I joke with my students that we’re in a similar stage of life. Middle school and your first years after college can feel like a tumultuous transition and a lot of questions of “Who am I?” In our age of social media and constant branding, it’s a question we ask almost daily: Who am I?
So we begin our search for answers. We look to others. We look to our popularity–our skills, talents, jobs, or academic achievement. And sometimes it feels like we never rest. But the strange part about finding yourself is that, first, you have to lose yourself.
At 5 am on a May morning, our 7th graders started their wide-eyed journey to do just that. They expected to work hard, to have fun–to mix cement and play with kids. However, I don’t think any of them expected the change that would happen inside of them. No one expected Friday.
The week itself was incredible. Rancho de Sus Niños is an extraordinary ministry that truly loves and serves kids in Tijuana who don’t have parents to care for them. They call it an orphanless orphanage–a place where children without earthly parents come to be cared for, loved, and shown daily that they are children of a heavenly Father who loves them with reckless abandon.
We, for a short five days, were able to be a part of this great work. The students and parents served where needed, mixing cement, pulling weeds, spreading sealant, and shoveling gravel to help complete a new septic system for the complex. Students put on incredible skits for some town outreaches and picked up trash for people in a nearby town, praying for them as they went. They made friends with the kids at Rancho and quickly realized love and play can surpass many gaps in conversation.
And through the week, a change started to happen; because, for once, there were no screens to capture our attention, no one to impress, no ways to “move up” in life or enhance our reputations. For that time, no one even thought about those things, because, when your eyes are on others, you have no energy left to focus on yourself. And that’s the secret to this process of finding yourself; you have to lose yourself first.
When Friday came around, we gathered in a little chapel to hear Mrs. Poston speak. She talked about recognizing the change in our hearts and sustaining that after we leave Mexico. Then she gave a chance for students to stand up and speak what was on their minds and hearts.
And so it began.
“These kids don’t have a lot, but they’re so happy and it’s taken me the whole week to find out why: They have the love of God and that’s all they need. And I’m starting to realize it’s all I need.”
Student after student stood up, tears running down their face, as they shared words like these–as they realized how much bigger life is than all the little things we use to define ourselves and to give us a temporary happiness.
God did amazing things in Mexico. We saw people healed both physically and spiritually. We saw works in progress–of ministry and relationships that will continue long after we’re gone. And we would have realized none of these things if we hadn’t allowed ourselves to lose our lives for a week.
And in the end, after the losing, we started to find ourselves. We found that:
We are all adopted by our Creator who loves and made us
We are all loved by God regardless of where we live or what our circumstances are
We are created for good works–to love our neighbors as ourselves
We are part of a much bigger story that God is writing–in us and in our whole world
And we found that the real way to find our lives–true abundant life, and lasting happiness–is to first lose our lives for others in the name of the One who makes us found.
-Ms. Valencia, Spanish & Journalism Teacher
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever
loses their life for me will find it.” – Matthew 16:25 (NIV)