August 12th 2011
Twenty high school students sat at a make-shift, collapsible table eating a lunch of rice, beans and tortillas. Like many youth, they were pretty absorbed in the act of filling their stomachs. It had been a long morning of working with children in the various UrbanPromise day camps throughout the city of Copan. The youth were part of a group from Canada.
A small Honduran woman came in from the street, sat in an empty chair, and watched the young people put spoonfuls of food in their mouths. A minute passed. Another minute. A few of the youth glanced up from their plates and, uncomfortably, went back to eating their food.
After another minute the woman began to cry. More than a few tears came down her cheeks. She began to wail—loud, uncontrollable sobs with broken Spanish sentences in-between breaths. The youth stopped eating.
The woman, who had prepared the meal, came out from the kitchen to calm the woman. She discovered that her infant son was sick, had no money for food or medicine, and needed help. Quickly the students gathered some money, and put together some plates of food for their guest. The woman went on her way.
“Our kids were really rattled,” shared one of the leaders. “They’ve never encountered that kind of situation. Many are reevaluating their lives—they are realizing how much they’ve been given.”
The kids were having what behavioral scientist call a “disorienting dilemma”. Momentarily their world had been turned upside down. They were confronted with the reality that they had led privileged lives.
Many people question the value of short-term mission trips. “It’s a lot of money,” they claim. “They could do something in their own backyard.” There is a lot of truth to the statement. Short-term mission trips can be expensive and the impact can be fleeting. I don’t think there is a definitive answer. Some mission trips can be extremely impactful, others not so.
My hope and prayer is that some of these young people will go back to Canada changed and begin living from a different set of values and commitments. My hope is that some of these young people will allow the seeds planted from this experience to germinate and give clarity to their life’s calling. That will make the trip worthwhile.
This morning we dedicated a new playground for a school in Los Pinos. The playground was designed by the third grade teacher, Francisco, and build in partnership with the faculty and the visiting workgroup. The groups labored together and learned together. The result: a place of beauty for beautiful children to play.