Ever since my first year of summer camp, when I overcame homesickness, I’ve used the analogy that we are like snails and turtles, taking our home with us wherever we go. I like the idea that our home isn’t a place; our true home is our consciousness of God’s presence, where we can feel loved, and close to our family and friends, whether they are physically with us or not.
This idea has helped me through many of my traveling experiences and was on my mind in the months leading up to my trip to Peru with a group of teens who were Christian Scientists. I thought of these friends as family. I kept knowing that I would be in my right place. I also kept in mind the idea that God is with me wherever I go. I used these ideas to prayerfully prepare for my trip.
When the day to go finally came, I met up with my group in Miami, and we took a flight to Lima, Peru. Once there, we took another flight to nearer where we would be staying and helping in a small village. This was to be our “service trip,” where we would be doing practical things to help out the villagers.
After a few days, I was having the time of my life. I had bonded with many of the children in the village, and I loved helping them so much! It was incredibly inspiring to see the joy they expressed, despite the fact that they didn’t have many material possessions. Our group kept in our thoughts this line from page 494 in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
After finishing in the village one afternoon, some of us in our group decided to play football in the courtyard where we were staying. We were having a ton of fun, when I caught the ball but then dropped it as I bumped hard into a nearby wall. I felt a shock in my elbow but, thinking nothing of it, continued to play.
Then, I ran into the end zone and jumped up to catch the ball, but missed it. When I landed, a sharp pain went through my ankle. I decided to stop playing and went and watched on the sideline. Panic went through my mind, including the fear of a recurring injury, since I had sprained the same ankle the year before.
Immediately I began to challenge the thought that I was anything less than a whole and intact child of God, and I began to claim that God is all-powerful and loving. I prayed with a line from page 262 in Science and Health that has helped me in the past: “To begin rightly is to end rightly.” I prayed with the idea that it was impossible for me to start the trip and the football game knowing myself to be a perfect child of God but then end with believing I was a hurt mortal.
I kept in mind the idea that God is with me wherever I go.
One of my group leaders noticed me sitting on the sideline and asked what was wrong. I told him what had happened, and he immediately shared some thoughts, including the idea that nothing could hold me back from expressing God. I prayed with this idea for a couple of minutes. I needed to know that it was the truth about me and that nothing could stop me from expressing God’s qualities, such as love, joy, and strength. It was impossible for me to be negatively affected by expressing these qualities. As I continued to think about these ideas, we were all called to go to dinner, so I got up and walked slowly toward the dining room. I still felt a sharp pain whenever I put my foot down, but I continued to pray.
After dinner, I talked with some friends, and they gave me spiritual ideas as well. They helped me see that since my motives for being in Peru—to serve others and express God’s love—were pure, I could not experience anything but goodness and purity. With these thoughts in mind, I decided to go to bed.
As I was getting ready for bed, I noticed my elbow was still swollen and bruised. When I went to see my other class leader, she reiterated that nothing could keep me from expressing my love of God and my love for the community where we were working. I took these thoughts, prayed to realize that they were true, and went to bed.
When I woke up, I joined the group to read the Christian Science Bible Lesson and then went to breakfast. After breakfast, I remembered my ankle and realized that I could no longer feel any pain and that there was no swelling or bruising. I was overjoyed! I also noticed the swelling had gone down in my elbow, but it was still hard for me to move it and lift objects freely. I began to worry about how I would be able to do any construction in the village that day. But soon I refuted that thought and once again knew that the most helpful thing I could do was express love.
After we arrived in the village for the day, I went straight to work showing my love for all the children. And I continued to pray as I assisted with construction tasks. I then went into my teaching group, which was assigned to teach sports, and we played with all the children. Their love and joy made me completely forget about my elbow. I focused on their happiness and how contagious it was. There was nothing but gladness and a profound sense of love, and I enjoyed the rest of the day playing with the children and painting their school.
At the end of the day, I realized that I no longer felt any pain, and when I looked down at my elbow, it was fine. I was so thankful! The rest of the trip was amazing, and I was profoundly changed, not only by the volunteer work I did, but by the prayerful work I had the opportunity to do.
Sophia-Annette Hathaway is a senior in high school in California. She has been an athlete all her life and has had plenty of opportunities to practice Christian Science while playing sports, and in school.
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