Also known as: That time I almost went to Japan.
I’ve been able to go on some pretty exciting trips throughout my life; there was that time in 2008 when I got to go to England for ten days as a part of an “In-depth study of Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien” with Hillsdale College. (To say I was in raptures for every stage of that trip would be an understatement.) Or the time I got to go to Disney World after graduating from high school. Or the time I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for the first time ever flying by myself (I was a young sprout, then.) Or really any time we moved, or traveled to see family. (We have never lived closer than two states away from the majority of my extended family, and twice we’ve lived an ocean away.)
All these were phenomenal in their own way, however, I would say the greatest trip I have taken so far happened in the summer of 2014. I had just graduated from college, but since this story actually starts earlier than that, we’re going to have to go back a ways.
I started my senior year of college in some pretty high spirits, as I can remember. I had just gotten my first part-time job (after several years of looking), I was doing well in classes, and I was excited for what the my last two semesters would bring.
As I had done every previous Fall semester, I looked for the list of mission trips the school would be hosting that year, hoping to find one that I would be interested in going on. At the time, two countries held my heart: England (where I had already had the opportunity to travel) and Japan. Neither of these countries are popular destinations for short term missions, either because short term, cold-turkey evangelism doesn’t work there (Japan) or nobody really thinks of it when they think of lost countries (England.) I had already told myself that if my school ever had Japan as an option, I would take that as a sign, and go for it. Every year I looked, every year I was disappointed, until my senior year. That year, I quickly skimmed the listed countries- not really expecting to see anything that fit me, and lo! there was Japan, printed as neatly as you please, nestled among trips to South America and Europe. Not only that, but the trip was meant to provide humanitarian aid to those still suffering from the aftereffects of the tsunami, which was something I had wanted to do since it happened. Well, I knew at that moment that this trip was meant for me and I for it, and so I wasted no time in getting my name on the list.
And then I was placed on the waiting list.
I’m not going to lie, that was probably some of the hardest weeks of my life up until that point. It was nearly torture, going to the group meetings, watching the others on the team so happy and excited, quietly putting away as much of my paycheck away for the vague hope that I would get to go on the trip, too. The odds were not good; there was no leeway in the number of people who could go on the trip, so the only way I’d get to go was if someone dropped out, and everyone else that came to the meetings were as excited about the trip as I was, and some even more so.
And then came the news that someone, a girl who had only gone to the first meeting, had dropped out of the team, and I was in.
Guys, let me tell you, I was on cloud nine. After that point, door after door kept opening. I was able to somehow find the courage to sent out fundraising letters (and let me tell you, that in and of itself was a miracle; I- who had trouble finding the guts to ask my own friends if I could sit at their table at dinner- dreaded the idea of asking friends and family and strangers to donate towards my trip. I was rewarded for this horrible imposition on them with their absolutely overwhelming and generous support of the trip. I can’t think about it even now without feeling utterly unworthy and utterly grateful for the kindness they all showed me) and because of my job, I was able to contribute a significant portion of the money I needed to raise on my own.
It felt like a dream, watching the days tick by, and knowing that in a few short months, and then weeks, I would be in Japan. It didn’t feel real.
And then it was February 18th; a mere two weeks before we would be going on the trip, and the day of our second to last meeting before we left. (Ironically, it was the night that we all signed our traveler’s insurance/medical history paperwork.) I had had a relatively stressful day that day, and I wasn’t feeling all that great, so as excited as I was, I was just waiting to be able to go home and sleep.
We stood up to sign the last bit paperwork, and I fainted.
I came to seconds later (to show you how much of a writer I am, my very first thought was ‘oh, that’s what that’s like; now I can write about it properly’) but I didn’t feel any better, and I had to wait there on the floor in my embarrassment and discomfort for the EMT (I think? Bit of blur, that night) to check me out and then send me home with an LUPD officer (who was very nice; I do remember that.) That night was worse; I couldn’t walk more than a foot or two without swooning, and Friday morning was just as awful.
I skipped out on the tri-weekly convocation, and instead hobbled and swayed my way to the campus clinic (being at the annexed housing, this meant having to deal with the bus system, which luckily deposits you right by the door in; I don’t think I could have made it otherwise.)
The nurse ran some tests, and told me she was pretty certain I had diabetes, but I was going to have to go to the hospital to be sure.
I got in the ambulance, and at the hospital had yet more tests done, and the doctor told me I definitely had diabetes, and I was going to have to spend the weekend there while they started working on getting my blood sugar under control.
Specifically, I had type one diabetes, meaning my body was no longer producing enough insulin, and nothing science has to offer will fix it. (Type one diabetes, for those interested and not in the know, is called Childhood diabetes, because it shows up 90% of the time in children under the age of 16. It also, for those still interested, is not like the more commonly known type two diabetes in that is has very little to do with lifestyle, and everything to do with causes the doctors don’t really know. The predominate theory right now, I believe, is that genetics plays a fairly significant factor. Probably. I was 22 at the time.)
This was scary, of course, because this is something I was going to have to deal with the rest of my life; it was going to affect every portion of my life in some way. But what scared me the most was what it would mean for my trip in two weeks. I asked my doctor, and he was a bit hesitant, but stated he didn’t see why I couldn’t still go. My team leaders were mainly on the same side as the doctor, but we had to wait on word from the organization we were partnering with.
One agonizing week later, and I was called into one of the team leader’s office. I was not going to be able to go.
Guys, I’m going to be honest, I lost it. I hate, hate, crying in front of people, but I was bawling my eyes out (silently; I had that much control at least) as she talked through my options. I could wait until next year. I could go on another trip; even if it was full, I was automatically guaranteed a spot. I wasn’t really listening; I had believed for so long that this was where God wanted me to go, that He had given this trip to me, that it had been a foregone conclusion, and it felt like He had ripped it away from me at the last moment. I didn’t know what to think, other than ask ‘why?’ over and over again.
Finally, we went through the different trip options still left for the year; specifically the summer ones. I had no interest in any of them; I had read the list before, and while I cared about the countries in a general sense, I felt no pull to any of them. I listened anyway, mainly hoping that something, anything, would pop out at me.
Lastly, she came to the Greece trip. Or, what had been the Greece trip. Apparently, due to various reasons, a week or so before I had passed out and my life fell apart a little bit, this trip had hit a snag, and ended up needing to change the location entirely.
To Manchester, England.
I have never stopped crying to quickly and fully as I did in that moment. Unlike every other time in my life when God closes a door on me, He blessed me with the chance to see at least a portion of His reasoning right away. (Normally, I’ve got to wait years to see that.) On top of that, the trip was mainly just to build relationships with the locals in coffee shops and the like, and to help out a local church and missionary family, which was very much up my alley.
I won’t go into the details of the trip here, because it’s getting late, and I could write another 1,700 words on the topic if I let myself, so I’ll say only that it was challenging, and life changing, and wonderful. I met some amazing people there, saw amazing things, gained a lifelong friend, and decided I will live there someday, for at least a couple of years.
Mainly, this was the greatest trip ever, because the very fact that this trip happened in a testament and reminder of God’s provision and providence, and the lessons I learned from are already being used and tested in this season I am currently walking through.