by valerie shultz
July 21, 2011
When you go on a mission trip, you feel as though you should be serving and being productive every minute. It’s very easy to put too much pressure on yourself. The fact of the matter is, you’ve just traveled a very long way, are jet-lagged and are thrown into the same living, eating, sleeping, working and using-the-same-water-closet with everyone you’ve just met.
Every person on a missionary team serves their purpose, has their function, makes a contribution, and is there for a greater purpose. This does not mean every single personality meshes perfectly well or doesn’t at times aggravate others. Being in this environment is a great test of patience and grace.
Today I was working with the one team member who proved to be a challenge to me personally throughout this trip. Why? I don’t know. Different communication styles mostly, I think. Sometimes it boils down to something that simple which makes things complicated. We should have taught the English module together all day, but two minutes into the first module, I noticed she had gone to do something else. I have no idea where and I certainly have no idea why and I didn’t see her again until lunch time. Like I said, lack of communication.
When it came time to teach the third module of the day, she returned. But… every time I spoke, she sighed. Every time I gave instructions to the kids, she sighed. Every time I breathed, I think she sighed. She was frustrated or angry or maybe just having one of those days. I’ve certainly had those days. But her sighs weighed heavily on me. I took it personally even though I didn’t know the source of them and they may have had nothing or everything to do with me. So I sighed. That breath of air that you exhale a little forcefully as if you can blow out negative thoughts and feelings and frustration and fear and fatigue with it.
The past few days have been full of all sorts of sighs. Sighs of tension as we try to relax muscles after long flights and long van rides and long teaching days. Sighs of relief as people end their teaching day and pass that responsibility onto the next person. Sighs of content as we sit down to share a few quiet moments together over a beer at the end of a long day.
At the end of it all, we are together, just as a family, and cannot expect every moment to be perfect. Imperfect moments can and will occur, because we are all imperfect people. That doesn’t mean we aren’t doing good things, though. Mission trips are full of challenges, excitement, accomplishment, adventure, learning, teaching, working and… sighing.