Before going on our mission trip to Haiti with our youth ministry, I remember our youth minister, Andy Dykhouse, telling us that adults and teens would have a different view of each other at some point during the trip. I remember drawing a blank stare as I was wondering what he meant by this. I must admit going into this trip I was focused on myself, my son, and our own concerns.
About the third day in, I began to see what he meant. These teens that I viewed through a somewhat jaded older adult’s eyes, all of a sudden started to look different to me.
One day in particular was a somewhat grueling day. We were building a pit latrine and were hauling rocks, sand, and cinder blocks from site to site. There were several children around on the sites, and as a way of keeping them busy (and out of dangers way), as well as building relationships, our teen girls played with them non-stop for 3 full hours. While this might sound easy, they were not simply hanging out with them, they were teaching them songs and games such as My Red Pony. As a school teacher and a dance teacher, I knew this particular game would have been a challenge to teach anyway, but because of the language barrier it was even harder. I remember thinking when they told us they were going to teach this song/dance/game they had their work cut out for them.
After completing our morning shift of hard work on the site, we made our way back to the church yard where the girls had been playing with them all morning. They had not only taught them the game, but the kids were thoroughly engaged and enjoying every single minute of it, and they were still going! This is a game that is extremely tiring (cardiovascular-wise), but the girls were hanging in there, and just kept going. I kept waiting for one of them to pass out. It was such a blessing to witness this and my appreciation and respect for the girls at that moment grew exponentially.
I had a similar experience with the guys as they finished two shifts of hauling cinder blocks for 8 hours. As they got off the bus after arriving back at our dorms, the kids in the village had been waiting for the bus to come back. As soon as the guys got off the bus, the boys started to take their hands and motion that they wanted to play soccer. One of our guys, Nattie, looked exhausted, but said “I’ll be right back.” He went and got his soccer ball and came right back and continued to play soccer with the kids for another two hours.
This was amazing and heartwarming for me to watch. As adults and parents, we tend to think that it is up to us to teach kids by example, but this trip showed me kids can teach us by example as well.
Then on the last day when we had to say our goodbyes to the children and adults in the village, we all shared tears and hugs. This too put things into perspective. We were together on this.
On the way back from supper and group devotionals that night, my 16 year-old son put his arm around me and walked me back to my dorm. We did not speak. We didn’t have to. There were no words that could express what we were feeling. But we knew we shared in this experience and it was to be remembered for a lifetime. We hoped that we had touched and blessed lives, but we knew we’d been blessed much more than they by simply having been there.