When telling others we are going to serve in the Caribbean as missionaries, we often hear the same sentiment… “Oh, that must be rough!”
I know that most people are good-heartedly joking, and I have even made the same remark myself at times. But the reality of it all is that yes, it is actually quite difficult at times.
The picture above, of the kids at the beach on our day off, is such a great representation of our experience with missions here. At first glance, it looks perfect, and dare I say, easy. Sparkling blue waters, children gazing off at the sailboat on the horizon while playing together. Meanwhile, mom and dad are relaxing beneath the shade of the trees while a pleasant breeze whispers through the leaves.
Here is what you don’t see… When we first arrived at the beach, it took forever to lather the kids in sunscreen, and then Connor was afraid to even put his toes in the water. We quickly found out that the beautiful water was filled with chunks of coral and shells that would crash into your legs and feet causing quite the annoyance and sometimes even a bit of pain. I was laying in the shade of the trees with a wounded foot from walking without shoes and stepping on a spiky round plant that stuck in my foot in several places. Children who had just eaten were suddenly hungry again, and the exhausted parents who were just trying to rest for a minute were needed once again. And the day was concluded with tired, thirsty, and sand-coated children needing dinner and a shower.
Through it all, these minor inconveniences weren’t enough to ruin our beach trip. We had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat. And in some odd way, even though there is so much more going on behind the scenes, it doesn’t make the picture above any less real.
Missions in the Caribbean feels the same way.
We are a family of four flying thousands of miles to serve God in the Caribbean. Our journey is filled with adventures and memories that not many get to experience. We work hard and we take time to play as well. We meet amazing people and build new friendships. Most often it feels like we benefit more from missions than the people we are there serving. Our marriage, family, and faith in God all grow stronger through our time spent as missionaries.
The things you don’t always see though…
It’s hard. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we are constantly being stretched. We function on exhaustion for a large part of our trip and even after returning home. Travelling for 20+ hours in a day to get to your destination and crossing several time zones isn’t easy on your body.
Kids are flexible and though they can be wary of new things at times, they do exceptionally well overall. There were moments when they couldn’t take any more though, and I carried a kicking and screaming child to our apartment… a block away from the YWAM base. I refused to make eye contact as I walked past several people on the street and wondered what they thought of us at that moment.
There were times when I sat and cried, wondering why I was there at all. Certain the small amount of help I was offering wasn’t even worthwhile.
Centipedes that sting and make their way into your house, cockroaches that skitter around and creep us out, stifling heat from lack of air conditioning, toilets that you can’t flush toilet paper in, water that suddenly stops flowing mid-shower, evidence from rats and mice everywhere…
And the worst part of all.
Having to say goodbye to a place you love, and friends you love even more. Not knowing if, or when, you will return.
So yes, I would have to say that going on a mission trip to the Caribbean is rough. And yet, every minute we spent there was worth it, and we would do it again in a heartbeat.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”