Tomorrow is our last day in Honduras, and I have mixed emotions about it. In the last two weeks, we have accomplished much, and even finished our goals ahead of schedule. I have eaten lots of refried beans and plantains, and drank more than a few good cups of coffee. I have enjoyed driving here, and listening to the students gasp at the Honduran driving styles and laugh out loud as they are tossed out of their seats on the bumpy roads. Our team has bonded and drawn closer to each other and to God as we shared our life stories, prayed for each other, and worshiped with both our songs and designs. I don't want to "break up the party" by going home. I remember feeling this way at the end of summer camp as a kid. The extra-ordinary must again yield to the ordinary. It's time to awaken from the dream. Can I press snooze? And yet, at the same time, I miss my family. I miss reliable power and water, and I miss my own bed. I even miss my dog. So in another sense, I am ready to go.
I find that it is often the case that significant things (projects, relationships, or experiences) come with bitter sweetness. Any married person will tell you that. Any parent will too. There is no perfect job or vacation. But there are Good ones. The genuine love for an imperfect family, or even a job, can be eternal and righteous anyway. On this trip to Honduras, I have gained the satisfaction of making our projects work; of keeping all the students alive and happy, in that order; of (perhaps just a little) inspiring them to think differently about how us nerdy engineers can do something of cosmic importance to build the very Kingdom of God; and I have made new friendships and strengthened others with half a dozen extremely talented students half my age and twice my IQ.
And yet, I find that it hurts a little. I know it will never be the same for this particular group. Even in reunions, it can never quite be recaptured. The life and community we have shared is like the sparkly stuff of fireworks: beautiful, yes, but short-lived. It is not insignificant, but it is ephemeral.
When I first started coming to Honduras, I would experience a very specific emotion at least once each trip. I would find myself feeling like a pretender. I would ask myself "What were you thinking? Who are you kidding to think you should even be here?" I haven't felt that way in the last couple of years. But instead a new tormenter has come. I have been feeling like a bad father and husband. Perhaps I have too much fun on these trips, and it seems wrong to ask my family to function without me while I go "play" for a while. It's hard on me when I know my family needs me, and there is nothing I can do about it because I am so far away. At any rate, I can't seem to shake these darker emotions just under the surface when I am here.
Perhaps these are the "sufferings" in which we get to partake? Paul said we get to share in the sufferings of Christ. Can't there be another way? The tensions of family separation, of financial strain, of the heat and humidity and bugs and electricity blackouts and water shortages, and even the bitter sweet emotions of the end of a special trip - perhaps these are my share of His sufferings for now. This knowledge helps it not to hurt so much.