Separated by Distance, United through Service

By Anna Reyes There are many factors that come into play when deciding to participate in a mission trip. For our community, field experience is crucial to our students' development of practical skills, language proficiency and cultural understanding imperative for a future of full-time service in another country. The question becomes not if we should participate, but whenhow and how long.

Each trip is a unique opportunity with specific team goals and therefore has distinct factors that influence a student’s decision to travel abroad. Furthermore, the incredible expense of traveling to another country for even a brief stint is not something to be taken lightly. For the families within our community, travel decisions are all the more multifaceted, considering new parents, children, and the responsibility to provide financially for a household during and after the trip.

There are times when sending both spouses to the field is not practical, so one partner is sent to serve internationally while the other remains at home caring for the household and serving the home community. My husband and I have made this difficult decision to be apart twice now. I have experienced serving in Guatemala away from him in 2008 and I am currently awaiting his return from El Salvador while our daughter and I have remained in the U.S.

Nonetheless, it is crucial for families to go to the field together. There is much to learn from the experience of simply living as a family on foreign soil. Even the dynamic of facing daily decisions of service together as a couple is very important preparation for the lives we have chosen to live together. At least, this is what others have told me. My husband and I have yet to walk that path. For now, I have learned much from the sacrifice of being apart to serve. It has been for me a lesson in patience and generosity to give my husband to my team as well as a community in El Salvador that I have yet to meet.

My comfort comes in knowing that whether at home or abroad, we are each contributing to the work to which, together, we have committed our lives: the empowerment of the poor. We are living the message of the apostle Paul that it takes a body - parts working together for the good and purpose of the whole - to accomplish this empowerment. Paul’s metaphor teaches that just as harmony is needed between the parts of the physical body for a person’s well-being, so must the body of Christ function to serve one another for the good of the work that the whole is accomplishing. Though our work for the poor may temporarily separate spouses physically, it is this same work that binds us close together as we serve.