March 2009, Mandeville, Jamaica
I climbed out of the packed, dusty, hot van in front of the little, concrete elementary school next to a big, concrete church. A Dora mural was painted on the front of the school.
We had pulled up a short dirt drive through a big field after a bumpy prior drive on other dirt roads. We were there to play and sing and perform a puppet show from behind a sheet and take pictures and print pictures for who knows how many Jamaican elementary students.
I ungracefully climbed out of the van wearing the standard missions trip attire — loose, knee-length skirt, t-shirt, flip flops. The others on our team from college climbed out, too. We stood outside the school for a second, waiting to see where we should go. I held the suitcase full of old, raggedy puppets.
The students started streaming out. They all came toward me, chattering and smiling. I set down the suitcase, and they hugged my legs tightly, rubbing my pale, white skin. I started to cry, inexplicably. All I could do was say hi, smile, ask their names, and feel a deep passion bubble up inside me.
I saw Jesus in their faces.