There is this side to mission trips that nobody really tells you about. I’m not entirely sure if I can explain it, but it’s just something you’re kind of forced to deal with. It’s something you experience as you gaze at row upon row of shacks, lean-to’s, and sad excuses for four walls and a roof, and you wonder, “What can we do to change this place?”
You think it again as you walk through the village and witness with horror the cesspit that provides the whole village with drinking water. And again when you’re greeted with outstretched hands as you get off the bus because the children have been hoping that whatever you have in your backpack will bring them some glimmer of hope. You came to build 16 houses but your heart doesn't want them to associate this with home. You came to build but you're being destroyed.
This question you ask yourself is the first question, but not the last one. Because as I have experienced, a “mission” trip is just as much about your heart being changed by God as it about loving indigenous populations in third world countries.
In the village of Diamante theres an admirable and cheerful young man named Carlos, he’s trying to work and study and hopefully someday earn a degree so that he can provide a better life for his family. Our church has come alongside him to help pay for school. We do this so that he knows we love him.
During our trip we learned that Carlos’ father passed away leaving him with the weight of providing for his family. In an instant Carlos’ dreams come to a crashing halt, in an instant our missions work seems to have been for naught.
It was no mistake that this happened during our trip, Carlos was at his lowest point when we saw him. He was no longer the flagship child of Diamante that we were going to rescue. He was a 13 year old man faced with the weight of being the provider of the house. God sent us to love him and share the gospel with him. Not through construction or any sort of humanitarian aid, those would only be band-aids to a festering wound. Our job became one of compassion, empathy, and Christ-filled love.
But we wouldn’t have had the platform in Carlos’ life to pour into him if we hadn’t built up the relational equity of paying for his school. On this trip we learned that missions was much deeper than a new house or school uniform, missions was entering into the brokenness of others. Missions is extending a hand and being willing to be pulled downward.
We built a lot of houses, fed a lot of hungry people, and healed a lot of wounds. But maybe one of the most significant things that happened in Honduras was that 80 plus people came to Diamante to tell Carlos “God loves you, and we love you, and we are going to hurt with you.” God showed us why we built those houses, because without laboring in love we couldn't have been able to love laboriously. The last question we asked was “What else could God use us to do?”
What an amazing week of Vacation Bible School we had at FUMC. I had the privilege of witnessing our congregation live out their faith that week as volunteers put countless hours into decorating, teaching, leading and serving the children of FUMC. I love how God shows up in the smallest of details and I was able to experience his abundant love that week. I witnessed hundreds of children and adults worshipping each morning and learning about bible characters and their faith, but it was actually in a quiet moment by myself when I felt God’s presence so deeply and abundantly.
We had asked the children to bring an offering each day, and rather than money we asked for “deep sea” themed food items to be donated to Helping Hands. One afternoon I went to Wesley Hall to bag up all of the first three days of offerings because the stage was beginning to fill up. It was in this quite moment where I saw what the children had been bringing all week. A huge pile had formed of Goldfish, Animal Crackers and Captain Crunch cereal. I was struck in this moment by God’s extravagant love for us as I looked at these particular items. If you’ve ever served at Helping Hands or on a mission trip you would know that a box of Captain Crunch with Crunch-berries is not something you would normally see on the shelves. I pictured the children’s smiling faces as they looked in their bag and along with the oil, flour and beans (the basic necessities) that they saw a huge bag of animal crackers or a large box of Captain Crunch – what an awesome surprise!! Nutritious? Probably not. Extravagant? Absolutely! I was overwhelmed in that moment at how God has always done that for me – loved me in such an extravagant way. He loves to give us gifts in our lives that we never see coming. Just as he meets our daily needs as we walk with him, he reaches down and gives us a glimpse of Himself just to do it! He loves us so much! I think it’s awesome that our kids got to give to the families in such an extravagant way – I’m glad it wasn’t flour or oil.
When I first went to Honduras with our church in 2014, the first day we arrived in the village of Diamante the children were asking for the same thing over and over – “galletas.” Unfortunately none of us spoke Spanish so we googled it when we got back to the hotel and discovered they were asking for cookies. Once again a family that has no electricity or water is going to purchase cookies for their children. That night we purchased several cases of galletas to pass out to their smiling faces the next day. I am not able to go to Honduras this year but my daughter is, so I’m sending money with her to purchase galletas. I pray through that small gesture that some child will be able to experience the extravagant love of our Father.
Dear Lord, help us not only to give, but to give extravagantly like you do. You gave your only son to die for us so that we could come to you. Help us to love as you do. Amen.
"…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Life. It can sure throw curve balls at us sometimes. My life has definitely had a few of those curve balls recently and the old cliché; “Never say never” could be my life’s motto.
I never thought I’d find myself back in Tupelo working at a new job, buying a new house, and making it my home. I’m not a worrier by nature, but making such a dramatic life change, a big move, and looking for a new job were all things that, in my opinion, gave me the right to worry. To top it off, I pulled out my latest resume to update it and as I read over it, I realized I had not applied for or interviewed for a job since 1985. Yes, I had every right to worry! Where would I go, who would hire me, how would my children react to me being in Mississippi? So many questions that I had no answers to. I began picking apart all these questions, trying to figure out where to apply for work, what I qualified for, could I live in Tupelo again, how my children would handle a mom here and a dad elsewhere. I pulled out my legal pad and began writing down ideas on how to handle certain situations and lists of where I might work and exactly what I had to offer a new employer. I was at the top of my worrying game and I had a nice list of how I was going to handle all these crazy things in my life.
After about two weeks, I decided worrying was not only exhausting, but was getting me nowhere. My lists were neat, but my life was not. I knew better! I went to bed that night praying to God to take my worries and show me where I belonged. The very next day my brother sent me a text with a picture of FUMC-Tupelo’s advertisement for a financial secretary. I knew then and there, “God’s got this!” His plans are always better than mine. I knew this from a young age, but when put to the test, I failed. I worried, fretted, and tried to solve my problems myself. When it dawned on me to give it all to God, everything began to fall into place. God, through this church and that little advertisement, gave me new strength and new hope.
That day, I sent in my resume knowing this was the perfect job for me. I said as much in the email with my attached resume. Three short months later, here I am with a better job than I expected, a new home beyond my dreams, and two great children that are reaching new heights and loving their mom in Mississippi. I am wonderfully blessed and soaring on those wings knowing God can handle things much better than I can even dream possible.
Let us pray that we continually put our worries down at the feet of Jesus, knowing "God's got this!"
Let us do life together, growing closer to Jesus, and closer to each other, through stories and experiences from the people of our church. Join us as we begin a new series for the Advent season, beginning Tuesday, November 28.