On overcoming obstacles (and getting what you ask for)
I've just returned from an amazing mission trip to Honduras.
Mission work is something I've wanted to do for many years; back in 2007 I went on my first to Panama, and then I went to El Salvador. I've been to Romania and Honduras, too. This was my fifth mission trip, and my second to Honduras.
I really liked the people of Honduras and the teams that I worked with. It was a great experience that I want to continue. Lord willing, I'll be returning each summer with the same team.
Facing the fear
Each time I go on a mission trip, I know that it's not going to be easy, but I'm always ready and prepared.
Years ago, I would get very excited about the idea of going on a mission trip, but I wasn’t sure I could actually do it. I felt that I might not be able to handle the conditions and maybe I was just a little bit too used to my comforts.
In fact, the first one I went on, I felt like I had made a big mistake. But I just spent some time praying about it, and realized that I needed to change my focus. My focus needed to be on serving the people of that country and not on myself.
I prayed about it, and it got better, and I really enjoyed it. Obviously, because I've returned several times since.
Ignoring the obstacles
I’ve always dealt with anxiety, but after my first couple of mission trips, I also started dealing with depression. I knew I wasn’t in a state to take another mission trip any time soon, and it was several years before I would make the trip to Romania.
I reached a point where I decided that I couldn’t let my illness stop me. I missed going and serving others, so I decided to take back control. I went with a girlfriend, and had an amazing time. It was hard, but I did it, and I learned a lot.
Each time I have the opportunity to take one of these trips, I'm excited, but I do still feel a little anxiety building up. I'm always given the answer in my prayers - He gives me the yes, and I do fine.
That's not to say that it's a piece of cake, because it's not, but He has gotten me through it each time.
A shared prayer
On the very first day in the field, we held a mobile clinic and built a couple of homes. I was heading up the pharmacy, and although I had everything ready, it wasn't the best of circumstances. It never is.
It was really hot that day, we did have some cover, and we did have a breeze, but there were so many people, and lots and lots of children, and lots of dogs for some reason. These dogs did not want to move, and we just had to work around them. I prayed that I would stay calm in that heat, with that noise, knowing that I would be tired and thirsty.
At one point things got really crazy. I was moving towards one of the tables, and I knocked this baby over. He was on the ground, under my feet and I didn't know he was there. He was really small, and I knocked him over. He hit his head on the table leg and started crying. I was horrified, but I stayed calm. I picked him up and I just tried to comfort him. His mom was very understanding. I mean, it was just one of those things, and he was fine.
Sometime later, towards the end of the day, 20 people showed up all at once, and while I was rushing around, I stepped on one of the dogs (one of those dogs that wouldn’t move). He bit my foot. Thankfully, I had on a good pair of thick sneakers and it did not break the skin, but it scared me.
When the doctor and I were finished and waiting for the bus, she told me, "You know, I prayed that you would be calm today and that you would just be the "duck," and the water would roll off your back." I told her about my own prayer for the day - that I would be calm, and not get upset or anxious. Our shared prayer was clearly answered.
We laughed about it, but God really answered that prayer for me on that day. It could've been a situation filled with anxiety. You've got lots of people needing you, and asking you questions, and needing your help, and it's loud, and it's hot, and you're thirsty. You have to go to the bathroom, but there is no bathroom. It had all the triggers that cause anxiety in me, but I was calm and really enjoyed the day.
A shared song
One Sunday, something really magical happened. We worshiped with a congregation in a place called Los Pinos. The congregation there sang in Spanish, and then we sang in English, and then at times we would all sing together in our own native language. It was so beautiful to hear the song being sung in both languages at the same time. There were no boundaries and it was a blessing to everyone.
A shared story
One of the young ladies I was working with that first day shared that not only was this her first time on a mission trip, but also her first time on an airplane, so she had been dealing with some serious anxiety.
When I heard this, I thought, "I'm meant to be here, and I'm meant to connect with her."
I felt drawn to let her know that I also deal with these feelings, and we got to talking. She seemed to feel a little bit better talking to me and realizing that a lot of the things that she was feeling were not unusual and that we were going to get through the trip, and we were going to enjoy it, and it was all going to be fine.
An answered prayer
At our last clinic, we had to limit the time to 4 hours - we had until 1 pm, but unbeknownst to us, the entire community knew we were coming.
When the bus started going up the hill, we passed hundreds of people lined up to see us. We were worried. When we were about to start, I remember saying “We've got to pray about this, and ask for specifically what we need and what we want."
We prayed that we would be able to see all of the people that truly needed to see the doctor and get medicine and that we could do it all in the time that we had. We prayed that each one of those people coming in would be treated as if they were the most important person that we were seeing that day. We saw a lot of really sick kids that day.
It wasn’t the safest area, so one of our guys stood outside, monitoring the line and keeping everyone calm. Just before 1 pm, he came in and said: “We’re done.” I couldn’t believe it - we’d managed to see all those people in such a short amount of time.
This was a prime example of not being generic in your prayer, but just being very specific in saying, "Here's what I need. Here's what we need, Lord," and He really gave it to us, exactly how we prayed.
I've got so many more stories of things that happened that week, and I really saw God work in me, keeping me calm. It was amazing, and it was really a faith builder.
I wanted to share this with you, because even with the houses that were built, women and children cared for and food delivered, so many other things happened, and it was just amazing to see God work in the lives of everyone who went. It did my heart good to see so many young people, and hear them share what it meant for them, and how they were impacted by the experience.
Lord willing, I'll return in 2018, and bring more stories home with me of God's amazing work. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes, it meant a lot to me. I hope that this was an encouragement to you as well!
Have a blessed day!