It’s been 10 days since Equipo Bolivia returned to Arlington, and you’d think I’d have tidied my room by now. My suitcase still holds gifts from the market in Cochabamba, waiting to be sent to friends and family. My bright orange t-shirt from Equipo Naranja (I like that there are two words for orange in Spanish….one for the color, one for the fruit) is folded but I can see sharpied signatures peeking through, of kids young and old. Group text messages from my fellow travelers that in some ways rival those between me and my siblings, complete with inside jokes, photos, and prayers. There are photos in colorful frames, from the kids at Ninos con Valor and the congregation of La Trinidad, faces that accompany my ever-widening understanding of family.
And there is my trip journal, ready to join its counterparts from Women’s retreats and Fall retreats. I picked it up this afternoon while tidying and flipped through the pages, reflecting on the fact that the markings in this book could very well tell the story of our time:
There are brightly colored scribbles of orange and blue and green and pink, gifted by *Tomas and *Fabian in the few minutes that they sat still before leading me on another chase around the park. Spanish and English vocabulary covering the back, the remnants of my translation session with *Natalia as we listened to Sunday’s sermon. Passages of scripture underlined with squiggly lines, reminders of our devotions during morning bus rides. Lyrics to the song “Yo tengo un amigo que me ama” which is undoubtedly now playing on repeat in the minds of my fellow teammates.
I cannot look at those pages without smiling. They are a small but tangible reminders to me of God’s goodness….of his faithfulness. I told a friend as we were leaving that the trip didn’t feel like a “mountain top/emotional high” experience, but was instead a time of being daily aware of God’s sustaining presence – from take-off at Dulles to altitude sickness in La Paz, through conversations in broken Spanish and songs sung with little voices, in times of great celebration and in times of questioning the brokenness in our world, in the saying goodbye and coming home. It was not an easy time, but it was a gift.