(Previous posts are here here here and here)
It’s interesting trying to reconstruct the trip. I vividly remember events but can’t always recall immediately what day it happened. I did not journal as regularly or in as much detail as I should have. While there, I couldn’t imagine that any of it would fade, would feel any less vivid. But it does. Thankfully I posted pretty regularly to a private Facebook group. Between that and my journal, it’s all starting to come back to me.
After the amazing first night, it was easy to bounce out of bed with the super early rising sun. I was eager to see team members from other groups and hear their stories. After breakfast and debriefing, an unscheduled day loomed, open for us to process our first night and recover. I wandered for awhile, bouncing from one already well formed group to another. As the high from the night before ebbed away, I began to doubt my place on the team. I wondered if I had made a mistake in signing up, if I was just dead weight. I could clearly see the gifts shining from my team members and the connections they were forming with each other and I felt increasingly lonely, isolated and useless. I wanted to go home so I messaged a good friend in Boise even though I knew she was asleep then went back to my room to listen to worship music & try to journal. (“Dear God – I don’t want to do this anymore. This hurts. I’m uncomfortable. For all the amazing stories last night & the obvious cover you had over us, I still feel lost & discouraged and well, yeah. Lost. I am surrounded by these amazing women with amazing gifts and I…I’m just…me. With nothing to offer.”) It didn’t help much at all. One of our worship leaders was holding a worship/prayer session in her room before dinner so I found a spot to sit on one of the beds for the last half hour and at least felt like I could go to dinner without sucking the life out of everyone around me. I put on my happy, team player face and joined everyone to celebrate a birthday
When we finally finished dinner, we formed small groups to visit the bars. We did not necessarily end up the same as the previous night but I had Melissa as a leader and Kaylee was with us again. We added two other girls and started walking towards the main strip with another group. As we navigated the dark, trash filled sidewalks, I found myself walking alone and becoming swamped with negativity & doubt. Suddenly a woman from the other group, Anjel, appeared beside me. I absolutely adored her (still do) but we had not spent much time together on the trip. She was part of the small group that left ahead of us and they were pretty tightly bonded. Regardless, she showed up at my side and said “God put you on my heart during worship. He said to tell you that you are unstoppable. You are a vital part of this team. We need Mama Rhoni & so do the girls. You’re here for a reason.” I had told no one on that side of the globe the thoughts & feelings I was battling. And yet God used her to speak EXACTLY what I needed to hear, at exactly the right moment. We walked a little further together, me sobbing-ly telling her what I had dealt with all day* until her group leader stopped at this little hole in the wall bar, several blocks off the main strip and announced she felt like we needed to go in. All 8 (10?) of us piled in. I think there were more of us than girls working. There were definitely more of us than customers and we crowded the place. But lo and behold, on stage stood one of the girls the long term missionaries had met and had been trying to find since. They reconnected while the rest of us drank mango juice and learned how to request the check Filipino style.
Our groups went our separate ways after that. We went to a night club and danced with some girls before going to the second largest club on the strip. Somehow we ended up with 5-7 girls clustered around us, talking and laughing. There were some heartbreaking moments of conversation (“What do you do for fun?” Girl – “Well. Sometimes work is fun. My friends are here. But mostly I don’t like it. Some other bars are boring though.”) (After talking about Wipe Every Tear and the opportunity to go to school, the question “What would you like to study?” was met with a blank look and shrugs…they had never even considered it. Why bother?) Somehow we all ended up hand in hand with a girl, being pulled downstairs…and then up on stage, center of the bar, to dance with them. It happened so quickly but as my new friend tugged me up the stage stairs, grinning with a honestly joyful smile, I felt a moment of trepidation. Surely the manger and/or owner wouldn’t allow this? We were about to be kicked out and the girls punished. Would there be consequences for us? But we danced. And we slipped invitation cards to other girls. And we whispered hope and options to them as we clumsily moved about the stage, giving them the chance to dance – not for the pleasure of someone else – but for pure fun.
Nothing happened. We did not gyrate. We did not dance in any way that could be considered suggestive. We were all hyper aware of that. But the customers either ignored us…or cheered. The manager watched us but did not intervene. The waitresses actually lit up and laughed. We only stayed onstage that one song and left the bar soon after, a trail of invitations to the Getaway in our wake. We stood outside for a moment, soaking in what had just happened. Melissa summed it up with a stunned “Well. That was a first.”
I honestly can’t remember if we went elsewhere after that. I messaged my husband when we got back “Home from the bars. Danced on stage.” and found it incredibly humorous. And then I slept, hard, until the sun rose again, incredibly early.
*We quickly learned if one of us was struggling, someone else in the group was having the exact same doubts, fears and negativity. We learned we suffered most when we started comparing our gifts and purposes with those who seemed…MORE (usually EVERYONE ELSE ON THE TEAM) and when we compared our experiences with those of others (“She had more of an impact/touched more hearts/etc etc…) The lies were insidious and I am thankful for a team that was willing to be open and vulnerable to combat them. Twenty plus girls worked together for two weeks and there was absolutely zero interpersonal drama that I know of.