Who knew goodbyes could be so hard? Certainly not this group of twenty high schoolers and soon-to-be college students.
Our final day together began with sleep-fatigued students and a late breakfast. The night before was filled with quality time together spent playing ‘sardines’ and watching a Disney channel movie as a group. Activities such as these tend to keep people up late at night, with ‘people’ in this case referring to our rambunctious students. Nonetheless, their desire to see one another outweighed their desire to sleep in today. The usual worship routine of hymn singing followed our centering prayer marked our final time worshiping together. A few students and leaders shared words of encouragement and blessing towards those whom we encountered while in Guatemala. They ranged from people at Casa Horeb, and women at the cooperatives we visited, to our hosts at SEMILLA.
The majority of our morning, however, was spent with each student participating in an affirmation exercise. The exercise involved twenty-five sheets of paper for each student, and the objective was to write an affirming or supportive message to each student and leader. The entirety of the exercise took around two hours as each person’s note ranged from a few sentences to paragraphs depending on what was said. Overall the time spent writing was a productive form of reflecting on one another and the gifts that we’ve observed in each other.
Lunch followed our affirmation exercise and then came our send-off with parents and guardians who live locally. The send-off and final goodbyes were reluctant, to say the least. A prayer was offered by Pastor Cathy amongst the guardians who came to pick up the students. Tears flowed down each of our faces as we embraced one by one until each of us had had a proper goodbye. The last interactions among our students were heartfelt and hopeful as students talked of plans to visit one another in the near future. Slowly but surely students trickled away from campus in cars, planes, and trains. This journey of coming to understand culture, theology, and vocation has been life-giving for all of us. And watching these students grow over the course of three weeks has given us insight into the future that awaits them.