I sit in the airport terminal, watching the parade of people pass. I could stay here for hours, listening to the boarding calls and global languages. Certain things transcend translation – smiles, hugs, the look of a first-time traveler as she checks just one more time to make sure her passport is in her bag.
“This is the final boarding call for Managua, Nicaragua…”
Here by the gates leading to Central American destinations, groups cluster. There are men with fishing poles packed, ready for a weekend of fun and adventure. There are the eco-tourists, planning to lose themselves in rain forests and smoke-topped mountains.
“Boarding group three to San Pedro Sula, Honduras…”
And there are the teams of t-shirts. Today there’s Team Honduras and a group from Living Water. They nod and smile at each other with that knowing smile. The shirts stand like flags, a tribute to the work that will be done when the feet step foot on foreign soil.
I remember when it used to be about the t-shirt for me.
Now, it wasn’t that I was seeking a souvenir. The t-shirt wasn’t a trophy or a chest-thumping proclamation. Rather, it was a reminder of the destination, of the week, of the work done. The t-shirt was a symbol, a uniform, a crest of this thing called missions – a good and right thing to be done as an act of sacrifice and faith.
I sit here today, with cowboys boots and computer. I don’t look much like that girl who used to wear the t-shirts. In fact, I look a lot more like the girl who goes to the office on Tuesday or the church on Sunday or the restaurant with her husband on a Friday night. Those in the t-shirts don’t look at me with the nod and the knowing smile. To be sure, there are well-worn clothes, a baseball cap, and tennis shoes in my suitcase and a pair of jeans covered with the paint stains of at least 12 mission trips before – but without the uniform, it’s difficult to know my purpose in being here in this place. I could be anyone. But I am a most unlikely looking missionary.
“We’ll begin pre-boarding for Guatemala City, Guatemala…”
I remember when the mission trips were the important thing. But that was before missions became more than the moments. Something happened along this journey, and in my heart, the lines became blurred between starts and stops. And I found that the greatest beauty of feet on foreign soil was in my soul becoming naked – being stripped down to flesh and bone redeemed by grace and held together by mercy and offering nothing more than the love that had been poured upon me by a most kind Savior. Naked there has become naked here too, in this cowboy boots and computer place. Mission trips are simply mission, and are more precious now because of the stories of hope written on the pages found between the days marked on a calendar and filled with good things to do.
Maybe the t-shirts were the catalyst in the stripping away, as the words screened on cotton moved inward and became part of me.
“Final call for Guatemala City, Guatemala…”
Redeemed. Held together. Offering nothing more than love.
Naked, I step onto the plane.
Today, I pray for the 24 people who travel with me to Xela, Chimaltenango, and Antigua, Guatemala. May our souls be naked as we work together in orphanages and old folks’ homes. May we find our joy in the hope of redemption, and smile at the stories we see along the way.