It started with a crazy idea: “Let’s go to Cancun.” Six months later we found ourselves boarding a plane – leaving behind frigid weather, emotional family situations, stressful jobs, and unhappy furry friends.
Twelve Christian sisters (ages 27 to 69) who had bonded a year earlier while leading a weekend retreat called the Indianapolis Great Banquet were now heading to beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters. Unfortunately, one sister couldn't make it, but she was with us in spirit as we exited the Cancun airport. From the moment the tropical air engulfed us, all I could utter was “Thank you, Lord.” It was a fitting phrase that set the tone for the entire trip.
But getting there was not an easy road. Several group members encountered difficulties during the trip’s planning. In the fall, Weslynn unexpectedly lost her dad, and then a week before the trip, her mother was hospitalized with pneumonia. Weslynn’s dedication and love for her mom put traveling in jeopardy, but days before the trip her mom’s condition improved and Weslynn was able to make it. She needed to be with her sisters to just let it all out – built-up grief from the loss of her dad, concern over her mother, and total exhaustion both physically and emotionally. On the second day of the trip, she did. With an emotional prayer session, a weight was lifted and her peace and joy returned.
Another sister, Mary Ann, had been diagnosed with and conquered breast cancer as we planned the trip. Weeks before takeoff, radiation treatments ended and her doctor gave her the green light to travel. Throughout numerous appointments, the sisters were by her side. On the night of the surgery we gathered at Mary Ann’s home for a visit and to make sure she was resting. As I approached the entrance, I could hear loud voices and laughter from inside. When the door opened, she was standing there smiling, not only awake but with the group enjoying a feast. The celebration that started that night continued in Cancun, commemorated with a special photo on the beach.
Not only was the trip a time for celebration, it was also a time of deep discussions, lots of laughter, but also some tears. One night we took our masks off – literally and figuratively – and had an honest conversation about our personal challenges, including racism and injustice that some of our sisters had faced (Ironically, we were actually wearing charcoal mud masks at the time). We needed this time to be real and vulnerable, and it confirmed our morning devotion, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”(Proverbs 27:17) Bonding was happening as the mud masks were tingling.
The stories from the trip are endless, but the life lesson is clear – we need each other. Not only to love and comfort but sometimes to rebuke and call out. We need to have those difficult discussions that can bring forth a new understanding and compassion for those who have suffered injustices in our world that many of us have never lived. We also need one another to be strengthened and empowered to enable us to help others.
In fact on our trip home we had an opportunity to do just that. As we approached the crowded airport gate area, we noticed an unresponsive woman and her daughter in a panic. Help soon arrived in the form of a medic, and we learned that the mother, Barbara, had had a stroke. We prayed and tried to comfort her daughter, and by the time the stretcher arrived, Barbara had become more coherent. As our plane began to board, we approached the stretcher and Claudia asked if she wanted us to pray with her. Barbara smiled and responded, “Yes, please.”
So there we were in the middle of the chaotic terminal laying hands on a stranger to pray. It was a fitting way to end the trip and an important reminder – sometimes strangers need sistering too.
Twelve sisters in Cancun. A crazy idea? Yes, indeed! But it actually happened.
All I can say is, “Thank You, Lord!”
Sistering: A girl or woman who shares a common ancestry, allegiance, character, or purpose with another or others: A kinswoman.