My first 'Mission Trip' was way back in 1992. A small group of college students crowded into a van, gear in tow, ready to conquer the world! Mexico - at least. Not even all of Mexico, just Sonora, and even then not the entirety of Sonora, just a small community called Cumpas. But, boy were we ready. So ready, in fact, that as we exited the church parking lot we received an invitation to traffic school, and another somewhere in the flatlands of Texas. Speeding for Jesus! It was worth it.
VBS - here we come...
At the time, I was so proud of our accomplishments. Acing traffic school, aside.
Puppet Ministry - Check!
Drama Ministry - Check!
Brick Laying - Check!
Door to Door Evangelism - Tamales - Salsa - Check! Check! and Check!
Building relationships - Wait! What!?
What I didn't realize that I had made that trip about me. I sure did feel good about completing my checklist. I was excellent at it. Excelled at setting a goal and reaching it. More accurately, I must confess, completing a task and then making it a goal I could check off. It was satisfying in a twisted missions reality kind of way. I had a lot of lessons to learn - I just wish I new then, what I know now.
Fast forward to July 2018 - Kanyuambora, Kenya.
It was pleasure to invest in the lives of 9 other people as we traveled halfway across the world - not to conquer, the goal this time was to be an impact that would leave everlasting hope.
We arrived exhausted, full of energy and expectation. Not knowing exactly what to expect.
Over several trips, I had learned that we would know the plan for the trip when we arrived back home.
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his path." Prov 16:9
This trip was steeped in building relationships. We started with an introduction to the field by our missionary partner, Carole, with Life in Abundance, "...lives are transformed and we have nothing to do with it. We simply are obedient." Wise words from a dear friend.
I feel the most at home, in Kenya. I don't know what it is about that place that has attracted the affections of my heart with such a palpable and authentic awakening. But when I am there, I am my truest self. Kenya gets on you. It gets in your heart. You can never be completely free from it.
God had a plan for this trip and what a joy to get to go along for the ride. He knew what was about to happen from beginning to end.
There really are too many stories to tell, some of them not really mine to share. However, this I can relay.
When Short Term Trips are approached with the framework of allowing God to be in control, surrendering to his will and trusting the Long Term Partner to know what is best, these trips transform everyone. It frees us up to be in the moment. To allow ourselves to become vulnerable, breakdown personal space and allow God's love to simply move. Open arms are the best communicators we have. They invite an intimacy that many times can not be relayed through words. Hugs do not need translation.
Love was realized every morning we entered the church and greeted each other with a smile, embrace, and sometimes a holy kiss (right cheek, left cheek).
It turned into our routine.
Enter the guest house breakfast room - greet everyone - especially the staff.
Enter the bus - greet everyone - especially the driver.
Enter the church - greet everyone - especially those who are the furthest away.
Enter a compound - greet everyone - especially the vulnerable and overlooked.
It was also our routine at the end of the day to 'cinnamon roll hug' (a special group hug - where one person is designated the center and systematically rolled up into the core of the group and squeezed - guaranteed to bring joy to the entire group). Everyone included - no exceptions - no barriers! God's love percolating from the center with excited anticipation and expectation always delivering with a personal touch that cannot be escaped.
Cinnebon got nothing on these cinnamon rolls!
Missions is not about completing a project, following an agenda, filling time with the mundane errand of checking off a list.
This trip was about stripping away barriers, showing God's love through personal interaction, allowing ourselves to build relationships by opening up to touch, laughter and tears.
Who knew that success would be defined by a hug? God knew. Now, we know.