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Reflections of a Mission Trip: The Faith to Go

I got home a couple days ago now from a week-long mission trip to Guatemala. I want to remember what I learned now while it’s still fresh. That being said, I have probably a few subjects on which to reflect, so I’ll spread them out. Otherwise this would be one long post.

Team Pic

Might as well start at the beginning, right?

This was not my first mission trip. It wasn’t even my first mission trip to the same place; it was, in fact, the third mission trip I have taken to Guatemala. Since I’ve done it before, and I like a little sense of adventure in my life, this part was not scary. The unknowns of a foreign country can be a huge obstacle for some, and understandably so. Because of that, I knew when I was asked to be one of the leaders on this trip, that I could be an asset in guiding the team through this and helping them in knowing what to expect.

Ugh! I was going to start at the beginning, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.

Brakes.

Reverse.

I went to Guatemala in 2013 and 2014, but it’s been a few years. Life happened and I was just holding my head above water. Doing anything beyond that seemed impossible, so though I had it in my mind I would go back one day, I didn’t think the time was now.

promise

When I got the call from our international mission team leader asking if I would be one of the co-leaders for our church, I said I would talk it over with my husband, we would pray, and I’d let her know. In the back of my mind, or not even so far back, I really thought it would be a no. First, it was my husband’s turn to go, and it wouldn’t be fair to him. Second, mission trips cost money, and we had none. Third, my own life was a mess, so how could I possibly be someone a team could look to?

But after a few days of praying and discussing with my husband, I began to see it differently.  My husband had a focus of school and it had been a life change for us to send him back. I had been feeling depressed and useless. I had been given a new purpose in my life a few years before, but just had it taken away and was having trouble processing who and what I was, and whether I had a purpose or anything to offer to others anymore. Now I was being asked to take on an important role. This meant somebody felt I did have something to offer, and that idea was likely placed there by God. And when God says you have a purpose, you better say yes, strap in, and enjoy the ride, because He will use you if you let him. I knew I was at a point where I needed this.

But still, we were struggling so much financially, I felt it was wrong to do traditional money raising, and we certainly couldn’t do it ourselves. But I remembered just how perfectly the previous trips had worked in financial fundraising, one trip almost to the exact dollar. Of course, the trip was scheduled for three weeks before I had available paid vacation at work, so I would also be losing an entire week of pay when we were already living paycheck to paycheck. So, I decided if God was sending me, the money for the trip itself would come, and so would the money to cover my week of not getting paid.

Then there was still the nagging reminder that though it seemed God wanted me to go, I just couldn’t see how I was going to be effective when my own world was partially shattered.  If I was falling apart, how could I help hold together a team of people with varying personalities.

But God uses the messed up, the falling apart, the broken people. After all, I wasn’t going to do it by my own strength, but through Him. He would just be using me. Having learned over the last few years to live by faith when I couldn’t make sense of the world around me, He knew I was prepared for this. My being broken was what He wanted to use.

el cruz

So after more prayers, more talks with my husband, and some tears, I called the international team leader and told her yes.

There are so many scriptures and so many songs that come to mind about being called, but these two scriptures are the ones that have gotten me through all the pain and heartache of the last few years:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

and Jeremiah 29:11

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Sure enough, we had several people on this trip who had never been before, and I was able to help prepare them and help guide them while we were there, to support them and encourage them. What a blessing that was, to watch as they experienced the emotions of such a trip, and to be able to be part of it. The funds were raised quickly and by less people than I would have expected. My portion was over 100% paid faster than any other trip I have gone on. My husband began a job where he is earning more and working more hours, in fact, much overtime right now, and it has more than made up for my missing week of work. And my brokenness? It was just the condition my heart needed to be in.

volcano me

This was just the beginning of my story. I still want to reflect on what we did and the people of Guatemala, the sense of community and how it spans across cultures, and my personal attachments to Guatemala. Stay tuned. Those are coming.

Epic

If you would like to read now about our work, one of my awesome teammates wrote a blog while we were there. Check it out here: epicgoguatemala.com

One of my other teammates shared this video for our team, and I want to share it with you. (Just click on “this video”).

 

 

Where My Feet May Fail…

My husband and I took a dive into a world we had no experience in, and we did it by the faith that God would be in this with us no matter what, because we feel we are doing what He called us to do. It’s been the most emotional experience of my life. It would be easiest to just give up and stop, but even though we lose sleep and our lives have changed completely, we press on, because the reward is so great.

LOVE. It’s what we are here to do… be like Jesus and LOVE. I know I’m far from being Jesus, but with His help, I can do all things, and if I keep in the right mindset, and in prayer, I trust Him to pull us through this.

Lately, the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United has really spoken to me, so much so that I try to sing along every time I hear it, but my voice cracks and tears fall. I know my husband and I cannot do this alone.  What an exercise in faith this has become.

One Car Faith

jalopies

Recap.  I left the world of teaching with nothing officially lined up for after.  No big deal since everyone knows teachers don’t get paid much anyway, right?  Except my husband and I were making an equal income, so this cut our money in half.  Yikes!  Now it sounds insane, and it is.

We lived off not much more than that before when Robert went through some time of being unemployed, but we did get to collect unemployment.  Since I happily vacated my job, no unemployment can be acquired.  When we decided I would take this huge step into the void during a time of high unemployment rates, we did it with the faith that somehow it would all work out because we felt this was a needed step.  If I could find part-time work, we’d be fine.

Then we came to a wall, or a decision that needed to be made.  I was taking off the two months I would have had off as a teacher and was going to job search when school started back up because the lump of checks at the end of the year covered the summer anyway.  During this time Robert’s free car that had miraculously run for three years stopped running.  It was probably just the battery, so we could pay to replace that, and other than the gauges on the dash that rarely worked, the lack of A/C in a black car in Florida, and a number of other oddities plaguing the vehicle, we could have had it running.  However, time was coming to renew the car registration and it was another car we had to pay insurance on.  Since the school year had ended we had really only driven my car.  We began to contemplate life with only one car.  The problem at this point was the uncertainty of what I would do for income.  Having only one car might not work if I found a job with hours that conflicted with Robert’s schedule.

Maybe we should never have let the dog drive.

Maybe we should never have let the dog drive.

A conundrum.

We could save quite a bit of money if we just let the car go.  But what if we needed it later?

I would just have to find a way to make money from home or work between Robert’s hours.  It was time for a vehicular pardon of the old Jetta.  In the scary moment when we both realized this, we felt both nervous and liberated.  We would have to exercise one car faith and believe that no matter what, God was in the driver’s seat, to use a bad cliche disguised as a bad pun, and He would provide for us just as He always had.

It hasn’t been long living in this manner yet, but I have managed to find a few sources of income in which the car has not been an issue.  It feels great to have been able to simplify our lives just a little more, running on one car faith.

When I Needed a Bear Hug

On my drive home from my parents’ 45 anniversary celebration, a familiar song came on my iPod and brought back a flood of memories (sorry for the cliche, but it was raining while I was driving, so it seems fitting).

In 2010, my world changed. Robert and I both had secure jobs, but I always felt his was more secure because he is one of those people who never seems to lack confidence, he was amazing at his job, and everybody there loved and respected him… until he got a new boss.  Then, without going into details I still do not understand, Robert suddenly had no job.  Obviously, this was devastating. My exciting teacher’s salary was maybe 3/4 of what he made (if we didn’t count his yearly bonus), and now we would have to learn to live off of just that, and some unemployment, which really isn’t much of anything.

This happened in April, and I was finishing out a stressful school year- in fact, the most stressful I’d had so far after my first year.  I was depressed and struggled just to get up and go to school.  I know, Robert was the one who lost his job, but I have always been the “Money Nazi” in our marriage, so I may have taken it just as hard as he had.  Fortunately there was a severance package; Robert just needed to get a job before that ran out and we’d be fine.

The severance package ran out at the end of June and Robert had no prospects, unemployment was rising in our county, and we were both losing hope.  I didn’t know what I was going to do to make sure we could eat, keep our house, and survive.

I took up running that summer and had just gotten back from a pathetic run (it was way harder to do than I ever figured it would be, so I was feeling pretty sorry for myself), and I was reflecting on all these hopeless thoughts and circumstances and trying to figure out how I was going to fix it.  I just didn’t know what I was going to do, so after stretching, instead of getting up, I just stayed where I was, prostrate on the floor with tears welling up.

And then a song came on, and I listened to it.  In that moment, I realized I had to stop thinking of what I was going to do.  There wasn’t anything I could do.  The problem was way bigger than just me.  What I had to do was let go of it and realize that God was the only one who could get us through this time.  I had no control over the job market or the economy.  I don’t believe God ever brings bad stuff on us, but we live in an imperfect world, so bad stuff does happen.  But God wants to take care of us and let us know we don’t have to do it alone.  The song made me feel like I was getting a hug from God, all wrapped in His arms.

Fireflight- Wrapped in Your Arms

I suddenly remembered Matthew 6:28-34 (NIV)

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I felt loved, protected, and cared for.  I let go of my worries at that time.  I’m not saying everything was perfect after that or that my faith never once faltered, but I kept remembering all the promises God made to us, and all we have to do is give up control to Him.  It’s no coincidence (well, maybe, since I was purposely listening to Fireflight) that after I listened to the previous song a few times, the very next one followed up that message, securing my hope.

Fireflight- You Gave Me a Promise

After almost twenty months, Robert got a job.  Twenty months of unemployment and uncertainty later, we had pulled through, still had a house, and had not starved to death.  Actually, though it had been tight at times, miraculously, we always had at least exactly what we needed.

Maybe that’s where you are right now, needing that hug.  If so, I hope this helped.  We learned so much during that time, and we are now so much stronger in our faith.

Change of Plans- My First Mission Trip Lesson

If you have followed many of my posts, you know that a huge passion of mine is to help put an end to human trafficking.  You may also know that I am about to embark on a mission trip to Costa Rica (this Sat actually- woo-hoo!).  My husband and I have realized we feel a call to do something with our lives that will help those recovered from human trafficking, and it just happens that after I signed up for one of our church’s mission  trips, we found out we were going to work with the Rahab Foundation, an organization which does just that.  What an incredible learning experience for me, right?

Through the process of wanting to help the team understand human trafficking more, I began to further my research on the topic.  The doubts I had that my husband and I were headed on the right path vanished. We do not know exactly what our next steps are, so we felt this trip might be a jumping off point for us.

Then a few days ago, an email was sent out by the mission team leader, and the subject line read: “IMPORTANT- Big change for Costa Rica- our first big test.”

I avoided opening that message and checked everything else first, played around on Facebook for a while, and even did some dishes.  When I finished all of that, the message was still there, and it looked important since, as you can see, it was written in all caps.  I knew without opening it that our plans to work with the Rahab Foundation had changed.  Sure enough.  There had been some sort of scheduling conflict at the last minute and we would now be unable to work with them. I was immediately angry and sad.  My doubts that Robert and I maybe aren’t meant to join the forces of putting an end to modern day slavery resurfaced.  I cried.

Soon I remembered that everyone I’ve ever talked to about going on mission trips has said to expect the unexpected, but to trust God in it because it will be an amazing experience, even if it isn’t the experience you expected or wanted it to be.  Instead of working with these women, the team will be working with low-income, high-risk children, teaching them about and showing them God’s love. Obviously this is an incredible opportunity to experience God.  Also, now the men on the team, and the two young boys will be able to interact and do more than paint a building.  Through these changes, we ALL have a chance to experience and show God to those who desperately need Him. That truly excites me.

But was this a sign that God was not leading Robert and I to be abolitionists?  I don’t think that was His intention at all.  He knew the whole time that this mission team would be working with these kids, but He also knew I needed a bit of a jump-start, which I was given because of this trip as I dove into searching out information and organizations that dedicate themselves to the worthy cause of freedom of all human beings.  That process has already pushed us forward on our journey.  Robert and I are talking about it more, researching more, and planning our next moves as well as praying that we make the right ones.  We’ve included asking our small group and my parents to pray with us for direction, and I believe our lives are going to seriously begin to change this year as God helps us put down a foundation on which we will grow our own outreach/ministry.

I’m still not sure what will happen next for Robert and I or my mission team, but this scripture (Proverbs 3:5-6) helps me trust God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  I just have to trust Him, and he’ll help me though the rest of it.

In order to keep this in mind, I ask God, “Show me the path where I should go, O Lord; point out the right road for me to walk.” (Psalm 25:4)