As someone who has worked with children and youth for as long as I can remember, I have often been told the importance of knowing your students names. Knowing a person’s name changes things; they go from being a random stranger to being Susan or Bryan, or so on. Likewise, there’s something about being called by your name that makes the world of difference. It brings a sense of comfort, it implies a relationship, and if we’re honest we all like to be called by our name. The moment we arrived at the airport in
Fadhy and his son Daniel on separate occasions both saw me, gave me a big hug,
and said, “Hello Josh.” In that moment,
I knew this trip was going to be different from last year. Just as in cheers, I was returning to a place
where everybody knew my name, okay, not everybody, but still.
When we arrived at Dar El Awlad, we were told on several occasions how thankful the staff was that we had returned this summer. As it turns out, we are the only group who made the trip this summer and the staff wanted us to know how appreciative they were for that. They made it known when we visited the boys in their units. They made it known as they came out to spend time with us during breaks and before meal times. They made it known when we gave out shoes and other gifts to the boys and to them, but more importantly, they made it known in their love for us. We weren’t special guests who they treated with great hospitality as in years passed. We were dear friends; we were family.
The same thing was true once the boys arrived. There was a rush of excited greetings and introductions as we met the new boys. Most of the old boys remembered those of us who had been there previously and we quickly picked up where we had left off the year before. We played Risk, basketball, cards, and Jenga. We talked on the bus and hung out outside. Our conversations were deeper and more meaningful as our relationship strengthened from last year. By the end of the trip it was difficult to leave our friends, but we knew that we would see each other again.
Perhaps the greatest difference from this year’s trip and last years besides the weather is the feeling I had on the trip. Last year, I constantly found myself seeking an answer to my question if and what type of impact was made by short-term mission trips. This year, I didn’t even feel like I was on a short-term mission trip. I felt as if though we had returned for a reunion and joined in on the work our friends were doing. I knew there names, they knew mine, and we had become friends and family to one another. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to share part of the prayer that was prayed over a few of us on our last night by one of the older boys Tarik. “Thank you Lord for people from two opposite corners of the world who can come together and immediately be family to one another.” Thanks be to God indeed.