3/20/10 Captain’s log: Currently cruising at 30,000 feet above the vast cerulean waters of the great Atlantic. As I make my way home, I can’t help but reflect on my last night in Cozumel.
After saying adios to the older kids of Ciudad De Angeles, my group went to house church with the Chiquitos (the youngest angels). At this house church we has a lesson on personal sacrifice and sang a few songs in Spanish, then a few in English. This was followed by a nice Mexican dinner that consisted of chicken, tortillas, black beans, and a delicious rice based dessert. After our meal, we had free time to play our final games with the angels. Sadly, the time to leave came upon us very quickly and we had to say our final farewells… We were not prepared.
By this point, there were a lot of tears falling on both sides. This only got worse as we exchanged “adios amigos.” It was all I could do not to break down right there in that 3rd story apartment. The kids tried to follow us out the door and down the steps, but the house parents had to keep them inside. Walking down those stairs was one of the most touching moments of my life as I listened to the children trying to follow us. Then, out of nowhere, these children who hadn’t spoken a word of English all week began shouting, “We love you” at the top of their lungs. It’s impossible to express in words what this moment felt like for our team. In complete silence, our group hopped in the Ciudad van and rode solemnly back to our team base, The Mirage. As I looked at the goose bumps running down my arms, I could only wonder why this hurt the way it did.
Back at The Mirage, we tried to reflect on what just happened, but we were just too emotionally unstable to talk about it. In such an emotional moment, there was only one thing to do. It was paleta time.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with paletas, they are the most delicious fresh fruit based Latin American frozen treat on the face of the planet. Paletas had been a truly joyous part of our week, so they were something in which we could seek comfort.
After grabbing my clutch coconut paleta, we made our way back to The Mirage to meet the rest of the team. However, something was different about this trip home from the Paleteria. For some reason, we decided to take a new adventurous route home. In an effort to get the group home, I made a bold move and made an abrupt left in hopes of finding The Mirage on 8th Avenue. We quickly realized this was a questionable road, but we continued walking nonetheless. Little did we know what God had in store for us.
On the very corner of whatever street we were on and 8th Avenue, we ran into the group of older boy angels. After regaining my composure from the 1st wave of goodbyes, this was just killer, but looking back, I’m so thankful I turned up that random, shady street. As the pack of crying boys rushed toward us, I noticed Marcos, the angel I had specifically been praying about for over 3 months, was balling his eyes out. I gave him a hug and said “Tu es mi amigo”, which for you Spanish speakers out there, translates to “You is my friend.” I realize this wasn’t the most articulate statement, but it got my point across. He laughed, smiled, and pointed to the blue dinosaur crazy band I had given him early in the trip. We smiled, pounded hands, and gave the triumphant pound explosion. I found this to be sensational since no kid had yet to successfully matched my pound explosion. From there it was like the closing scene of a Hollywood blockbuster as we turned and walked our separate directions. Once again, it’s impossible to put in words what this felt like. It was just a beautiful thing.
Back at The Mirage I tried to reason why these goodbyes hurt so much. I mean, we only spent 1 week with these kids, right?
This is when it hit me. I had become part of their family. Over the course of my week in Cozumel, these children, dorm parents, and staff had opened their hearts and made us part of the Ciudad de Angeles family. So, as I was saying adios to the angels, I wasn’t just saying goodbye to a group of kids, I was saying farewell to my new brothers and sisters. I don’t know what it is that makes these children capable of loving like they do, but I do know that it’s a beautiful thing. It’s something I will never forget.
For anyone who joins the mission trip team to Cozumel, you’re going to be hooked. So, next fall when you hit the missions fair, keep an eye out for the Cozumel booth. Click to learn more about Lipscomb’s mission trip to Cozumel and Ciudad De Angeles.