In a nutshell: We woke up as rockstars, and we're going to bed as wrecks.
Of course, yesterday was our vacation day at Golden Rule School, and today we were so blessed to be able to return. This is the first school that we've actually gotten to go to twice, so it's the first time that we didn't actually have to say "Goodbye" right off the bat. As soon as we stepped foot on the property, we were elevated once more to superstar status. We gave the school a presentation consisting of Big Daddy Weave's Overwhelmed via Uke and Voices, our dance to Guiame a La Cruz (Lead Me To the Cross), and a skit of the prophet Samuel choosing David to be King of Israel.
The thing is, we aren't polished. We aren't anything special. We could have put so much more effort into our teaching projects and activities. We could have spent much more time and energy preparing better lessons and dances and songs... but we came with what we had, and it was more than enough for these wonderful people. We taught some Pre-Kinders who were just the most darling little buttons, and then we moved on to the Grades 5 and 6. Their attentiveness and eagerness to learn were so encouraging, and made our time at Golden Rule amazingly beautiful. We got to converse with so many people on so many occasions. We would walk out the door for just a second, and instantly a flock of children of all ages would gravitate toward any one of the Canadians. Questions were flying, laughter was hearty, and hugs were plentiful.
I'll have to admit that, although it was great fun to go around to every classroom and take photos, what struck me was our obsession with photographing moments. We feel the almost panicky need to take a snapshot of every instant- for fear of forgetting? I met a huge amount of children today and spoke to so many different individuals, that it would be impossible to remember their faces without a photo... but the thousands of photos that we took with hundreds of kids today really began to wear me down. The autographs, the selfies, the group shots... today gave me so many reasons to not be a celebrity.
Saying "Goodbye" for real, however, was rough. In two days, we had become very attached to many of the kids, and once again leaving amazing people just keeps making our hearts more and more tender. We left feeling tired, but I, for one, was so inspired by the spiritual leadership that I witnessed going on at Golden Rule. Walking away from the school, I took one last look at the campus, and my heart sank just a little bit. Looking up at the power lines inside the school's property, I got chills when I saw the 30+ pairs of sneakers hanging on the wires. Just beneath these drug deal symbols, a group of 6-year-old's sat talking together. They were so innocent and so happy, and it broke my heart to see the kind of culture that they are surrounded in. It broke my heart to see the kinds of things that will influence them during the most vulnerable years of their life. And although we didn't have much to give these beautiful children, God has said that a cup of cold water given in His name is a form of Holy Worship to a Holy God.
Departing Golden Rule with full, but heavy hearts, we headed to a nursing home in Chia. Who knew that all 16 of us could be so greatly impacted in a matter of 20 minutes? In our miniscule amount of time, we simply walked through the room, greeting the beautiful elderly people and encouraging them. We sang to them, and experienced a wonderful two-way ministry.
The nursing home turned out to be a low for me, as well. It's always been a struggle for me to visit places like that. I'll admit it- I'm afraid to grow old. It terrifies me to think that someday I may be spending days and months and years simply lying on a bed, or sitting in a chair. I know that with Christ we will always have a purpose and an opportunity to serve Him, but the thought of being helpless and incapable truly frightens me. Walking into this place, I felt that same familiar dread creeping up on me. As I made my way around the room, I came to one slight woman who grasped my hand, pulled me in close, and began speaking very quickly and with a worried tone. I motioned for one of our translators to help us out, and turns out this woman was begging me, "Please take me to the bus and let's leave. I will go home with you and we can get out of this place. I have my ticket, please wheel my chair out to the bus station and let's go home."
It was so hard to hold it together after gently explaining to the woman that she had to remain there for the time being. I had to focus on breathing slowly and recentering my thoughts to avoid panicking. Two other ladies were weeping bitterly as they held us close and kissed us repeatedly. They kept pleading, "Please don't ever forget us. Come back soon- very soon. We have loved having you, and God is with your team, but please don't forget about us." The words of these people both blessed my heart, and stabbed it through. My fears were rekindled, despite the beautiful facility and wonderful staff. My heart went out to the ladies who felt so trapped in the nursing home, and I can only pray that they are granted a moment of peace. 20 minutes turned out to be only a sliver of the amount of time we would have liked, but God doesn't work on our schedule. He managed to teach us a million lessons in a seemingly nonexistent timeframe.
We finished the day with a tour of the Salt Mine in Zipaquira, and wow. We had a chance to explore a massive salt mine that has been transformed into a Catholic cathedral. All the way through the dark passageways, massive carvings of crosses with different symbolism were found on the edges of crevices overlooking a deep, dark expanse. There were 100-foot-high, insanely wide pillars representing the four Gospels, amazing acoustic treatment, and all-in-all breathtaking architecture. It was like something from Indiana Jones, and left me pondering. I am not a Catholic, but the amount of detail and intricate work that went into transforming the salt mine into a gigantic cathedral is unbelievable. The effort that went into its construction is overwhelming. The sacredness of Jesus' death and resurrection cannot be mistaken by the stone sculptures and symbols.
How often do we take the sacredness of the cross for granted? How often do we take time to stop and reflect on His sacrifice, and truly dwell upon it? For me, the age-old story gets old and overtold... And that's the most embarrassing thing I could possibly admit. The fact that God, himself, sent His own son to pay the fine for my wrongdoings just so that I could be saved from the punishment that I deserve is staggering. We forget that, daily. Despite the differences in my faith and Catholicism, one thing truly made me question my own personal devotion. They obviously do not take the cross for granted. The worn kneeling places for prayer proved their sincerity and continuous awe and wonder at the gift of Christ.
This is at least Day 7 of operating on less than 6 hours of sleep, and it's beginning to take its toll. To wrap up, I just want to point out something for myself so that I can look back on it later. We have met so many amazing people. That's at least the 10th time I've used that sentence, but it's true. 2 or 3 new translators every day give us new friendships and brand new laughs, and sorrowful goodbyes. 50 new children to meet and love make it hard to go. New leaders and guides and teachers and pastors that we interact with for one day and then leave... that's how this trip has been operating. It's sad, and it's impacting all of us. I've heard every team member comment on the incredible individuals that we keep meeting in homes and at schools and in our guesthouse. We are blessed beyond belief. During our nightly debrief session, there are always a few 'highs' concerning the inspiring person of the day, or the encouraging individual that somebody got to meet. We keep learning so many new things and interacting with some of the Godliest people we've ever met... but I believe something more needs to happen.
If we spend all this money and all of these months getting ready to fly down to South America, meet a million incredible Godly influences, and then fly back and press 'Play' exactly where we pressed 'Pause,' then I will be sorry I ever asked anybody to sponsor me. No, if we are so amazed and thankful for the influences that these newcomers are having in our lives, then it is time we started implementing the things they are doing. If we are being introduced to so many role models, then it is a gift that we must use responsibly. With the incredible blessing of meeting countless of Jesus followers, then why are we only talking about what they taught us?
With only a few more days left, I'm now on the lookout for the character traits, words, habits, and personalities that blow my mind. They will not simply be in my mind for our evening debrief. No, their legacies are coming back to Canada with me. God has been pouring out so many blessings on this team, it's completely saturating. What kind of a disappointment would it be if we left it all behind in this guesthouse? We have been able to meet these people for a reason. We've had these conversations for a purpose, and it is not so that we can go back to being the same. God can use everyone and everything to mould us into better Jesus followers.
This is my commitment. To watch, to learn, and then to apply.