My Best Friend-In-Law was talking to a large group of teenagers overlooking the Caribbean Sea at eight in the morning when it finally hit me, ‘I am here…I am in Puerto Rico’. I have been waiting so long to finally be here and yet it took me a couple days for it to finally sink in that this is where I will be for the next four and a half months. Its been about a week and I have already had a breakdown, a tears-soaked pillow and thoughts of returning home. You see, I had been preparing myself for this adventure for some months now, or so I thought I was. I don’t think I actually prepared for how hard it would be though. I was preparing for an adventure in a new place, a fresh start, but with some familiar faces. The idea of the familiar faces being there made it all a lot less scary but it also blinded me to the reality of hardships. I was blinded to the fact that there was still a huge roadblock, a wall that I needed to climb and wasn’t sure that I could.
My first full day in Juana Diaz was very relaxing. I had just come in late the night before from a long day of traveling so I slept until I couldn’t sleep any more (which for me was about 11:30am and I was so proud of myself for sleeping that long). Believe it or not, I slept really well. I have been blessed immensely with a room of my own and air conditioning. Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow. I spent most of the day settling into my new “home” and getting comfortable. Early that evening we met up with the current group for dinner (Every week there is a new “group” that comes down to help work at Camp Caribe for “Missions Trips”). We went to a nice indoor/outdoor restaurant and I ignored the language barrier because everything was still new and fun.
The next day we woke up bright and early to a very warm sun and heavy, thick air. We headed to camp for morning devotions and to say goodbye to that weeks group. It was only day two and I was already experiencing some of the islands best treasures. April introduced me to Domplines (Dome-plee-nays) for lunch, where she taught me how to order by myself in spanish, and Frappes (fr-AH-pays) for a refreshing dessert before dinner. The fun and adventures only continue on to day three as we had woken up to the alarm system man here to check the security (aka- set off the alarm multiple times first thing in the morning) and then the power going out shortly after his departure. On a tropical island with no power, you venture out to find cooler temperatures. I was excited to learn that April would be taking me to her favorite little coffee shop in a town I have been anxiously awaiting to visit. After sitting in Con Leche for a while we decided to head home and check the power and if we would be home for dinner that night or going out. We were going out that night as the power was still out and by time it did come on, the food items for dinner would be questionable. So, I had my first ever Famous Dave’s visit. Praise the Lord once again for the power and the air conditioning I have been blessed with during my time here in Puerto Rico.
The next morning was Sunday. Honestly, the day I had been dreading. I woke up still unsure of whether I even wanted to go to church or not. I was terrified. I showered with fear and got dressed in doubt and headed to church already discouraged. No doubt would I arrive and now know how to talk to the people who have been waiting to meet me, or be able to sing and to worship the God that I was so sure wanted me in this place, or be able to listen and grow from the sermon that morning. I cried through the worship service and walked out half way through the sermon to find comfort in my moms voice and wisdom.
I was a mere four days into my adventure in Puerto Rico and I was already having a breakdown. Did I misinterpret God calling me here? Was this not supposed to be my preparation for my next adventure I thought He was calling me to? I just assumed the language barrier here wouldn’t be such a big deal when I knew people who did know the language. I honestly didn’t even consider the fact that I would be completely out of my element trying to go to church. Discouragement, fear, doubt and weakness consumed me and I was ready to pack my bags and go home. I wanted to barricade myself so that no one could remind me of my failures and shortcomings. Hidden from laughter and humiliation that anyone could throw my way because I thought I was supposed to be here. But surely, God would not have called me to this. He would not call me to a place to spread His love when I cannot even communicate to the people of the Island, to tell them of His love. And if He is not calling me here, why would I think He would call me to an internship in Rwanda?
Monday came and I loved getting the opportunity to work with the current American group that came to serve with Camp Caribe. But time passed quickly that day and soon enough it would be time to open up Club Maravilla and I was already prepared to be discouraged and fearful. Full of doubt I got into the van to help pick up kids and bring them back for a few hours of games and crafts. I had allowed this fear and doubt to completely consume me so I sat there watching. I watched as an American group who knows less Spanish than I do interacted with the kids. Four Square, is pretty much an international language. And so is love.
Let’s be real, I am not encountering persecution and Timothy had a life of teaching that was so much harder than I have it right now, but the breath of God is the breath of God and his word is true to encourage a multitude of people. So I sat there trying to demolish my spirit of fear with the word of God because “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind” (Timothy 1:7). This repeated in my head as I stood in the four square line to kick some Puerto Rican kids butts. Which did not happen, by the way, because these kids are competitive and out for the kill.
Sunday is coming quickly and I find myself in the pickle every time I think about it. I naturally consume with fear and am ready to run as far away as possible at the drop of a dime (or nickel or penny or whatever coin you want to drop first). I have less than twenty-four hours to decide whether I go or not and I am still smack dab in the middle of the decision. I guess all that there is left to do is give it up to God and pray about it because I don’t think I can go into that church alone.