Coming back from Peru never gets easier. The first few hours I was home, I was just happy to see my family. But then I started to feel that familiar pit in my stomach, that familiar ache in my heart.
What was it? Sadness that such an incredible experience had come to an end? A longing for Carmencita and Sagrada Familia? Missing my team members, who I had grown so close to? Feeling completely useless and out of my element now that I'm not spending every day tangibly showing the love of God?
All of the above. But I am trying to allow God to lead my heart and patch it up this time. Last year, I dwelled on the past for far too long. And that showed in my grades in school, my interactions with my family, and even my relationships with friends. I let Peru define who I was, which was a good thing, but I forgot to hold onto the good parts of myself from before.
I am trying to go to God with my broken heart that screams that I wasn't ready to leave. I wasn't ready to come back to "reality". That He wasn't finished with me there. That I could have spent months more at Sagrada Familia. That I want to wake up every morning surrounded by people who are just as passionate about God's work as I am.
My heart is aching right now. But I know that God has me here in the United States for a reason. That His work here is just as important as His work in Peru.
While I truly, truly enjoyed the entire trip, every activity we participated in, these are a few of the highlights.
Maybe some of you remember Cesár, the little boy with cerebral palsy I met last year? Well, I saw him again! Words cannot express how much joy that boy brought to me. You might also remember that he was in a wheelchair last year, and this year he was walking! God truly is performing miracles in that boy's life. I got to meet his mom and his little sister, and his mom said they got the box of goodies and the children's Bible I sent him! Oh, how I love that boy!
The single most incredible day of the trip, and one of the best days of my life was Worthday at Sagrada Familia! Seeing something that we'd been planning and working toward for months come to life was just indescribable. But the best part of that day was, by far, seeing Carmencita.
When we went to the baby house early in the morning, they were sending the kids down the stairs one by one as they got their baths. I knew Carmencita would be last because she can't walk down the stairs by herself. But I waited. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because she's so often last in that place, I wanted her to be first for something.
It was worth the wait when she came down the stairs. I looked into her eyes and said her name and her face lit up! She jumped into my arms and held on tight, grabbing onto my hair, my clothes, anything, and saying "Mi amiga! Mi amiga!" over and over again. Oh, how I love that girl. I got to spend more time with her than ever before this time. Although, saying goodbye never gets easier. She was sobbing so hard I think she almost threw up, grabbing onto me with a death grip so that she was nearly dragging behind me. She even bit me a few times she was so upset. I miss her like crazy already.
Another highlight was meeting a little boy named Davíd. He was the son of the woman we shadowed for a day, who was a single mom. This three-year-old boy goes to work in the market selling trinkets every day with his mom. After we were done shadowing, we took "our Peruvians" back to the church for a lunch and ceremony. The majority of the three-hour ceremony, I was in the back with Davíd, playing with bubbles and playdoh. That little boy was so sweet! I loved him so much.
All in all, it was an incredible trip. By far, my favorite of the year. It made me want to pursue staying at Sagrada Familia next summer even more. If you could keep me and my team in your prayers now more than ever, it would be greatly appreciated. Coming back is the hardest part of the mission trip. It's hard for us to move on.
Dios te bendiga!