus driver, translators, children, teens, leaders, teachers, administrators, strangers- it's all been one giant reunion with family in Christ... family we've never met before. We all feel just so insanely blessed and undeserving of the amazing company that we've had every day so far... but a kind of pattern has emerged through it all:
I've never said 'Goodbye,' so much.
Every day we meet so many new people, and every day we must say good bye, probably until we meet again in Heaven. Every day we are privileged enough to begin building relationships with fantastic new individuals, and every day we have to leave these beautiful souls. Saying 'Goodbye' so many times every single day really weighs heavy on the soul. I discovered that this evening when it was time to wish a farewell to today's translators. In the few hours that they were with us, we shared so many laughs, talked about so many different subjects, discussed different viewpoints, and truly built a friendship. And I realized as they walked out the door... I had actually become friends with these guys. I actually felt pain when I saw them go, knowing I was going to miss them.
It's so precious to be given so many new people to build Godly friendships with, and it's been a real trial to have to say goodbye a hundred times a day. However, this really has helped in growing my heart and my way of living. Knowing that we only have a short amount of time to impact these people's lives and glean the most out of the experience, we are forced to make the most of every single opportunity. It's like the godly version of YOLO.
I know that it's something I blog about all the time. The idea of wasting a moment or abandoning an opportunity scares me worse than anything. For what feels like the first time in forever, I am getting a real chance to put that mantra into action. Our lives have a set end date, and what we do between now and then is up to us. Knowing that a 'Goodbye' is just around the corner, I have been personally stretched to listen as much as I can, focus on remembering names, and to have nothing left unsaid. No matter how random or weird, the moment I get the nudge to say something to a young child, I blurt it out. The looks I get are sometimes a little strange... but the times when their facade fades a way and their grateful smile shines through prove that this is how life is meant to be lived.
When we got the text tonight from Golden Rule describing how much of a positive impact our team had made in the place, we were shocked. We're just kids. We're just kids following instructions from a massive God. Turns out, that's the only requirement for truly making a difference on the Mission Field. I've heard it said that short term missions do nothing and are a pointless waste of money... but I'd like to challenge that belief with the feedback that our team has gotten from the places we've visited. God is doing good works. He is not limited to full time overseas missionaries, and He is not limited to short-term teams. He is not limited to third world countries, and He is not limited to our seemingly boring homelife. God is God, in every place, and in every circumstance.
We're halfway through. The plane ride back to the land of the snow is just a few nights away. In a way, I've truly felt in my element here. So far, I've stayed one step ahead of illness and drastic fatigue, and I have been having an unbelievable experience here. For the next few days, having now grasped the brevity of our time to act on our faith, it's crunch time. Starting at a beautiful hour of 5:55AM tomorrow morning, it's gonna be the full application of Carpe Diem.