TIRED! Our journey began on Saturday around 1:00 AM in the Fellowship Hall of Mt. Haley as we gathered to take our four-part journey to Guatemala. We loaded in our church van and the Adams’s SUV, which pulled a trailer with our luggage. We drove to the North Avenue Church of God in Battle Creek where we met up with Pastor Jim Sirks, who drove us in their church bus to O’Hare in Chicago. Chicago was our departure destination because God blessed us with cheaper tickets from there, saving our group almost $6,000. Incredible! Our flight out of Chicago was delayed, but we were able to arrive in Washington DC in time to make our flight to Guatemala. We made it into Guatemala after midnight and had a short night of rest. Tomorrow was a BIG day because it was church at the Tracks!
A huge blessing we had each and every day was breakfast and dinner at the home of our missionary, David Beam. Meals always included Guatemalan dishes and plenty of food. However, because of church and our short night, we got to eat at McDonald’s on Sunday morning. Prior to that everyone received his or her first installment of the devotion notes for our day, which were entitled “What is my PURPOSE for the Mission Trip?” Everyone on the mission received their devotion first thing in the morning, as a way of focusing their thoughts and preparing them spiritually for what the day brought. They were to read it, pray about it and process it throughout the day. We then shared together in our nightly devotions which immediately followed our evening meal at David Beam’s house. A Guatemalan meal, devotions and then a special dessert were our agenda for each evening of the trip.
A pivotal ingredient of each devotion time was the discussion of some key questions we had each day. The first question was always “What were your GOD SIGHTINGS for the day?” God sightings were examples of seeing God working in His kingdom during the day. Often, we are so engrossed in our activities that we miss the common workings of God as he interacts with people and his world. We had discussed this a lot in our preparation meetings and hopefully we were keen on watching how God really does proclaim his presence in His Kingdom on a daily basis. From there we moved to the question “What BLESSINGS did you receive from the Lord today?” We were personally involved because our God sightings touched us emotionally, and we felt God’s inner glow as we witnessed his sightings. Blessings are strange things; we are so blessed and should be filled with gratitude, but life can take us away from the ways God really restores our soul.
Our third question took a completely different direction as we gazed upon the reality around us. Culture is always different as we travel to other environments outside of our own. We view different climates, different housing, different people and customs and, most often on a mission trip, the poverty that is the reality of the area we are in. Looking into the eyes of hungry children, much like our own, and what appear to be unhealthy living conditions, we ask the question “What BROKE your heart today?” We are grateful for our own living conditions, but the blessing is that these people are happy and grateful also for what God has provided. Although it may break our heart, they are God’s people living in his Kingdom. And from there we asked, “What did you LEARN in your walk with the Lord today?” The lessons we learned each day were amazing as we worked and lived among the people for one short week. They taught us about sharing, love, service to one another, friendship, gratitude and Jesus himself. If you don’t learn something about others, yourself and Jesus on a mission trip, you have missed many blessings.
During the preparation meetings and devotions, we surrounded ourselves with scriptures from the Word of God. From that came the question “Were any SCRIPTURES fulfilled in your life today?” It’s amazing how scriptures that are so familiar or casually read became very real in the situations we encountered with people. Often these scriptures connected with our next question, “How did you interact in COMMUNITY today?” We learned that we all live in the Kingdom of God and we share in the same Word of God; we are only separated by miles, cultures and family. Community and relationships are core aspects of any mission trip and everything else is secondary after our common belief in our Savior Jesus Christ.
The last question we asked each day was “What are you GRATEFUL for today?” God has blessed us in incredible ways, and he has blessed the Guatemalan people in incredible ways also. However, we do come from different cultures that we can be grateful for and we serve the same risen Christ! For that we can be grateful and hopefully give God the glory in all that we do.
So, after the first day we did not discuss the significance of each question. However, we did ask the questions, and God opened up a world of reflection shared by everyone in the group.
What is the purpose of a mission trip? There are several aspects: We want people to participate in something that’s bigger than ourselves, to realize and understand the world is bigger than our hometowns. We need to be good neighbors and practice the Golden Rule with people from around the world. We need to walk through an environment with the eyes and ears of God, knowing that although their culture is different than ours, it is very much the same.
People are people everywhere, and our friendships should extend to all people as we express the love of Jesus to a world that truly needs Jesus.
Our first day ended with a reading of Matthew 25:34-40, and we went to sleep and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
Coming soon: The 2nd Day of our Guatemalan Spiritual Journey.