Naming the End

“Re-entry”
“Debriefing”
“Processing”
“Coming back to reality”
“Going home”
“Leaving”
“The end”

It doesn’t matter what you call the weeks following a short-term missions trip; they’re never easy.  Assigning a title usually reserved for CIA agents or astronauts doesn’t ease the pain caused by heartstrings tugging across continents.  Using counseling terms like “process,” “journey,” and “story,” does nothing to explain why there are entire stores filled with useless crap when children are starving where you came from.

The absolute chaos of customs and abrupt rudeness of fellow Americans is not offset by cutesy titles.  Telling me I’m “going home,” will only aggravate me, telling me I’m “leaving,” will only bring me to tears yet again.  Don’t you dare call it “the end.”  I refuse to admit that anything is over.

No matter the name, the weeks following a mission trip are always filled with a tangled web of emotions.  I’m happy to be back with my real family, but I ache for Pucallpa and my family there.  My bed is comfortable- too comfortable.  I’m still tired from the 44 straight hours I was awake on the flight home.  Tears spring to my eyes at the strangest moments- the Spanish aisle at the grocery store, cutting up fruit, drinking from a water bottle.  I know I need to finish my journal, but I can only bring myself to write a few sentences at a time.  If I finish, that means it’s over… and it can’t be over.

People ask how my trip was, but most only want “wonderful,” or “incredible.”  Sometimes, “lifechanging,” will provoke a follow-up question, a 5-minute chat at the most.  Praise the Lord for those few wonderful people who truly care.  For my aunt, who sat through over 300 pictures and their accompanying stories- and still asked questions.  For Jared, who has promised hours of listening and viewing pictures and asking questions.  For my dad, who sat through over 700 photos and puts up with Mom’s and my strange re-entry moods.

In the midst of this tangle of post-trip emotion is a to-do list a mile long.  Sunday marks the day I leave for my internship at Crossroads Farm.  There’s laundry to be washed, folded, and put away.  I have suitcases to unpack, DVDs to burn for the team, pictures to order, people to visit, and things to buy.  Yet, I can’t bring myself to move.  Emotionally, I can’t unpack my bags from Peru yet.  I can’t put away those clothes, can’t pack for the next thing… because I haven’t begun to let go of the last thing yet.

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