The day before we left on our mission trip as a family, I wondered what on earth possessed me to consider taking four of us on a mission trip at the same time. We were working, playing sports, and wrapping up the school year, along with getting ready for our exchange student, starting our nonprofit and managing life. Frantically running around packing and arguing with each other, tying up loose ends, we left at 3:30 in the morning on our ten day trip over the border.
We arrived and at first, I felt the tiredness and homelife responsibilities tugging at our mission. I was worried I had made a mistake, but I had gone out on a leap of faith that this was something that would be healing for our family. Serving others would give us a break from the constant torment balancing our grief with the daily grind.
When I had the idea over 6months earlier, I had asked for a sign I should take my family to Mexico to help those less fortunate than ourselves and was answered minutes later by a family donating a large portion of our financial portion so we all could go. I knew that gift couldn’t be wrong, I just needed to believe and keep pushing on.
After the first couple of days, I noticed a change in my husband. He was smiling. He was also sweating as he hand-nailed and framed along with 14 other people on his work site, but he seemed genuinely happy working and focusing on his project. He had learned about the father on his site who was providing for his children by working in a restaurant in the kitchen. He took time off work to make sure he could be there for the building of his house. My husband worked in a kitchen when we were first married also as he finished college with small babies and a wife at home. He had also taken this week off work to build this man’s home.
My youngest daughter doubted her purpose of being there. She was teaching kids in a language she didn’t know. She struggles at home with being an introvert and communicating with others sometimes in her own language. By the end of the trip though, she was engaged, crafting and playing with the kids near the work sites. As I walked by the local store near our camp I spied her smiling and sharing a coconut with another mission friend and my heart melted a little. It was not a mistake for her to come.
My middle child has been struggling (like all of us). Life can be hard even for the happiest of kids. I catch her on her phone hiding away from our tent. She seemed homesick and I became worried. It’s not something she shows others, its what I can see. I cry and pray for her heartaches. I need her to connect.
The next day is a long work day. I see my same daughter as I walk from site to site passing out band-aids and Advil for mild injuries. She’s working hard and everyone says she’s a trooper. Later I notice shes spending more and more time with the two young girls on her site and the next day she takes a soccer ball and her water backpack for the girls. She also askes for me to look at one of their rashes and listen to their chest cold.
The following day our pastor tells me how she just shines in this place. I wonder how I can help her keep it if I can, and I am very thankful for it, that shine I asked her about how she is doing and she tells me how she has made a very strong connection with the family, especially the two girls. The little girl sits in her lap and tells her how she is very sad, how she misses her sister. She tells her in Spanish that her sister is in heaven and she misses her very much. My daughter tells her in her high school Spanish, that her sister is also in heaven and that she also misses her very much. When I hear this story and I see my daughter I know in my heart it is no coincidence. How many families applied to have their homes made this year by the mission group, and out of those that applied then this family was chosen? They could have been on 9 other sites, my daughter might have decided to work with the vision clinic or the children, but the family and my daughter were put together. My daughter talks more to the young girl and learns that not only did they also lose their sister, but they lost her the same month and the same year. God uses broken pieces.
my daughter with her sweet gi
I came home and my oldest daughter who was unable to go with us, tells me about a baby deer that a mother deer has given birth to a couple days earlier. (if you’ve read from blogs past since she lost her sister, deer follow her a lot, even look in her therapy windows.) She tells me the mother deer hangs out somewhere nearby waiting for the dear to stand up on her wobbly legs. My daughter passes by the deer day after day and calls the local animal group to ask anything can be done. My daughter is concerned the baby deer is ill. The mother deer still hangs nearby. Today I talked to my daughter and she tells me the baby deer is gone, but the mother deer still hangs in the same spot, with her other slightly older deer babies, waiting and watching where she left her infant. To be honest, I cried and I pray the vet has the deer.
I got off the phone with my oldest and notice my youngest is keeping herself busy by painting a bible cover she got at GoodWill. She hasn’t been in the same room with me when I was having the conversation. She finishes her painting as I walk in the room and I see she is adding a deer to her painting, along with the verse from Psalms 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth.
Before I left Mexico I had a sign language conversation of sorts with the mother. I asked her how many children she had. She told me three as she pointed at the two in front of me and then pointed to heaven for her third. She asked me the same question and I said four as I pointed to mine and pointed to heaven. I watched her grab a jacket and place it on her youngest, maybe concerned she might catch a cold as the weather had turned. I don’t need to know Spanish to understand.
I look back at that moment and I know she could also relate to the mother deer if I could tell her the story. As parents that have lost their child, we cannot lay down, we cannot give up though our heart stays in the same spot where we left our baby. A piece of it will always stay there, with our child. We continue on while we simultaneously stay close and hold tight to what we hold dear. (Pun intended.) I am fascinated that God sent me hundreds of miles from home to meet another grief mama. I wonder if I’ve somehow lessened her pain a tiny bit or at least let her know she doesn’t walk alone. (Now if I could only speak in deer, I would tell that deer mama the same thing).