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by Hannah Erbeck Hannah was part of the 6-Month Caribbean IMMERSION team that traveled to Haiti, Jamaica, and Belize during the first half of 2017.

Blinkers flash as cars of all shapes, sizes, and colors switch lanes and exit off the highway. I'm sitting comfortably shotgun in our fancy high tech rental car, looking contemplatively out the dusty window. Flashbacks flow through my pigtail-braided head.

My mind wanders back to seven months ago on the exact same highways with the same exciting destination... I snap pictures posting them with labels like "road trippin'" or "NYC bound." I hold back the excitement and impulsive desire to dance wildly in my seat. I reflect on my thoughts from 7 months ago. How little I knew. How innocent I was. How different I would become.

I blinked and before I knew it I was in the inner city of Harlem New York on January 20th. I saw things and experienced situations that will never leave the crevices of my brain.

Blink, February 27th. I find my naive, vulnerable 18-year-old self, coloring away on a worn out wooden table surrounded by a crowd of orphans. I'm filled with overwhelming joy and love in those moments. However, it was bittersweet. Because just hours later I laid in my own tears, broken and confused in the presence of my King, hurting for the lost and hopeless of Haiti and feeling helpless in a shattered world.

Blink, April 15th. I'm now standing in my small, cozy kitchen in the Jamaican mountains, cooking dinner for my entire host family, alone.

Blink, it's June 18th. Lighting strikes, the streets are flooded and the roaring thunder echoes off the water's waves. I'm running through the soggy green grass, racing to the muddy soccer ball. I collide with my Belizian host brother, crashing to the ground laughing.

Blink, June 28th. I am now cuddled up with my best friends enjoying our last few days together in Fort Wayne. We hide from the AC under our Guatemalan blankets while sipping our cheap Walmart coffee.

Blink, it's July 4. I'm alone in the middle of Illinois cornfields; raindrops roll down my face washing away my salty tears. I cry out to God, palms up and heartbroken. I struggle to understand the past six months and apply it back to this new life and new person I'm faced with today. I'm back home now, but my heart and mind are lost. However, it's a good lost. They're lost in love, adventure, and hope. I have lost my heart to the love of my life, Jesus Christ. My mind has been lost in dreams of my life with him. I carefully take each step in this new journey, striving to live obediently to His will. I'm taking all of the lessons and adventure I've experienced and I'm applying them to this next chapter.

This what it takes to move forward to process all that I've witnessed. It's just like I did on IMMERSION:

I will purposely put myself out there and soak in every moment so I don't forget.

And if I were to tell someone coming home from abroad how to adjust back, I'd say to do what you did while you were gone. Write everything down, from foods to quotes. Take pictures like a crazy person. Be present always even in the mundane moments. Be genuine and honest because that's how you really build relationships. Love hard and fearlessly. Be open to change and throw out the schedule. I say all this because our lives can be just as joyful and beautiful right now, where you are today.

These experiences should change us and transform us. We shouldn't forget God is working in every nation and in every neighborhood. He works just as much here, where I am now, as He does in the middle of Haiti. His heart and love follows us, his children, across borders. He is earnestly seeking us out and is looking for our hearts to fall in love with Him. God wants us—wants me—to stop looking back, but rather take yet another blink and experience a new adventure with Him.

6 Month Mission Trips

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