We start our final day by breaking Brian out of the hospital. Outside, we take photos of him, still in his gown, with the hospital in the background. Justin teaches the group that no hospital stay is complete without lifting the extra gown, a surgical mask and some electrodes, which can stylishly adorn the face. It is a happy reunion.

We spend the day visiting Balboa Park in San Diego and playing a cutthroat game of Marco Polo in the pool. My parents, who live nearby, host a cook out for dinner. They are as impressed with the group as I am.

After dinner, we gather for our final reflection. I ask the students to share what they feel is sacred in their lives. Joung is wonderfully honest. She tells the group she thought she should bring a Bible to read on the trip, but she confessed that although the Bible had played an important part in her life, it was not what was most important to her day to day. She pulled out her organizer, which overflows with photos of friends and family. It is they who truly helped her live better, she explained.

The same was true of Erin. She showed photos of her family and boyfriend. While her family didn't exhibit affection in an explicit way, she loves them for what she knows is on the inside--who they are, even when they don't always show it. Though this is a very difficult way to love, it's a very sacred way as well.

We went around the room each sharing memories from the trip: Eduardo's tears when we were leaving, Lupita and her family, whose house it was we had helped build, the endless chain of buckets of wet cement, the fear and relief in the hospital, moments of tenderness and love during reflection, mended friendships, existing friendships deepened, and new friendships formed.

This diary was entitled "Changing the Picture" because mission trips force us for a little while to see the world in a different way. The final night, Justin spoke of the sedated feeling he had coming back into the familiarity of the United States, leaving behind his more observant, aware self in Mexico. We spoke of blessings and the way we'd come to appreciate all that they had.

Being exposed to poverty had caused some in the group to conclude that material wealth was meaningless outside of the support of family and friends. The question: What can I do? was raised, but left unresolved. Each will wrestle with that dillema throughout their lives. The experience taught us, however, that we must do something.

This week has been wonderful. As we said goodbye at the airport I knew that I had eight new friends. I look forward to the coming months and years of learning from one another. Next year, I hope we can change the picture once again.

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