How do I tell someone I'm not the same person? - by Tom Hoke III, 2017 Neema Trip Team Member

One minute... this is the length of time most people expect your story to be when they ask how your trip went. I can do a lot of different things in a minute; a minute can feel like an eternity or it can pass in the blink of an eye. Most people can hold their breath for a minute, or brush their teeth. What I'm unclear on is how to fit one of the most transformative weeks of your life into sixty seconds of face time.

I flew halfway around the world to be with a group of young women I have never met, in a country I've never been to, all for the glory of God...goodbye America - goodbye comfort zone.

Being the only member of the team with a Y chromosome brought a unique set of experiences to the surface, all of it leading to deeper relationship. Over the course of the week the greetings went from timid handshakes, to smiles, to greeting cheek to cheek, ultimately ending with teary eyed hugs as our time together came to a close.

It's so difficult to list off the activities that occurred during our time, of course there were many, yes they were great fun, but my time was primarily spent between two different roles. Deconstructing walls through trust and vulnerability, and building relationships one on one. These are real girls with real stories, most of them aren't comfortable telling theirs openly. Truth be told I'm still not entirely comfortable sharing mine but I knew I needed to, if only for myself.

After sharing enough times and answering their questions I felt as if I was starting to be trusted. I tried to toe-in anywhere I thought I could help; food prep, holding doors open, smiles just for smiles sake. All of this basically confirmed what I had already assumed, that these girls are extremely capable young women who don't need help, they need relationship. Over the past week they have taught me so much. I can only pray that I have impacted them a fraction of how they have impacted me.

So how do I tell somebody I'm not the same person that left the states? How could I possibly explain even a single facet of this experience in a single tick of the big hand? If you figure it out, let me know.

Tom Hoke III
2017 Neema Trip Team