Our team was made up of 16 people from Nappanee Missionary Church and two from New Life Fellowship. We had only two meetings before leaving for Mexico and neither meeting included every member of the team. So, we needed to get to know each other on the fly. It turns out that wasn't a problem. We had good team chemistry the whole time. Everyone was flexible and willing to do whatever it took to accomplish our mission.
I was especially impacted by two members of the team:
Jack Lengacher, and his wife Shelly, were our team leaders. I knew Jack before this trip, but not well. He lives near us in the summers and I had worked with him on some projects at church, but that's about it.
During the process of getting ready for the trip, I was feeling pretty unsure about how our kids were going to handle everything. I was also concerned about how the adults on the team would feel about our two young children.
My concerns were put to rest before we even left the ground. Jack, one other member and my family had to leave on Thursday. The rest of the team didn't come until Friday - just one of the realities of traveling during the holidays. So, we arrived at O'Hare with plenty of time to spare before our flight. We had already eaten dinner and had about an hour before we could start boarding. We had packed the kids' backpacks full of stuff to keep them busy during times just like this and so they started spreading toys and coloring books all over the airport floor.
Then something happened that let me know my children were not going to be considered an annoyance by anybody: My son, David, asked Jack to color with him. Without hesitation, Jack got down on the floor and started coloring with David (see picture above). I'm sure for Jack it was no big deal, but for me it meant a great deal.
After spending four days in the same room at the dorm (and giving him the nickname Pastor Skunk) David felt very comfortable with Jack. He even spent much of the bus ride home from the airport on Jack's lap planning a sleepover next summer!
Beyond the way they welcomed us and our children, Jack and Shelly provided our entire team with great leadership. They made sure we knew what to expect, what the schedule was and what was expected of us. They led by example through cooking, cleaning, serving and never acting like any question was a bother. It was great to get to know them (and their daughter, Katie, who was also on the trip) better and know that we've got some new friends to hang out with next summer!
Brant Nine was the other team member who left with us on Friday. I knew who Brant was from going to Senior High Camp last summer and working with Sr. High this school year, but I didn't know him personally. Brant was the starting quarterback for NorthWood this past football season and it's easy to tell he's considered a leader among the students at our church.
That's what I knew about Brant before this trip.
It didn't take me long to learn that there's much more to this kid. Yes, he's a leader - without question. And, yes, he was his team's quarterback. But those two things don't define him, at least in my mind.
Here's what impacted me most about Brant: His love for other people - all people - and his willingness to endure uncomfortable situations and pain to achieve something great.
It didn't take our kids long to realize what an awesome guy Brant is either. They were quickly comfortable with him. There's another picture from the airport where my daughter, Hanah, is sharing a set of headphones with Brant while he plays the only kids' songs he has on his iPod. During our first day in Mexico, while we were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, Brant went with my kids and me to the park and showed us around. He bought us bottles of Coke and spent time entertaining the kids.
Throughout the trip, it became clear to me that Brant is a very compassionate guy. He absolutely loves the people in Mexico, but he also loves the people he's with everyday at home. He wants the best for everyone and he doesn't mind sharing what's on his mind and in his heart - even when it causes him to be vulnerable.
I'm excited for Brant to finish out his senior year at NorthWood and then go on to Bethel College, where he's majoring in Elementary Education and minoring in Youth Ministry. Both of those fields seem perfect for him!