Some reflections from Adam on our recent HS Mission trip to Guatemala. In case you missed it 3 students shared on Sunday their trip testimony here.
A mission trip is always a vision trip. We know that as we take 18 students and 3 leaders across the globe to serve others, we really receive much more ourselves. Hopefully we blessed children and families by running carnivals, building houses and stoves, putting on sports clinics, but God’s work in our hearts is forming us into seeing ALL our lives as ‘on mission.’ A mission trip is not a one-time event, but the beginning of a life offered to God and to serving others. Many students on the trip began to grasp this concept, and I can’t wait to hear their exciting stories this Sunday in our services. Join us!
I’ve been on these trips before as a high-schooler myself, so I had some expectations going in, but also know that anything can and will happen when you land in a developing country, and to not presume I knew what to expect. “Go with the flow” is the operative phrase on these trips!
One thing that made me smile was the way that the PLM staff and Pastor Kyle encouraged us to “Engage Guatemala.” It is easy for the students (and if I’m being honest, yours truly as well) to retreat into their comfort zones and only hang out with each other. It’s (relatively) easy to build a house. It’s a whole ‘nother endeavor to actually connect with the family you are serving – to actually learn about their lives, what brought them to this place of needing a home, and give them a hug. Engaging Guatemala means trying the little Spanish we knew to learn names, seek to understand lives, and to realize we are learning from and serving each other. It moves our missions trip from an us-helping-them to one of mutual service and brother/sisterhood. We quickly realized that there are parts of Guatemalan culture we prefer to the sanitized affluent culture of New England. For one, people are much friendlier, grateful, and willing to be served then self-sufficient Americans. They are kind, and have a genuine desire to connect with us if we are willing to connect with them.
And our students did an amazing job! Jorge, the director of PLM, said to Kyle one night at dinner that of the 23 mission groups they see in a year, ours was the most engaged with the local people. Kyle’s example, combined with his steady and consistent call to engage paid off. Also, our students rock! They were ready and willing to dive in, sometimes embarrass themselves with their lack of Spanish fluency, and Engage Guatemala.
Building and being built
Each morning began with a time of worship and a short devotional. I was able to share a few thoughts that were on my heart. Psalm 127:1, like any good verse, both humbles the proud and lifts up the spirits of a frustrated soul. It is not in our own strength that we do good deeds. The Lord is the one building these houses. So whether we’re exhausted and can’t put that next nail in, or feeling puffed up from doing a good thing, the verse reminds us that it’s God who’s at work making the world more beautiful. G.K. Chesterton sums it up nicely:
The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton*, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
* for our purposes this could be any place: Guatemala, Greater Boston, or anywhere…
And the Gospel is this: God loves this broken world so much that he gave his very self to make it more beautiful. And He’s not finished. He is still at working making it beautiful, and has put within each of us who call him Lord the same love to do something about it. He’s gifted us with resources and abilities to make the world more full of Christ as he is making each of us more like Christ.
So as we processed the trip I encouraged all to remember that though there is much work to be done in the world, God is working. God is building the house. This helps us fight against frustration and cynicism. Psalm 27:13-14 reminds us that God is working here and now. We’re not just waiting for heaven when all is made right.
I remain confident of this:Psalm 27:13-14
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
And we served not only with deeds but with words. There were several times each day that students had an opportunity to share (with the help of amazing PLM staff translators) their testimony with kids and adults.
This was a stressful thing for students to take on, but all who did so were glad they did. It’s an amazing opportunity to bring your life story into a 2-minute speech. What would you say? How have you seen God in your life? What might we say to show a young Guatemalan child that Jesus loves them?
Finally, a huge thank you to our fearless leader, Pastor Kyle! He served with seemingly limitless energy (no doubt fueled by a few extra CocaColas each day), a huge heart for both the Guatemalans and our students, and a passion to see Jesus glorified through our trip. Each day ended with a porch-time reflection led by Pastor Kyle and small group discussion facilitated by Kyle, Melanie, and Adam. The discussions drew out both the high and low emotions of the trip: excitement and entitlement, selfishness and sacrifice, guilt and gratitude. They were all there because we’re all human, and it was a joy to navigate those thoughts and feelings with our students.
If you ever get a chance, go on this trip! God won’t waste your time. As we work alongside a stellar local mission organization (Promised Land Ministries) and connect with the people we are serving, God turns our mission trip into a Vision trip that will stay with us for life.