Having just returned from the missions trip to Ecuador, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and lessons learned during my time there. There were many lessons I learned or got to see in action on this trip. I’d like to share the three main ones that I think we all can use in day to day life.
Be open to relationships around you. This really hit me on Tuesday the first day we had gone to groups to share and work with the kids. This was the 4th day of this trip so we had plenty of time to get to know each other. During our devotional time Tuesday evening it really hit me, I’ve been going to church with some of these people for as long as 5 years and didn’t even know some of their names.
You can be like I have for the past 5 years and come to church almost weekly, stay closed off and miss out on the opportunity of great relationships, the strength of God in those groups and leave every Sunday feeling like an outsider. The other option is to open up to those around you, the church, God, and reap rewards you would never imagine.
This lesson was really a learning experience for myself, but I know we all struggle with this.
At this point it’s hump day and we’ve been on the trip for 5 days now. I’ve been pushing myself out of my comfort zone for those 5 days and I’ve also been feeling pushed even further out of my comfort zones. Early Wednesday we’re going over the plan for the day and there was a plan to stop for Ice cream after lunch. Now I’m thinking, awesome! Something I love, can’t go wrong with ice cream, and this is a little comfort for me. Now fast forward to the “ice cream” shop, all they serve is gelato, now I’m not saying Gelato is bad but I wanted ice cream. I had reached my breaking point, this upset me more than it should have. I even snapped at Dena, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I had to stop and realize I was being selfish and unwilling to compromise. We weren’t there for me to get ice cream, we were there to make a difference in these kids lives in any little way we could. The point of this is if you live in a selfish mindset like I was that day you will miss out on so many amazing things. Live selflessly and reap the rewards. And in case you’re wondering….no I didn’t have any of the gelato, I was told by many it was amazing.
Side note to this lesson: God will always watch out for you if you’re willing to receive it. This “ice cream” fiasco had really weighed on me from lunch time all the way till dinner time that night. At dinner I sat beside Gary (another one of the most amazing people I’ve met) and the group of us at that end of the table got to talking and Gary made a statement, “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it “. Now Gary had no idea of what had happened earlier that day but he said exactly what was needed to put me at ease and understand really what I was supposed to learn that day. How else do you explain that other than God working to shape and teach us.
The last lesson I’ll share happened on Thursday at our final club.
Going into this trip I wasn’t really sure of it, or of what I would bring to the table.
God doesn’t normally speak into my life, I don’t connect with people or work with kids. I’ve learned this is mostly my fault, due to being closed off. Working with these kids, and the groups all week was amazing. We touched so many kids’ lives and we truly were doing God’s work. The joy these kids had being in these clubs, watching Gary, Dena, the E team, and all of the mission team work with these kids is just something that words won’t do justice. It’s just something you have to see for yourself.
On Thursday as our final club was finishing up, I remember thinking did we really do anything, are we making a difference or are these kids just here for the cookies and juice. As we were all done cleaning up and waiting to load up onto the bus to go to dinner, a little girl and her mother came up to me and asked me if I would take a picture with the little girl. Now I don’t remember this little girl from the group of kids, mind you there were 95 kids there.
You don’t ask someone for a picture with them unless they have some kind of meaning to you. No matter how big or small, I had some effect on this child. Enough of an effect that she got her mom to come back, pick me out of the group, and take a picture with me. That was the answer, yes we were making an impact on these kids, she didn’t ask for a picture for no reason.
This trip taught me so many things about myself, God, and relationships with others. If you have considered going on a mission trip, I would encourage you to go for it. As Blake says, God always meets us outside of our comfort zones, and this was certainly my experience. Who knows what lessons may be in store for you as you touch others’ lives?