An international mission trip isn’t easy. There’s much to plan, much to purchase, much to prepare. The hardest part, however, may be readjusting to life back home. Beyond catching up on rest, it can be difficult to make sense of the memories and the transformation you’ve had while traveling; it can be tempting to switch gears back into life-as-normal without thinking about how you’ve changed.
Luke 5 contains one of my favorite sayings attributed to Jesus: “No one tears a patch from a new garment to patch an old garment. Otherwise, the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t match the old garment.” For a long time, I didn’t understand this short parable or the one that followed it about new wine and old wineskins, but now this idea regularly runs through my head as I reflect on God’s movement in the world and in my own life. Robert L. Brawley puts it simply by suggesting that Jesus is discussing God’s action as “innovation to the point of incompatibility between old and new.” At times, God invites us into an experience that we cannot merely integrate backwards into our life before it, but one that shifts our paradigm and transforms us. These experiences give us a brand new garment to wear, not one to take a piece from to sew up what we were wearing beforehand.
The 18 of us who just spent a week serving, learning, and exploring in Ecuador have been offered a new garment of sorts. In our service projects, our workshops, and our events in Ecuador— from touring totora farms to hiking to sacred waterfalls— God showed us new ways of looking at others, ourselves, and the world. As we readjust to life back home in Kansas City after our time in the cool mountains of Ecuador, we will be unfolding the ways in which we see things differently because of the things we did and the people we met. It may take us a bit to understand how the new garment we came home with fits and looks on us, and we may take some time to really be comfortable in our new clothes, but we are excited to be at home, changed by our experiences and by the God who holds us all together. The transformation does not end with us; by our sharing of stories and memories, we pray that you may be transformed along with us.