Wednesday morning was gloomy. Much like many other JH mornings, dark gray rainclouds shrouded the sky, and fog dulled the vibrant greens in the foothills of the surrounding Mekong valley. Tuesday weather was a bit brighter, and today's change in climate foreshadowed a dreary shift on the last day of camp.
During the party the night before, the mood was utter jubilation. The kids showered us with gifts, the most moving of which were not the bracelets and little pillows they made us, but the loving smiles they used to express their gratitude. With the coming of rain, though, everything turned upside-down. Smiles turned to frowns, joy gave way to anxiety, and the eagerness to learn faded into apathetic malaise. The kids' motivation was gone. They knew we were leaving, and we'd take with us the strange joy and love we'd brought to their lives.
We tried our best to stay cheerful whie we consoled the crying children, but our efforts inevitably resulted in more tears. Music class was a drag. The happy, cheesy songs lost their spunk when sung by a sobbing, slurring choir. We ended class early and used the time to say goodbyes. Afternoon activities were also cancelled so the kids could get an early start out to their villages.
The camp organizers wisely decided to get us on the bus quickly after the final whistle blew. We didn't need to prolong the inevitable. Once we were on the bus, the children gathered outside the windows, waving frantically as if they thought their waving could convince us to turn the bus around and stay with them for the entire school year.
Some of the students' flamboyant emotion can be attributed to their immaturity and the novelty of interacting with goofy foreigners. We were like the fun-loving uncle that gives kids a break from their strict parents. But I hope that some of the sadness they expressed was genuine, a natural and warranted response to aspects of Christ's love that they had never tasted before.
When students go home, how will they remember us? As jokesters, teachers, buddies, coaches, mentors, friends, or all of the above? Through all the activities, did we tap into their spiritual well and instill a hunger for more of the joy and peace we poured their lives? We may never know the answers to these questions, but we are sure that without even cracking a Bible, we accomplished the most important thing in missions: We were faithful to what God called us to do. And the results are in his big, capable hands.