10 September 2012

An awesome, adventuresome team

Well, there's so much more I could write about India. The "program" still runs in the background, and bumping the mouse or hitting just the right combination of keystrokes makes India pop up on my screen. Probably more posts will surface, but this will be the last in the series processing this most amazing trip.

And it is way past time to identify the "we" of this trip.

"We" were 8 high school students from a church in the west suburbs of Chicago, plus 3 adults. More than 60 other students from our church were also involved in overseas trips, also connecting with Christian workers, in the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe. I am not selling those other teams and trips short when I say that our students had the most Awesome Adventure of all of them. And it goes without saying that they were the most awesomely adventuresome.

Aged 16 - 18 years old, only two of the eight had graduated from high school. They were 5 young women and 3 young men. Because they are in the same youth group, and most of them have been in this church from the nursery on, they were not "strangers." Nor, by and large, were they a close-knit group of friends signing up for this trip. They each had their own interest in the challenge, and they committed to a 6-month preparation period. During that preparation we could see them become closer.

We studied things together - about cultures, about traveling cross-culturally, language, handling stress, how to talk about faith. The students paired up to design and make games, crafts, or projects to help out with the health and hygiene clinic we presented at an Indian school in Varanasi. We raised funds to make this expensive trip. We wrote lots of letters to people who were eager to see the team succeed. This was definitely not a pleasure trip, and the students took all that preparation seriously. When they arrived at their baggage weigh-in 2 days before departure, they were as ready as we could all be.

And it was fun, in transit, to see how much this group had bonded in 6 months. Adults? What adults? I think these kids could have managed this trip alone! They were confident in airports, unflappable in the streets, cheerful at the breakfast table, and thoughtful in our evening study and debrief times. Inquisitive, humorous, thoughtful . . . you may think I am exaggerating, but I could go on. What a team!

  • There is the young woman who, our 3rd night in India, our 1st in Varanasi, asked, "Did the church know this trip would be so dangerous?" but who the next morning was as eager for the day as anyone else.
  • There is the young man who, 5 or 6 days into the trip, became seriously ill (and missed much of what the team did for a few days), and patiently bore with the less-than-ideal en suite room he shared with the other guys.
  • There is the young man who recognized, as I think few 17 year old guys would, that the women were oppressed by their vulnerability in that culture, and made sure that we did all we could to help them feel secure and safe.
  • There is the young woman who absorbed as much Hindi language as people would share with her, and kept asking for more.
  • The young woman who left the U.S. eager for India and only became more and more smitten with this extraordinary country and culture.
  • The young woman who patiently bore with her nausea while stuck in a 4-hour traffic jam.
  • The other who patiently sat in the shade, ill and getting iller, while the rest of the team walked through the Taj.
  • The quiet young man who often had profound insight in our study time, and who often made us laugh by his unexpected humor.
Travel and service bind people in special ways. This group of young people will always be uniquely friends with each other - through service and travel, with the special context of the challenges and glories of India.

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