By the time I arrived at Esperanza, I hated it.
We had been dreaming of and planning a “family mission trip” for months, where we could do meaningful work to help others in need, leading by example about the value of sacrifice in a setting where our children could participate hands-on. We were so excited to join the Bethany crew for a week at Esperanza!
But the trip to northwest Vancouver Island didn’t go according to plan, and instead of the warm welcome I had anticipated around dinner time, I arrived after a 16-hour journey under the cover of darkness and a swarm of mosquitoes, disoriented and tired, with no idea where to locate my family or our luggage, and no flashlight. No, I didn’t like Esperanza one bit.
Despite that dubious start, the week did get better. Much better. After a Sunday of rest and recovery, we rolled up our sleeves to get to work on Monday morning and kept at it until Friday evening. It’s impossible to squeeze into just a paragraph what deserves multiple pages (chapters?) of stories about Esperanza, their mission, their history, their importance, their hospitality, their way of life, their campus, and their desperate need of assistance to maintain and improve it. Or the dozens of volunteers that week leading, organizing, laboring, giving, contributing, mentoring, learning, praying, singing, hugging, joking, and playing. It was a week of love and labor, and it was as inspiring as it was exhausting!
By the time I left Esperanza, I loved it.
To me, the most impactful experience came not at Esperanza itself, where strangers became friends, but on the way home. Unexpectedly, the return journey made our outbound trip a week before look like a walk in the park. Forgotten laptops, car-sick kids, three flat tires (two of them were ours!) without cell coverage, dead car batteries, and missed ferries all contributed to an endurance test, extending the day-trip home long into the night. But the giving didn’t stop at Esperanza; and the Bethany crew banded together to help, support, and sacrifice for each other – and especially for my family who seemed to need it the most. After a week of giving all they had to those in need, these strangers-become-friends became family, continuing to give to each other, without hesitation, over and over again.
We had set out to be an example for our kids about the value of helping others, but I, too, learned a lesson about the humility of being able and willing to accept the help of others. My family is grateful for the experience of giving and receiving, and we can’t wait to return to Esperanza for more!