Twenty five years ago this month I embarked on a journey. I had no idea the profound changes that this journey would bring to my life when I got on a plane and flew to Florida to go on my second Teen Missions team. I would have posted this on the actual anniversary of my first day on that team, but I can’t find my journal or my “scrapbook”, so I’m not exactly sure what day that was! So I am randomly picking today to celebrate that day!
I had gone on a team to Haiti the year before. And I left some business unfinished when I was there. Other than I had a great experience and wanted more, that bit of unfinished business was the primary reason why I was going back on another team. I felt that the Lord had asked me to dedicate my life to His service. I assumed that meant the mission field at the time. But I had resisted making that dedication. And I knew I needed to do it. So, when the brochures came out for the 1982 teams, I immediately started to think about where I should go. There were a half dozen or so teams that caught my attention. But ultimately I wanted to go to Papua New Guinea or South Africa. There was another team though that I couldn’t get out of my head. A team that would take me to the Philippines and Red China. I couldn’t decide. After some thinking and praying, I decided PNG was not the right place. But I couldn’t decide between the other two. So I got a coin. Heads South Africa. Tails the Philippines. The instant that heads came up I knew where I was going. In the brief moment when my eyes first registered it was heads, I was disappointed. So I knew. I was going to the Philippines!
I was the last person on my team to arrive. I had met one of the boys on my team, Matthew, the summer before on the bus from LA to Florida. The team was starting to wonder if I was coming at all, but Matt knew that I was going to be late due to having to take finals, and assured them I was coming. I am told he was dancing through the jungle singing “Linda Lou, where are you?”. So, although no one had ever called me Linda Lou, or Lou, or anything even remotely like that, by the time I arrived, I had a nickname. A nickname with many variations which has stuck to this day.
And I met Connie and Kevin that summer. Actually, I met lots of people. But I never could have dreamed of how important Connie and Kevin would become to me when I first met them. I didn’t even LIKE Connie when I first met her! Who knew that by the end of the summer I would have two best friends in the two of them? Lifelong heart kind of friends.
A woman by the name of Marilyn Lazslo was the boot camp speaker that summer. Oh. My. Gosh. What an amazing woman. In the 60′s she went to the head hunting jungles of New Guinea with Wycliff as a single woman and lived in a village called Huana. She learned the language and translated the Bible. (They called her Mama Marilyn). Over the years I have run into Marilyn here and there. She most recently shared an evening with friends of mine in Pasadena. Boy, was I jealous of them! Another amazing thread which started that summer and has continued through my life to this day.
Our project was to build a church on the beautiful island of Bohol, in the city of Duero.
Here’s CHI PHI. And that’s me, on the scaffolding on the left of the photo, blowing a bubble.
What is CHI PHI? Since the team was going both to CHIna and the PHIlippines, we called it “Chi Phi” for short. (Note: although Chi and Phi are both greek letters, we didn’t pronounce “chi” the Greek way, we prounounced it like it sounds when you pronounce “CHIna”.)
I had the very unusual opportunity to get baptized while I was in the Philippines. Because the church we were working with was my home denomination (Evangelical Free), those of us on the team who belonged to an EV Free church at home were allowed to be baptized if we wanted. And I wanted. So, I was baptized 25 years ago on August 18th in the South China Sea off the coast of Bohol by Reverend Cennit along with three other teammates of mine and a dozen or so church members. God could have led me to be baptized anywhere and at any time. But He made it so I could have the most special baptism experience that I could ever have imagined. And I think that the four of us are the only four TMIers who have ever been baptized while on a team with Teen Missions that didn’t have permission from our parents beforehand. I thank God that Bob Lane was listening to God’s voice that day by allowing US to also listen. That baptism was a turning point in my life. Well, it was my “no turning back point”. God met me that day in Bohol. And He’s continued to meet me in ways I could never have imagined since that day. (If you are a Christian and have not been baptised, do it. Pray about when and where, and listen for the answer and do it.)
And, at debrief, in Cebu, I took care of that unfinished business I was talking about. I dedicated my life to full-time ministry. And the funny thing is, God hasn’t taken me up on that promise I made to him. At least not in a vocational way. Perhaps someday He will! I’m still willing!
So, unbelievably, it has been 25 years since the above picture was taken. We had a ten-year reunion to which fifteen or so people came. But I have lost touch with most everybody on this team over the years. This picture is on my bookcase in my bedroom so I think often of “Chi Phi”. And I wonder where Don is and if he and Narges have children. I wonder what ever happened to Stacey. I wonder why Matt is so elusive. And Judy? Where’d life take her? Eric. And Roby. They lived then not far from where I live now. Last I knew of him, Roby was married and had a bunch of kids. And Eric was living in Los Angeles being an actor, or something. Cricky. I’d sure love to see her. And freak-me-green Gordy? What did he grow up to be? And I wonder if any of them besides Matt and Kevin, and Bob and Betty, know that Connie died.
My head leaders that summer were Bob and Betty. They were pretty new to the Teen Missions organization back then and had only been staffers for a year or two. They were soooo strict! At least it seemed then like they were. I had such a chip on my shoulder back then that I think I wrote that Bob and Betty should never be allowed to lead a team again! Well, Bob and Betty are still with Teen Missions. I’m glad TMI didn’t take MY advice! Time has mellowed Bob and Betty, as it has mellowed me. I enjoyed every minute I shared with them at boot camp last summer and I’m certain I’m enjoying seeing them again this summer. I guess they’ve forgiven my rashness.
I was seventeen back then. Twenty five years have absolutely flown past since then. That summer, the people I met, and the experiences I had resonates throughout my life stronger and stronger every day. What a summer that was.
What a summer that was…
(posted in absentia)