Wonder Moment: My ‘Momento’ of Wonder
I had been living in Hidalgo, Mexico for about a month, volunteering as an ESL teacher at an elementary school. I arrived at school only to find out that the students had the day off and teachers would be in training meetings all day. I stumbled upon the janitors planning out their day. They needed to lay sod around the playground and soccer field, hoping to maintain nice green areas for the students. I politely asked if I could help, since my plans for the day changed.
Hours later, I’m covered in dirt and exhausted from hauling the sod when the teachers pass by on their way to lunch. The teachers stopped and asked, “¡Miss Kelly! ¡¿Qué haces?!” (What are you doing over there?!) Reflecting back on that moment, I was just doing what Wonder Voyage taught me.
I’ve participated in seven Wonder Voyage trips (New Orleans, Memphis, Biloxi, Nashville, San Antonio, and Dallas twice). As a high schooler, an exotic trip to South America or a pilgrimage to Ireland sounded way more appealing than the lovely cities mentioned above, but the Wonder Voyage leaders and my youth minister taught me so much more through these destinations.
I learned to be a selfless traveler.
Instead of gloating about what great deeds I could do for a needy community, I began to realize how blessed I was to meet people from different cultures and different world views. I was honored to hear stories from the homeless, play with refugee children, and paint homes in New Orleans. They didn’t need me; I needed them. I needed them to teach me about how to survive life’s challenges, find true community and love God in ways that didn’t match my predominantly white suburb. I didn’t need to leave the country (or even the city) to find incredible people with life-changing testimonies. I learned to take advantage of every opportunity to get to know different people.
I learned to roll with the changes. Wonder Voyage trips are very well planned and organized, but it was also very likely the school was not ready to be painted, the food shelter needed double the volunteers we had, or the church no longer needed help with their VBS. In every circumstance, the WV leaders and my youth minister immediately adapted to a new plan. The purpose of the trip was not our desires and plans; we were there to serve as needed. Even if it was dirty or tedious, we volunteered to do the jobs that needed to get done.
Years later, I was disappointed to learn that I wouldn’t get to teach that day in Mexico. But I learned in Wonder Voyage to explore beyond the pre-written plan. I found a new way I could help! The janitors could use an extra hand. Along the way, I learned about their families, picked up on some local slang, and they even shared their (spicy!) lunch with me. The other teachers were shocked I would even speak with men who were from a “lower social class,” let alone volunteer to get my hands muddy working with them.
Thanks to Wonder Voyage I recognized that God had given me an amazing opportunity to experience a new place and people, and I didn’t let that chance pass me by.
I also gained wonderful Christ-centered friendships through Wonder Voyage. I’d like to thank Molly, Mike, Georgia, Shane, Brittany, and Ken for mentoring me and encouraging me!
Kelly Katherine Howe grew up in Flower Mound, TX at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church. After graduating from Wheaton College, she moved to Hidalgo, Mexico to teach English in a local elementary school by day and master salsa dancing by night. She has recently returned to DFW to work at St. Laurence Church.