Jesus, thank you for what this mission trip was. Thank You for every part of it. Here is my mission trip account:
I wasn’t really ready for Ecuador. I had packed my bags, prayed my prayers, checked my lists, but I was not prepared. In my head I had imagined this beautiful land with a beautiful experience and a beautiful story to bring back to my friends, my family, and my blog. I was quickly disappointed in many ways. I know, it doesn’t sound right to say that I was disappointed in a mission trip, but that disappoint came from my set expectations, not anything God had promised me.
The first time we landed in Panama to connect to Ecuador, I already felt the walls coming up around me. There was a suffocating feeling. I can’t go back home. There’s no way for me to turn back anymore. I feel so alone. While everyone else seemed to be in awe of the whole experience, I felt isolated. Afraid of what was to come. Even so, I pushed a smile on my face and said, “Jesus, I trust in You.” What I didn’t expect was for that feeling to continue. Or for that feeling to grow even stronger.
When we arrived at our home for the week, I was anxious imagining about 20 people sleeping in one room, sharing one toilet, one shower, and one faith. That last fact is what grounded me my entire time in Ecuador. Through any division, we were still Catholic. I needed to be told that Jesus was the same in all of us and allowed us to interact with the people of Ecuador even though it was challenging to understand them.
The first night in Ecuador was the hardest night of my life. I slept under a mosquito net sweating, crying, imagining myself being taken to a foreign hospital for dehydration and nausea. While all of this was running through my head, I again began to repeat, Jesus, I trust in You. But this time more crept into my heart, I trust You, but why would You put me through this. Why? The week consisted of getting up early, attending mass and Eucharistic Adoration, then working on the chapel we were renovating or going door to door to talk to the locals and pray with them. Not only was my body not used to sweating constantly and standing in 90 degree heat, but my heart was not prepared for this suffering.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I was mad at God. I was angry that He would put me through this. I do Your work in Indiana, Lord. That’s where I’m comfortable. And I’ve given You so much. Why would You ever call me to come here? As I was sitting in the shade of la capilla (the chapel), He finally answered me.
Monday, March 12th, 2018 // Day 3 in Ecuador
“Jesus I think I know now why I am here. Yesterday was hard for me. I sat down in the dirty broken chapel we were working on and stared at You on the crucifix and asked why. Why did You bring me here? Why do I need to do this? I didn’t feel You. I didn’t hear You at all. But as I stared at You on the cross, the men outside working on the chapel began hammering the wall. I couldn’t see them but all I heard were nails being hammered, and I looked at You. And You didn’t say anything. You used those men to speak to me. I told You, I know, my sins put You up there. But You said, No Maclaine. I want you to share in my suffering. You told me You wanted my hands to feel and be with Your nailed palms. To be Your hands. I’ve used my hands to stay at arms length away from suffering. I’ve allowed You to work in my life and bless me and show me happiness and goodness, but I told You I didn’t sign up for suffering. But Jesus, You took my outstretched arm, and pulled me close to Your heart.”
Once I had realized what God was inviting me to, my week looked different. The people I met had You in their eyes again. The pain I experienced was being offered up for my loved ones. The tiredness I felt created a drive and a meditation on the tiredness of Your passion. The conditions didn’t improve, the work didn’t get easier, my heart was just lifted. I realized what redemptive suffering felt like.
In order for me to understand the fullness of the Resurrection, the joy, the light, the rest, God needed me to understand the fullness of the Passion, the pain, the despair, the ache.
During the week, I met incredible souls who had so little, but gave so much. I met a little girl who danced with pure joy. One day there was an old woman who couldn’t see, but opened her heart to trust us and trust the Lord. A man named Manuel began praying with us immediately when we invited him into God’s word. The people I met and the friendships God created will never fade from my heart. The students and missionaries I went with left a piece of their heart in Ecuador, I’m sure of it.
This trip was the hardest week of my life. I wasn’t ready or willing to suffer in the way God was calling me to. But I eventually understood why I was called to this cross. Jesus asked me to be Simon, to get under the cross and help Him carry it. It was a leap of faith, but the people I met in Ecuador modeled for me just how I can suffer happily for Christ.
Walking to the final mass, we prayed the stations of the cross. I read the 11th station that states: “My Jesus, leaded with contempt, nail my heart to Thy feet, that it may ever remain there to love thee, and never quit Thee again.”
This mission trip I was called to be Christ’s hands and feet. The whole week that’s where I had the most pain. My hands were burnt and swollen, and my feet were burnt, swollen, and had rashes. I was called to be the places where the nails held Jesus up on the cross. If I could take on this minor suffering for His glory, I decided it would be an honor.
Thank you to everyone who supported me financially, spiritually, and emotionally. I got to travel to a different country, drink the most amazing juice, dance to the best Spanish music, witness more smiles on kiddos than I ever have before, teach people how to pray in English, listen to God’s word in the mass every day, eat the tastiest rice I’ve ever had, ride in the back of pick up trucks, see hundreds of stars, celebrate mass outside with two priests and 20 turkeys, doze off in a hammock during breaks, shovel rocks to help build a chapel, walk through rice fields to meet lovely people, and praise You through it all. Though the week had suffering, it was the most joyful I had ever been. Suffering truly is redemptive when it is centered in the heart of Jesus Christ.