Today’s blog entry was written by Michelle Mundt, who is on her first Mission Jamaica trip and came with her husband, Aaron, her daughter Hannah (9th grade) and their son, Hunter, (7th grade):
Today was the first of 2 relaxation/reflective days. A time to enjoy the “vacation” part of our “vacation with a purpose.” I have been struggling with knowing this part of the trip was coming as I wanted to continue the work we started this week. I have been making amazing connections and nothing can prepare you for a trip like this. There isn’t even an adequate way to describe this trip, it just needs to be experienced. Yet this is a time we are to decompress, reflect and enjoy ourselves. At the beach this morning, I snorkeled for the first time and tonight we are taking a once in a lifetime trip to one of only 4 places in the world where there is illuminated water.
However as Todd said, leaving West Haven yesterday was indeed bittersweet. Over the last 4 days, there has been an incredible amount of physical labor provided, 25 + suitcases of donated supplies, and a variety of childcare tasks. However for me, making connections and building relationships became the main focus. I spent part of each day helping feed the
children breakfast and lunch.
The large majority of the children I tended this week were non-verbal. Quite honestly, this has always been an area that I struggle with: not feeling comfortable knowing how to talk with them and interact if I don’t know what they want or need. A teenage girl broke down that barrier immediately as Aaron and I stepped off the bus. She wanted nothing more but to show us where she slept. A simple gesture, but a connection was made.
This trip has made me humble. These children may have nothing to their name with regard to personal effects, but what they do have is an amazing spirit and love that radiates through them. I experienced the Holy Spirit in so many beautiful ways this week and here are
some of my favorite examples:
- Feeding a child in his crib the very first day, and how he would bite down on the spoon to get my attention, and smiles as his eyes light up…a connection is made, and a relationship begins. The next day, I fed him on the porch in his wheelchair, and he again bites the spoon in a playful way, reminding me he likes that interaction. A special bond begins…and as the week progresses, we exchange many laughs and smiles, low 5’s, blowing bubbles and the biggest giggles when he sees himself in the mirror of the only toy in the entire cottage.
- The clicking of a mouth of a child to indicate he wanted my attention; I walk over to sit by him on the beanbag he is laying on. He smiles, sticks out his tongue at me, and I stick out my tongue back at him, and he laughs…a connection is made and we begin to build a relationship, bonding easily over sticking out our tongues and laughing when he gets others’ attention doing the same thing.
- Feeding a child as she begins to spit out her food at me only because she can’t help but to laugh at the silly younger boy who is running around giggling because he is playing with a plastic chair and being goofy. We laugh, as I acknowledge that she finds him so funny. Another new connection and a relationship begins.
- Walking around with bubbles to see who responds…I have children who pull away who don’t like the sensation of them dropping on their skin, or near their face; others who enjoy popping them; someone else who watches in amazement at how they float by; a boy who doesn’t want to be touched or be near anyone to lift his head and make it known he likes them but not too close to him. Connections. My heart just soars. An older teen who wandered in one day smiles watching the bubbles; on the last day he sees me with them and stands by me watching. I offer for him to blow, he does and screeches in happiness, then slowly takes the wand from me to try on his own, and lastly to then having the bottle. We sit on the floor laughing as he points out in proud hand gestures what he has accomplished. A significant connection was made and he finds me after lunch to play with it again on his own for over an hour, smiling, laughing, and screeching. Beauty at its finest.
- The youngest boy who is bored takes off his shirt, and flings it. I pick it up and I wear it on my head, which gets another little boy giggling and clapping who gets all of us laughing at his contagious laugh. Many connections are made all at once.
- Meeting a boy my first day at church as I just put my hand near his on the pew and he held it. A small connection was made, which blossomed into Hunter feeding him lunch, to us carrying him down the steep hill in his wheelchair, to me pushing him back to West Haven as we “race” Aaron with another boy, to him mooing at the cows we pass which he loves. He directs me to go for a walk and tells me which way to go every step of the way. Every day this week we each made special time to walk him around, and as we were gathering to take our group pictures, I see him alone in the gazebo with a recognizable hat on his head of Hunter’s. Tears stream down my face as I see the true beauty and connections that not only I have made, but my children as well.
The connections continued as each night we bond in fellowship during devotions. Every moment of this trip has truly been a gift from God to myself and my family that will be cherished for a lifetime. May I encourage in those of you who are reading this to take the time to pray to God to see if this is an opportunity you too cannot miss.