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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”).

 

 

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Take Nothing for Granted

I spent last week on a mission trip in Guatemala building two houses and feeding and loving children.  What an experience!

They let me play with power tools- photo by Shanna Fortier

They let me play with power tools- photo by Shanna Fortier

I think the only way to process through something like this is to take small parts at a time, so I’m starting with the home building because that’s how our work week started.  Our large team was split into smaller groups so we would have room for getting work done.  On the first day I was on the shopping team, so we got to consider the needs of the family and shop to help furnish the home…the 12′ x 16′ home (I believe I have the measurements correct).  A bunk bed was already being provided, so we purchased a table and chairs (plastic), sheets for the bed, a broom, a trashcan that could be securely closed outside the house, and food basics for a month (as well as some cookies and flavored milk drinks for the two young kids), toothbrushes and toothpaste (brought to our attention as a need from the previous team’s trip).

Pastores hill

This was the beginning of the incline to the second build site in Pastores…the paved and less steep part.- photo by Matt Rinaldi

On the second day, I got to be part of the build team, after hiking up a steep hill in the high altitude we were not used to.  Since these houses are not very big, we can build them in one day on a concrete slab previously poured.  They are made out of corrugated steel, have two windows, and a front door.  To us, they appear to be one room sheds.  To many people in Pastores, Guatemala who are living below the poverty line, they are answers to prayer, protection, security, and fresh starts.  You should have seen the tears of joy in the faces of the homeowners when we did the house blessings at the end of each build, and felt their arms embracing you as a thanks.

Now, to put this into perspective.

A view of the "neighborhood"- photo by Shanna Fortier

A view of the “neighborhood”- photo by Shanna Fortier

As I sat on the couch last night, in front of my big screen TV, I glanced around at my surroundings.  I’ve been in this house for over nine years now, so I don’t always remember to really look at it.  But I did last night, and I asked my husband Robert, who was also in Guatemala with me last week, the size of those homes.  We contemplated the size of the homes we built and the size of the “liveable” or air conditioned space in our own home and realized we could fit nine of them in our house, not including our screened-in back patio and two-car garage.  Our house is by no means big by the standards of the US, but our master bedroom, not including the walk-in closet or enormous (and recently remodeled- see previous post “Serenity Now”) bathroom, is the size of those houses.  And here I am always wanting to do this to my house, or do that to my house.  Now I just feel happy that my toilets are inside and flush.

I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty for having a nice home.  If we put it into perspective it isn’t quite fair to do that as cost of living and lifestyle should be based off where you are… but here in the United States, we are truly blessed, and I just want to help people to be more thankful for what we have here.  Take nothing for granted.

Getting out of Myself

At this time of year I’m usually absorbed in getting myself ready to teach another year of high school, but if you’ve followed my past blog posts you know I will not being going back this year, so that’s freed me up a bit.  Instead, I’ve been filling my time with home improvement projects and giving a new life to my book.  What this all amounts to is that I’ve been home alone and wrapped up tightly in my own cocoon of me.  This is the introvert Terri.  She cares deeply about others, but if nobody checks on her, she tends to lose track of the world and just sort of fold up inside herself.

Ok, I’m done referring to myself in the third person.  I just wanted to try it out for a bit, but it’s going to get creepy if I take it any further.

Thankfully, I’m about to experience a takeover of my attentions, and I really need it.  Next week I’m going to Guatemala on a mission trip.  I will be building houses, presenting vacation bible school activities to children, and hanging out with a team of 16 other people, and getting very little time for my cocoon, and I’m glad for that.  I love cocoon time, but now it’s time for me to reach out and love others.  I cannot wait to see what God has planned.

If you are interested in seeing what our team does while on the trip, follow us at www.arkpages.com/goguatemala2

I may or may not be posting to this blog while I’m there.  It depends on the demands on my time and how well wi-fi works where we will be staying.  If I don’t post for a bit, check out the above link, to which I will definitely be posting, as it is one of my roles on the team to update the team’s blog.

My New Mission

Whenever I heard about missionaries when I was younger, they always seemed so brave.  These are people who temporarily give up the comforts of their daily lives and go off to foreign and dangerous lands in order to spread God’s love, and they usually don’t even speak the language or get to use indoor plumbing.

Ok, so I sort of generalized the extreme cases as all mission experiences, and in a sense, I was wrong.  Yes, some missionaries do go to dangerous places with no plumbing, but missions are really any outreach that takes one outside of his or her comfort zone… and let’s face it, our comfort zones here in the U.S. are fairly posh in comparison to many others’.

Last summer, I was able to experience my first international mission trip when I went to Costa Rica.  It wasn’t nearly as rugged as many would think.  We stayed primarily in San Jose, the capital, and Costa Rica is not a struggling country.  We saw shopping malls, WalMart, and Starbucks while we were there.  However, we worked with kids who were living well below the poverty line, and the discrepancy in wealth distribution was highly visible in San Jose.

Los Guidos

Los Guidos

The plan was that I would go back this summer and Robert was going to come with me for his first mission trip.  Plans changed a bit and now we are going to Antigua, Guatemala instead.  Guatemala is no Costa Rica.  In Guatemala, about 50 percent of the children are malnourished, and many do not even finish primary school.  When we go there for a week in August, we get to build a house for a family in need, feed hungry children, and possibly visit an orphanage along with several other possibilities, many of which we may not even know until we get there.

This is the fourth summer our church will be sending a mission team to Guatemala, and this team will actually be the second to go this summer as one will be down there in June as well.  This means we have established a good relationship with our partners down there (Iglesia del Camino) and it allows Epic Church to be even more of a blessing to the people of that community.  Robert and I cannot wait to be a part of the exciting work needed there.  In fact, we’ve even begun learning Spanish together with Rosetta Stone in hopes of being able to communicate with the locals while we are there (Robert is learning Spanish for the first time; I am reviewing what I learned so long ago but never used).

As we prepare for this trip, we need lots of prayer and some financial assistance as well.  We are currently building up our team of support/supporters and the following link will keep our team supporters informed on our progress on both fronts via blog updates on the team and individual updates on each team member’s financial goals.  The money goes towards our food and lodging, transportation costs, and also the cost of the projects we will be undertaking.  If all you can afford is prayer, please do that for us and the rest will be provided as we need it.

http://www.arkpages.com/goguatemala2/

Hope and a Future

I’ve neglected my writing lately, both in blog posts and creatively for my book sequel.  My mind has been a jumbled mess and I just haven’t had the time to sort out all the pieces.  This sounds bad, I know, but it really isn’t.  Ok, I concede that the neglecting my writing part is far from good, but my jumbled mind is not so much.  Changes are looming and I just haven’t really felt I can write about it all yet.  It’s all about timing, right?  That’s what “they” say anyway.

I’ve been going through a time of learning and preparation for changes, I think.

A recent lesson:  Robert and I signed up to go with our church on a mission trip to Costa Rica (click here to read my post recapping this trip). I went last summer and it was an amazing experience in many ways.  Robert was excited to have this opportunity, and I was thrilled that we would be doing it together this year.  Our hearts were set on it for months, since I came home actually.  Those who know me know that I am a planner and when I get set on something, well, change is not good.  Yet, change is sometimes necessary.

One evening, I got a phone call in which I was informed that the Costa Rica trip was cancelled, but there were still a few spots open to go on one of the Guatemala trips.  I hung up the phone, told Robert, and waited to see if I was going to be angry or sad, and to see his reaction.  We both took it well and quickly decided this was for a reason and we now had a new opportunity, one we had not expected.  No tears were shed, no items were thrown across the room, and no yelling was uttered from either of us.  We were immediately accepting of the change.  Now we are both excited about going to Guatemala.  If this was for a purpose, I cannot wait to see what that purpose is.

I know other changes are on my horizon and preparation continues.  I’m not sure where all of this will lead, but I’m starting to appreciate the adventure.  Also, I know that whatever may come, it is part of God’s plan for my life, and He always has good plans.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  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.