The hard outer shell of my opened suitcase made a loud clap against my room’s tile floor. I glanced at the clothes laid out on my bed waiting to be packed. Clean and neatly folded, they seemed to be proud of themselves for having had what it takes to be the few items selected for my trip. Soon, they’d be in Asia.
I had lived in my dorm-style room of the girls’ intern house for about a year at ECHO, in southwest Florida. The unique sound of bamboo leaves and palm fronds rustling in the humid breeze outside my window had grown familiar to me. My 14-month agricultural internship had finished, and a 6-month field experience awaited at ECHO’s Regional Impact Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Soon after packing, I’d be en route to a view of billowy, green rice fields and distant tropical mountains. I wondered what window sounds I would hear outside my new room.
The sight of my soon-to-be-filled suitcase invited my mind to reflect on the past year as well as ponder the coming months. What did I learn during my internship in Florida? Why did I want to work with the ECHO Asia staff for 6 months? What unspoken expectations brewed under the surface for my upcoming field experience?
These swirling questions gradually landed on a few tangible answers. I pictured this season of life as a suitcase being packed by God’s divine, all-knowing hands for unknown future opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities I would eventually encounter. Through interning with ECHO in Florida, I was entrusted with practical experience in tropical small-scale farming, a flourishing network of friends and colleagues, instruction in community development, and practice in participatory training methods. The allure of cultivating these skills through a 6-month field experience overseas was deeply personal as well as communal.
For myself, I was eager to integrate what God had already packed into my suitcase through the ECHO internship, past cross-cultural experiences, and graduate studies in agriculture. My horizon glittered with the many lessons I expected to glean from working alongside the ECHO Asia team. My favorite part of this inner development process was the exciting purpose infused into it by the organization: to be an appropriate conduit of information and hope to agricultural development workers and small-scale farmers.
Beyond personal growth, I believe in the value of bringing whatever I have to offer to serve the team I’m temporarily joining in Thailand. I agreed to step into a support role. Fittingly, my own agenda would come secondary to that of ECHO Asia. The Regional Impact Center’s staff have been established in the nuances of small-scale farming in Thailand and the surrounding region for years. They have actively developed relationships with the organization’s vast network throughout Asia. Before I knew ECHO Asia even existed, farms had been visited, agricultural trainings were conducted, questions had been asked, feedback was collected, and challenges had been overcome by their team. This perspective moved me to a humble appreciation that I was invited to run alongside this experienced staff and support their vision.
After whittling these thoughts, my motivations and expectations felt clarified. With that came a readiness to zip up my suitcase and fly out to this new chapter of learning and serving. With bags fully packed, I said a prayer for God’s guidance and left ECHO FL to begin a journey of support to ECHO Asia in their efforts to further God’s kingdom by reducing hunger and improving lives worldwide.
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