So what DID I do?
I’m still wrestling with this.
Part of it is recognizing that I wasn’t needed on this trip. That’s not a brand new idea, nor is it one that has me depressed and insecure. Last year Erik led a Puerto Rico trip that I was not part of. A couple years ago, Mandy James and Matt Towler led a Macedonia trip that I was not part of. Our students have had some amazing mission experiences completely apart from my leadership or service. I’m thrilled about that.
I think the wrestling on this part comes with a hunch that while I wasn’t needed on this trip, I was probably needed at home. Now, my husband is more than capable of holding down the fort and parenting our kids. My mom is more capable than I am of taking care of my kids as she did during the weekdays and overnight one evening I was away.
But, my presence at home would have been helpful, I think. The world didn’t stop or crash while I was away, but I was missed.
The other part I’m wrestling with is how different the experience this year was from previous years. This year every essential leadership and administrative task was handled well by someone else. That should have been exhilarating and freeing to me. But it made me feel extraneous. And feeling extraneous made me feel selfish. And feeling selfish made me feel guilty, on top of the guilt I was already feeling for being away from my family.
However, on the occasions when I got out of the hamster wheel in my head long enough to be present, I did do something. I listened.
I listened to adults from other churches who are fearful of where their churches will be ten or twenty years from now if they don’t figure out how to change. I listened to their hearts for teenagers to make good decisions and to learn to follow Jesus now, at this pivotal life stage. I listened to stories of feeling used by churches, all in the name of Jesus.
I listened to students from my church and students from other churches. I listened to students’ wrestling with the schedules and living arrangements that come with divorce. I listened to stories of cutting, depression, and the timeless yet difficult teenage quest to figure out who you are. I listened to confessions about whether or not God was real, and I listened to the realization that God is real, that he can be seen, and that he was seen in the participants of the mission trip. I listened to stories of apathy and boredom toward church. I listened to a teenager who was in a terrible car crash two years ago. Her little brother died instantly, her mom died two days later, and she awoke weeks later to find herself paralyzed. Now she plays softball and goes on mission trips, doing manual labor to show God’s love to others.
So, I listened. I’m not sure what that means about me, my role, or my leadership. All I know is that I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear these stories and to be entrusted with them.