Little did I know when we went to the Mexico fundraising dinner and silent auction this Spring, and Brian bid on and won the small plane ride donated by David Klapstein, that I myself would actually be going with the team to Mexico! (The plane ride was everything I dreamed of, by the way!! – but that’s another story.)
I was always interested in the Mexico Missions trip but the timing was never right for both of us to go. But a few things got me thinking about it more seriously this year for myself. Hearing about the organization Connecting Streams which encourages believers to get involved in ministry, going to the women’s book club, the church camp out, and the ladies retreat all worked together to put a deeper desire in my heart to get out and do something. That and the fact that my 50th birthday is looming and I needed to do something big before D-Day arrives!!!
So I made a decision to go with only a couple of weeks to prepare. I had never done anything away from Brian in our nearly 30 years of marriage, never lived on my own – I moved from home to being married. But I was excited to see how this would play out. My biggest question was: should I do something like this without Brian? The answer I kept getting was YES, especially when Brian said I had his blessing to go and that he knew I just had so much to offer on a trip like this.
Right from the get go I sensed God leading me. So many things that happened was only because of God. I flew to San Diego by myself and I was so calm - it was almost like I was in a bubble. Other things along the way had an unreal quality about them. I could literally feel people praying for me. I am so thankful for my prayer partner Diane. Coming back home and sharing stories with her about how God answered her prayers was amazing. You have no idea how important prayer partners are until you need them and can sense God working through those prayers.
Looking back through the emails I sent Brian while I was there I came across this…. I wrote: I also am learning in a new way again how faithful God is, how he's been going ahead of us and making sure the right stuff is where it needs to be even though things seem chaotic and disorganized.
One day Diane texted me Ps. 8. She said she wasn’t sure why but knew she had to send it. I read it and continued on with my day. Later that day our team was at the women’s emergency shelter and on the side of the building in a beautiful mural of children was (In Spanish) Ps. 8:2 “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” God had already prepared the way for us to be there even though we thought we were going to ministering to the ladies that day – none of them were there. They were all away working in the fields – so who was left for us to minister to? All the children. We quickly switched up our program and spent our time playing games, doing a puppet show, and crafts. Not chaotic and disorganized to God. Showing the children love and witnessing their joy as they engaged in what God had brought for them that day.
We went to the ladies rehab centre with our program planned out, but it all changed when we realized we just needed to spend time with the ladies. Doing nails, massaging heads and hands, pedicures, colouring with them and doing crafts. Just spending time. What a concept. The next day we did a devotional with them but since we had taken the time to spend time with them first the day before, they were open to what God had Wendy and Kari share. I even prayed with one lady who did not know a word of English but I could sense her depression and sadness. It was emanating from her. The day before I had massaged her hands and painted her nails so when I asked her if I could pray with her she said yes right away. Tears streamed down her cheeks as I prayed. I did not know what she was hearing but I could sense the power of the Holy Spirit. It was not me – it was HIM! The next day when we went to the rehab for the 3rd time, she told me through a translator that she was so thankful I prayed with her and that God told her through that that he was in control and that she would be okay and that she had received peace in her situation. Wow! I did not need to know her story, or even speak the same language as her. God’s holy spirit bridged all the gaps. Isabel Contreras. I still pray for her. Not chaotic and disorganized to God.
Then there was the lice. 7 girls were infested and 1 team member. How was this going to fit into what we had planned for that day. With washing bedding, lauder mat trips, going through clothes and toys and hairbrushes, washing and treating hair and picking nits. Seemed like such a waste of time compared to what we had planned that day. But was it? Of course not! What better way to have one-on-one time with the girls then when you have to spend an hour or two picking nits out of their hair. This was prearranged by a loving God who seems to love it when He can reign out of what seems like chaos to us. We just needed to be obedient, flexible, ready to go with the flow and have his super natural love for those around us.
I learned quickly that people need the hands on love of Jesus.
The toughest time I had on this trip was when we took all the girls on a camping trip to a beautiful Bible Camp. Slightly different beautiful then what we’re used to – like – we had to take all of our own toilet paper, and mostly the flush toilets weren’t working anyway, we had power for maybe one hour a day, we had to bring in all of the food for 40+ people and all of the water too. Quite the experience to get everyone and everything loaded up. Once we got there, we were in a beautiful what felt like us sitting in the middle of God’s hand, surrounded on all sides by mountains with a stream running through the middle of the camp. An oasis in a dusty hot desert. So incredibly beautiful.
So what made this so tough?
One luxury I had not counted on missing, however, was phone connection. I had no way of letting Brian know that I would be off of the grid for 3 days. I could not pour my heart out to him every night via email and pictures, I could not read his loving encouragements back to me. How I missed him! My heart literally ached. To be so far away from him with no connection was something I had not counted on. I actually felt a little panicky. K, so here was the big test? Would God be my husband during this time? Would he fill all of what I needed to feel secure and encouraged to go on in such unfamiliar surroundings? This is when going out with a team becomes vital. I could express my thoughts and feelings to people on my team. They prayed for me. They asked how I was doing. I found a note on my pillow and another note in my Bible from Kari, my roomie on this trip! So much love and encouragement. I learned quickly that Community is what God designed on purpose!
Then God came to me in a very real way while I was preparing to speak at the evening campfire. Sitting outside in the quietness of the morning, I felt the wind on my body and I felt his touch because he made the wind. I felt the sun on my skin and I felt his warmth because he made the sun. I heard the birds singing and I heard him singing over me because he made the birds. Then I thought of all the faces of the girls we had come to bring love to and I could see Jesus in their faces because He made them. So many of the girls would come up and put their arms around me and look deeply into my eyes – that was God. God was enough. He filled me in a way I had never expected or experienced before. It’s hard to talk about because it’s so precious to me. Jesus the lover of my soul.
The next morning we received our letters from our prayer partners and this just reconfirmed to me that I was in the palm of God's hand. My prayer partner Diane wrote to me in part:
"If you're getting tired and weary, I pray you can find rest in the Lord. Just imagine you and Him sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean. You with your camera snapping pictures of Him and Him laughing because He is so comfortable with you and you with Him. The sound of the waves hitting the shore... and feeling the peace that only He can give you." AMEN!!!
The camping trip we took the girls from the home on, turned out to be the best part of the whole missions trip! We could connect with the girls in a family-holiday atmosphere. No distractions, no going off to work on the home or leaving to minister at other institutions. Just us and the girls. We bonded in this environment like nothing we could have ever expected.
I actually have so much more I can say like going to feed the homeless of Ensenada and the poverty and brokenness I saw there or going to the Migrant Camp. That broke my heart for real. How is it possible for folks to actually live like that and nothing be done about it. How could I drive away from that and then just eat a lunch I had prepared and go shopping at the Mexican Marketplace and go to a beautiful buffet for supper. All in the same day! You got to experience this to really understand. Heart breaking. Motivating. I had to figure out what to do with this in my mind. I’m still processing.
But at the end of it all, I learned that no matter what age you are – 13, 49, 75, you can show the love of Jesus to those around you who would not otherwise know His love. You can sit with them, play with them, bring them a watermelon or a breakfast burrito. You can help out and show Jesus' love where ever you are. There is brokenness, homelessness and poverty here in Edmonton too. There is work to be done.
My Jesus’ glasses are a bit more in focus now that I’ve been on this missions trip and I would go back in a heart beat. Todd and Wendy have incredibly big hearts for El Refugio and for doing the work necessary to get people like me down there to help us see better. To motivate, inspire and encourage others to use what we’ve been given… to help others – and as Wendy says: We’ve won the birthplace lottery living where we do – we have A LOT! This trip has given me confidence in God. He is with me, He will be with me when things get tough, and by His grace He somehow uses me to bring His love to others and in the process fill me up too.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!