It’s a chilly but sun filled morning here at Outdoor Mission Camp. The rest of the SHERPAs are clumsily making their way down the stairs one at a time as they soak in some of the last minutes in a real bed. Luggage bags are scattered throughout the cabin and every whiteboard is filled with schedules and travel plans. It is July 29th, and tomorrow morning at 4:00 A.M. we are loading up in our vans, driving to the Atlanta Airport, and flying out to Haiti. Our time here this summer is coming to a close, and our trip to Haiti might be seen as the grand finale. It is hard to believe that I have already spent ten weeks in this place, and I still haven’t fully comprehended the reality of going home.
This past week I got the chance to lead a group in our last Wilderness 101 camp. My group was actually more of a family. Well, no, it literally was a family. It was a grandpa, his 16 year old son, and his 14 and 16 year old grandkids. Then of course there was myself and another fellow SHERPA, honorary family members for the week. They really treated us like such. As we went through three days of backpacking, some of which was done in a torrential downpour, I really started to feel like a part of their family. They trusted us to guide them safely through the wilderness. They were open and vulnerable with us and were quick to tell us their stories. They were exceedingly gracious with us in spite of our mistakes, and they happily scarfed down meals that didn’t exactly go according to plan. More than anything, they allowed us to love them. The tough and guarded exterior of the grandkids broke down pretty quickly around Day 2 and their complaints about being here were replaced with jokes and laughter. So much laughter.
At the end of the week, we like to have a time of reflection on the past week and encouragement. Each of the family members expressed one common sentiment: It was a time for them to finally just have some plain old fun. The past two years had not been easy for any of these guys. Parents split up, kids had gotten kicked out of houses, drugs and alcohol had ravaged lives, bitter step-dads had made life exceedingly difficult, and brothers were even separated. Now, finally, this broken and hurting family, with a hodge podge of ridiculous experiences in the past year, was together once again, reunited in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, having fun. We got to sit around the campfire and have many fruitful conversations about Christ and the importance of being rooted in Him. We even got to hear one of the grandkids tell us that this was the first time in a long time he was able to have fun without being high. Praise God. I couldn’t have asked for a better week to close out my time as a guide here at Outdoor Mission Camp.
I have never been out of the country before, and I don’t know what to expect out of these next 10 days. Haiti is sure to be yet another adventure to cap off my summer. I know we are going into a hurting and broken area. I know that we will be putting on a VBS for 150-200 children for three days. I know we will be delivering water filters to a couple of households that otherwise don’t have access to clean water. Outside of that, I will just have to take in the rest as it comes. I am confident that my experiences so far this summer have fully prepared me to serve in whatever way I need to. I know that God has had his hand on me this entire summer, even through the process of getting me here, and I know he will continue to do so through the remainder of my trip. One thing I know I have learned this summer is the power of prayer, and we could use plenty of it this week. Prayers for safe travels and smooth logistics. Prayers for open hearts and wisdom to speak truth into the lives of the people we will be ministering to. Prayers for joy and peace in the face of adversity. Prayers that we will be able to bring light into a dark place. I can’t wait to see what this next week holds. Until then, I’m going to go attempt to pack a summers worth of junk into two duffel bags.