To the volunteers returning home

Today’s guest blogger is Katie- who currently serves as Assistant to the Directors of the orphanage program in Cuenca, Ecuador. 

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Home. The word often fills me with joy, longing, and yes, even dread. I think of home as I take volunteer after volunteer to the airport. I am envious they will be able to see their families, drink from the tap, and heck, flush the toilet paper down the loo. But at the same time, I dread the day when I will be getting on a plane once again and heading back to the United States, because although I am going back to all those blessings, in my heart I am also leaving home.

As many of you, I have experienced the dreaded and long-awaited trip home. I’ve sat in a foreign airport and bawled my eyes out waiting for a flight. I’ve lay in my bed at night, thinking and crying for my kids. My kids who live and ocean away, and speak a language I am still trying to master.

Every day in Ecuador is a blessing. I try to hold every second, capture the moments in my hands, play  back the days against my eyelids at night. I remember all the hugs, all the times little feet ran to me so little arms could wrap around my legs. Every smile warms my heart, while every cry softens it even more. In the mornings I lay in my bed, wool blankets piled over me, listening to the children next door and smile.  Even so, life in Ecuador is by no means easy. There are days when I flop into my bed exhausted. There are nights when I cry with frustration at my own weaknesses or plead to my Father to release a child from sickness or pain.

Like many of you I came to Ecuador to change lives, never imagining nor envisioning how much I would be changed. Perhaps that is why it is so hard for us to return home. We are changed. We come home different people. We learn to love in a way we couldn’t imagine possible. We can’t imagine leaving that love, that charity we feel, behind. But we don’t have to.

Returning home is not the end of service, it is the beginning of a new service. OSSO volunteers don’t just change the lives of children in Ecuador, they have the power to change the lives of all they come in contact with, especially after they are home. Sometimes, those who are currently in our lives are the ones who need our outstretching of love the most. And suddenly we are more capable to give that love.

So reach out! Share your love! Share your experiences, the compassion you have gained and the wisdom you have earned. And yes, while you may still yearn to return to Ecuador, you will find that the sharp pain of longing will turn gentler. The pangs of homesickness will never fade, but become easier to bear because you will know while you are separated physically, the spiritual connection with your children will never fade.

After all, they have your heart.