The following is a reflection from Kelly Thurber, a member of Good Samaritan Lutheran Church, Lexington Park (Maryland), another one of the volunteers working in Puerto Rico this week to aid in recovery from Hurricane Maria. From last week through the end of this week, volunteers will serve and support as a part of the Building Puentes initiative with the Caribbean Synod, the Metro D.C. Synod, and our Delaware-Maryland Synod. A few of them will be reflecting on their experiences, and we will share them here on our blog.

On embracing new foods and new challenges:

As a child, I was well known for being one of the pickiest eaters ever! As I have traveled I have slowly learned to embrace just going for it and trying new foods; sometimes I like them and sometimes I don’t … and sometimes it’s fantastic!

Lutheran Social Services and the leadership team have definitely made an effort to have our mainland creature-comforts like Cheerios and peanut butter and jelly on hand, but they also offer cultural dishes and plenty of fresh fruit. While we were working at our site today the family offered us traditional rice, beans, and pork and even put out extra chairs for us on the porch so that we could sit. After power washing and scraping their concrete roof for several hours, the break for lunch was welcome, yet the show of hospitality was humbling. The food was simple but delicious! As we were leaving there was a large tree with small green groups of balls a little larger than grapes in their yard, and we were given a bag full that they picked for us. While some families back home may cultivate a garden and eat the produce, most people here are blessed with fruit-bearing jungle plants and trees surrounding their homes. As they explained how to eat these Quenapes, I momentarily hesitated, and then just bit in. They tasted like Jolly Ranchers! As a girl who loves her candy, it definitely hit the spot.

It can be so tempting just stick with what we know. The same town, the same school, the same church, the same routine, the same friends, the same hobbies or the same foods. This is not my first mission trip, but it is my first one with my husband and since having children, so it’s a different kind of excitement AND anxiety. We’re meeting new people from different places of all ages, as well as getting to know new friends who speak Spanish.

It would be easy to sit next to my husband at meals and work alongside him or hang out with the other nine people from our church who are with us … but that would not be giving God room to work in us to grow our faith through new experiences. I see God most in the moments when I am close to backing down in fear, yet push through.

Trying a new food may not seem like a big thing for most people, but I’m so glad I let myself experience something new. It was one small step to beginning to be open during our time here. While I know this week will bring many challenges, I can’t wait for God to meet me in my discomfort and reveal his power and might, using our group to serve others, and in turn, be served by others.