I write this blog post from the flight cabin of a Delta flight to Pittsburgh.
As I look out the window, I see the Blue Ridge Mountains through a new lens, the lens of spring. Lightly dusted by the crisp morning frost and void of any foliage, I can see the barebones of these mighty and ancient mountains. With perfectly sloped peaks and years of erosion scarring contours through the land, how can I not be filled with a sense of awe and wonder?
How fortunate am I to witness God’s perfectly planned masterpiece? How grateful am I to be a man amongst these mountains?
As the last mountain ranges pass from view and we reach our cruising altitude of 20,000 feet, I can not help but reflect on the fact that just four short months ago I stood atop a 18,600-foot volcano, Pico De Orizaba. The experience feels like a distant memory or a hazy dream. A feat so grand that it is easy to question the reality of the event.
But it did happen.
I had completed the most physically demanding challenge of my life; and I had not done it alone. On top of the volcano, I stood alongside Rockmont counselors all of whom had also endured hours of climbing. We had done it together as a team and will always cherish the accomplishment together.
The challenges overcame on the hike were incredible and well worth discussing, however, I will save those details for another blog post. Instead, I want to focus on how incredible it was to see our team of counselors serve the poor during our first week in Mexico.
I will preface this by saying mission work is almost never easy.
But it is always rewarding.
I have found that the more you serve others, the more you are served.
Service demands growth. It demands that you think about others’ needs above your own. It demands discomfort. I would describe our first week in Mexico as a bit uncomfortable, but in the best possible way. It was uncomfortable because we were challenged to give each and every day. We did this by serving a disabled children’s home run by the Missionaries of Charity, a group devoted to serving the poorest of the poor in communities all across the world.
As you would expect, the first day was shocking. Many children were destitute orphans with severe physical and mental disabilities which most of us had never encountered.
Fortunately, God has a great sense of humor because he sure ripped the bandaid off and threw our whole group right into the groove of things.
Our first day happened to be a seldom, and highly celebrated, Quinceaneras for one of the few girls in the orphanage. To our surprise, the entire community came to celebrate and they brought pinatas, tortas, live music, and delicious candy! I wish I could have captured the joy on the crowd’s faces when our counselors danced with the star of the day. With all honesty, I cannot say a single one of our boys was a good dancer, but nobody cared. It was a celebration of life with a joy I had never seen before.
This celebration set the tone for the upcoming weeks:
Serve these children with joy in your heart as if you are celebrating their life each and every day.
We fed, washed, and changed the children and throughout the process I watched our counselors grow. I watched hands raise when Sisters asked for volunteers for the most difficult or grotesque tasks. Our group came together and saw the world through a lens of service – how to give in ways uncommon or unknown to us. For that week we intentionally and prayerfully gave our love, empathy, patience, kindness, and joy to these wonderful children.
Our actions were deliberate and to the best of our worldly abilities vessels of God’s unceasing love.
We walked away from the week with a heightened sense of empathy and compassion. More than anything, we learned to appreciate the little joys that make life wonderful: a smile, a laugh, a hug, or a wheelie in a wheelchair. It’s important to bring these lessons back home and recognize that sometimes all it takes is a smile to brighten up someone’s day. If there is even one ounce of joy to share, it is always worth the cost to give.