There’s just something about the jungle.
Yes, the jungle.
It’s probably how you picture it - lush leafy foliage framing a rushing river, flowing past dirt banks and large rocks. Monkeys scampering around, bug bites appearing out of nowhere. I spent the past week in the jungle of Ecuador with half the semester students. We stayed in a little town called Misahuallí, doing construction projects for a Christian school in the area and helping put on a Vacation Bible School for children there.
It’s slower. You can breathe easier. You think more.
So many memories we made…
The sun beat thickly upon on us, the rain thunderously poured. It would come out of nowhere, rain pellets hurling down at the ground and creating a racket on the tin roof where we stayed. The heavy air was dripping with humidity – and so were our faces. Mud smeared on our skin, hurling the pickaxe at the ground to break up the soil for a path. Hauling rocks on rickety wheelbarrows across stone paths. Dust swirling. Muscles tense.
The look on the little girl’s face – Kimberly – I spent the prior day with when she saw me again. Her eyes lit up; she shyly waved. Piling onto a slip n’ slide, soap and suds splashing everywhere. One of the older girls took me down, and we ended up in a pile of laughter at the bottom. Their little hands grasping ours as we walked to the classroom to say goodbye.
Our team all sitting together at the end of the day, sharing a meal together, reminiscing about the day, laughing together.
There’s just something about it.
There’s something about pulling away from your everyday life and experiencing a different environment, serving people in a different way. There’s just something you learn about God, yourself, and each other.
Take Joffre for instance. As our team of about twenty crammed into a tiny one-room school, I noticed a little boy watching us shyly from his desk.
“Hola,” I said gently, trying to get him to talk or smile. “Cómo te llamas?”
After about twenty minutes, I finally learned his name – Joffre. He was six years old. By the end of the day, he was my best bud. I spun him around, he waited for me to carry him over the rocks, we laughed and ran and splashed in the river.
And I won’t forget him.
I won’t forget the way he warmed up to me after much effort and labor speaking in Spanish (also his second language, he spoke an indigenous language first).
I won’t forget the way I was reminded that the Lord pursued me and my heart, how He gently reminded me to extend that same, unrelenting, unconditional kindness to others, even this little boy named Joffre.
The bonding. Looking around at each of the faces of our team members on the bus ride home, and knowing them. Feeling closer than we had, friendships forming to a deeper level than we expected.
Learning a little bit more about sacrifice and love. About caring and serving, even when no one notices, even when no one will remember how you struggled to ask questions to a little boy for an hour.
But the Lord saw.
And that little boy will probably remember.
In the beauty, in the challenge, realizing more of what it means to walk with the Lord. To not put on a show, but desire the things of God. Realizing my lack of desire. Wanting to know Him more.
There’s just something about it.