I have tried time and time again to come up with words to explain what last summer in Colombia meant to me, and what it means to me to this day. For the past year, I’ve searched for the words to express the joy and the pain that affected me more than I ever thought it could. How do you explain to someone how two months in a foreign country changes your life? How do you explain the depth of the relationships you form with new people? How do you convey everything the Lord does in you and make people understand? Outwardly I smiled and told people I loved my “trip,” but inwardly I screamed. I screamed that it wasn’t just a trip, I screamed that I was different, I screamed that I hated everything about our culture in the United States. But I returned home, wrote this little blog post, sulked for a couple weeks, and finally buried the feelings deep enough down where I only dig them out on occasion. I readjusted to life back in Georgia like I always do, but I still desperately search for the words to tell people about Colombia. I still haven’t found them.
This summer, I’ve had the opportunity to go on two mission trips through my church, one of those being back down to Colombia. This was my third trip to Colombia, and it was so nice to be back in my second home, with all my second families across Chinauta, introducing a new group of people to the place that ripped me to pieces and put me back together again. 10 days after getting home from that trip, I jumped back on a plane, this time to Costa Rica. We got back last night from one of my favorite mission trips I’ve ever been on, and I can’t wait to talk about it. But I also don’t know what to say, because I still don’t have the words.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned: the only way for people to understand the feeling of getting home from a mission trip is for them to get home from one themselves. And then they’re stuck with that same feeling you have and neither of you have any words for it; you just sit there and say you miss Costa Rica and eating rice every day. You laugh about the week you had together, you rehash every memory you can until you’ve run out of things to say. You look through your pictures until you have them memorized. You grasp at the last bits of the trip that you can until it’s slipped away and you realize you’re not holding on to anything anymore. And eventually, it’s just a memory. Eventually, the deep pit in your stomach of missing it goes away and you go back to your normal life. Eventually you stop looking for the words.
So to all my friends dealing with post-mission trip depression: I’m here with you. It gets better, but there’s one thing I want you to hold on to: don’t forget what God has done in you. Don’t forget what He revealed to you during your time disconnected from the distractions of the States, and never forget the urgency of getting the gospel to people who haven’t heard it yet. And to all my friends who have no idea what we’re going through: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for how we only talk about the other country when we get back. I’m sorry that we don’t have the words to explain it, and we leave you confused and wondering if we even like you anymore. It’s not you, I promise.