Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Under the Yucatan Sky


 The stars shone more brightly than I’d ever seen before. We were so far from a city, a town, or any electricity, that we were able to make out individual stars against the inky black sky in a way that I was unable to do at home in the suburbs of D.C. I stood surrounded by Mayan women in traditional embroidered cotton dresses. I wore one too against my sunburned skin.

It was our last night in this remote Mayan village on the Yucatan Peninsula. For one week of our two week trip, we’d been mixing cement, gravel and water on the ground, hauling it in buckets to the church rooftop, and pouring it on top of the cinderblocks and beams we'd put there. The villagers had taken years to build the walls of the building out of rocks and cement, but they didn't have the resources to put a roof on the church. The process had to be done quickly, all at once and at great expense, whereas the walls were built over time, rock by rock.

It was 1985 and this was my church youth group’s first international mission trip. I was the youngest participant at 15. It had been a week of hard work, laughter, and inspiration, and next week we’d head to a different village to do it again. Sleeping in a hammock in a thatch hut, turning over my steel toed work boots each morning to shake out wayward scorpions, and belting out Barry Manilow tunes while hoisting buckets of concretet overhead gave me an experience of a lifetime.

My best self showed up here. Not my vain, petty, self-conscious self. But a girl who could look beyond her physical comfort for just a little while, and be connected to God and His people. Trench latrines didn't bother me, and showering fully dressed outside in the rain during afternoon thunderstorms made me feel cleaner than my shower at home. I felt born for this.

Standing among the short Mayan women, I felt tall even at just 5.5. But I also felt small. For the first time I was experiencing a world beyond my suburban lifestyle, and I was experiencing God beyond Sunday School classes and youth group.

I was among people who believed in God’s provision, in miracles, and the transforming power of faith not as an add-on to their regular, busy lives, but as the cornerstone. Their everything. Not for a week, but every day.

I thought of the church walls as a metaphor for a daily life of faith, little by little, growing and reaching toward the sky.

As we stood outside that night, looking at the dark sky, cuddling the swaddled babies one last time, we said our goodbyes. Even though I would come back year after year, it would not be to this village ever again. The women said something in Mayan, and someone translated it into Spanish. One of the Spanish speakers in our group repeated it in English, “Until we meet again in heaven, Until we meet again in heaven.”

And I couldn’t fathom in this great big world that I’d see these new friends again. I wasn’t even sure that’s how it all worked, but I knew that they loved God, and I loved God, so we were connected.

 Under the Yucatan sky.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW.

OSMA said...

Ahhh, the hammock, thatch roof story is revealed. This is beautiful. Especially the ending. xoxo

Rach said...

Beautiful.

ashley said...

That gave me chills. Beautiful, Anna.

~Ashley in Louisiana

Anonymous said...

This is especially timely for me as I leave on my first international mission trip next week. Thank you for your ability to share and inspire others.

Gigi said...

Wow. This touched my soul. What an amazing experience that must have been.

Jen said...

Beautiful!

Cami said...

Very beautiful & sounds like the experience was also!

The Empress said...

Yes. People are more alike than they know.

(get THIS: my captcha is "know calmed.") can you believe it.

Lady Jennie said...

Gorgeous Anna

And for what it's worth, I only ever notice your better self.

Fiona, LilyfieldLife said...

so beautiful xx

SusanB said...

Very sweet post.

AmyMak said...

Beautiful, beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I love your writing.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Loved this one.

jen said...

Oddly enough, 11 yrs ago I was able to go to Bangladesh on a mission trip. And today several of the people from Bangladesh were in my hometown today!!

Recovering Church Lady said...

So beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog since just after Jack's accident. I check it every day for new posts and to catch up on your lives. I don't think there will ever be a time that I don't come to check in on you.

I wanted to say, while I don't personally believe in God (I'm much more spiritual than religious), this post really spoke to me. I could feel the connection you were talking about with the women you've met. And although we've never met and most likely never will, I feel a connection with you, your family and most of all with Jack. I believe that there was a reason I found your blog in the first place and I still to this day feel a pull to come back.

You call it God, I call it the Universe. Whatever "it" is, I'm glad it's there or else I never would have found you. Your story has inspired me more than you will know.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Outstanding! I love coming here and reading you. Your book is going to be amazing, no doubt. Thank you for letting me into your world. Debby

spedhead said...

Anna I have been following your blog only on my phone as of late, and it is very difficult for me to comment via phone. So I have been lurking! But I had the opportunity to comment today. This is a beautiful piece, and you have been writing some really touching posts, too. Though I may not comment often anymore, I love your writing and I think you have important things to say. Hope the book is coming along nicely.

anymommy said...

It's amazing when and how connection happens. It's when god feels big and heaven feels possible for me. Beautiful.

Loukia said...

Beautiful.