“May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King”
Around lunchtime on Thursday, February 8th, 13 of us (ten students and 3 chaperones) were sent off from our school for a foreign exchange trip for the first time in the history of our school. For the very first time, these students would go to Canada. For the first time, many of them would fly on an airplane. Their first time seeing snow and experiencing winter weather. The first of many things.
To say that these students were excited is an understatement. Ten students were chosen to represent Manantial in Canada and to enjoy all that Canada has to offer. They were chosen as the students we thought would best represent our school and their country. They were very excited and nervous for this adventure.
If you have ever been on a plane more than once, you know the drill. You sit down and you have to listen to the flight attendants safety procedures. Now, if you have flown before, this is really boring and most people don’t pay attention. However, for our students, they were laser-focused on the flight attendants. When they told us to get our pamphlet out to follow along, every one of our students took out the pamphlet and followed along like their lives depended on it. It was incredible! We scanned the isles at all the wide eyes and nervous glances as the engine roared up and we started to move. Once we were up and cruising, there was a buzz in the air of excitement and anticipation for all that lied ahead. The first of many firsts.
Because there was no direct flight into Kelowna, we arrived in Edmonton, AB at midnight where it was a deathly -22 Celcius (or -7 degrees F). Keep in mind that the average temperature in Puerto Escondido is 28 degrees Celsius (80+ degrees F). Seeing the snow, all the students wanted to go play in it (remember, its midnight and -7 degrees F). They have jackets on, but they are not thick jackets. They all last about 30 seconds and come running back inside to put on several layers of clothes.
All this to say, they hadn’t even arrived in Kelowna and they were already having so much fun!
When we arrived in Kelowna the next day, the school that was hosting us (Heritage Christian School) had organized for all of the students to stay in host homes for the week. The school had planned and organized our trip the entire 10 days we were there. On the weekends, there were special activities planned. During the week, half the day would be at the school in classes and doing presentations and the other half would be out exploring different things in Kelowna.
Below is a list of the different activities the school organized for them in Kelowna:
- International food tasting
- Tubing at a big ski mountain
- Ice skating
- Hiking trails
- Skiing and Snowboarding
- Laser Tag
- Youth night at the local church
- Going to the local mall
In addition to these things, their host families shared many things with them. Our students were also able to share about their Mexican culture by doing a traditional dance and doing presentations in classrooms. They were able to share about their culture and what was unique about Mexico, specifically, Oaxaca. They also had the opportunity to join the school’s Spanish class, play games with them, and helped them with their Spanish.
I mentioned before that these students were put into groups and placed in different host families. This was one of the best parts of the trip for a couple of reasons. First, these students got to see what everyday life was like for these Canadian families. Most of them had children around their age so they would get to hang out with them, eat with them, and do activities with them. This was probably the richest cultural experience they received. Secondly, these students were staying with Christian families who loved Jesus and loved these kids like their own. Our students got to experience the loving presence of Jesus through the hospitality and generosity of these families.
THE WONDER OF IT ALL
If you have ever been on a mission trip or another kind of trip with a group of people, you know what happens. You get really close to the people you are on the trip with. That is what happened to our students. They experienced all of these things for the very first time together. They shared their excitement, nervousness, and joy together throughout the trip. They are closer friends than they were before and that will not change.
From a chaperone’s standpoint, probably the greatest part of the trip for us was the wonder on their faces from their first-time experiences. From the airport to the snow, these kids were enamored by the beauty of their surroundings and experiences throughout the trip. We were reminded of God’s incredible creation and the wonder of it. Like our students were with the snow, we should be with our God. Like the students were with every single detail of the trip, we should be in our daily lives.
God was actively working in our students lives in what they experienced. Our students did not just experience a great trip, but they experienced great gifts from a great God. Let us never lose sight of the wonder of our God and all that He is doing and will do before us.
Daniel McDonald, GEM Missionary