Guest Writers

The Heart of Abundance – A Short-Term Mission Trip Experience

Six months of preparation. Countless team meetings, multiple fundraising events, hours of prayer and studying the word together. A large amount of time and effort was spent just making sure everything was in order to travel as a team of 29, many being minors or first time travelers. Coordinating travel plans, itineraries, how and where to serve the people of Guatemala. Preparing my family, a husband on shift work and two children, mentally, emotionally, practically and spiritually – how would they cope with me being gone; not just away from home but, at times, unable to be reached? Was God going to be as present back home as I suspected He would be on this trip? Was this six months of preparation really
going to be worth exchanging for nine days in Guatemala?

A mission trip is overwhelming. Not just the effort leading up to the trip itself but once you’re there, a lot is going on. It’s fairly difficult to get a good sense of what’s truly significant while it’s happening. Throughout the trip I still found that nagging question coming to my mind. It felt intrusive at times, like it was something that was trying to sneak in and cause me doubt, even if only for a moment. It would come to mind in the quiet moments while trying to fall asleep in a new place or during the FaceTime calls with my kids back home.

Often times the word overwhelming has a negative connotation to it. In this case, my hope as you read, possibly reflecting on your own mission trip experience or considering going on one yourself, you experience even just a smidgen of the emotions a mission trip brings. It is overwhelming. The abundance of mixed emotions is almost impossible to put words to – but, I suppose I will try and start at the beginning.

The discussion of a mission trip with our youth group began amongst the leaders the year prior. The hope of this trip would be to establish a relationship with a school in Guatemala and to serve them as an on-going mission trip every two years – specifically offering this opportunity to the grade 11 and 12 students. The conversation quickly evolved and a unanimous sense of purpose flowed through every word and prayer. The trip was announced to our youth students and applications began to come in. I witnessed students turn to the Lord in prayer and seek His will for them – who was He calling to go on this trip? I prayed for the Lord to speak clearly to these teenagers. I desired so deeply for them to not only hear His call but for obedience and trust to be their only response. I watched as one student in particular struggled to understand how they could ever afford to go, the defeat on their face was heartbreaking. Until, the Lord used the testimony of their small group leader to share with them the faithfulness of our good and loving Father to provide financially when it seemed impossible.

At this same time, I sought the Lord and wrestled with a wide range of emotions and thoughts. I knew deep within me that I was to go on this trip. Practically speaking, it was not going to be easy. The first few conversations in my home regarding it were exciting, emotional and also a bit challenging. It was a topic of prayer and conversation that felt like a heavy raincloud and a clear blue sky at the same time and yet, every time I was filled with this same sense that I was to be there to “stand in the gap”. Truthfully, I still don’t have a full understanding of this call of purpose I felt. I knew we would serve in a variety of ways but this feeling that even if I didn’t do anything but pray and intercede for our team, that that was a purpose the Lord had for me. It was an intense press of the Spirit, I knew I needed to make note and seek Him continuously for more in it. And, of course, our God is so much bigger than to just send me for that. He had so much more set out for me as a leader and team member in Guatemala. He is a God of abundance.

We arrived in Guatemala late at night after a full day of travelling. Bus, airplane, another airplane, another bus. Everyones excitement, expectation and joy surpassed all hunger and exhaustion – we knew we had eight incredible days ahead of us! Over the course of the next week in Guatemala, our time was spent in a handful of different places, serving in a wide range of ways. We came to serve. We received the warmest welcomes at two local schools. We spent days in the scorching sun painting various areas of the school, weather proofing the roof of the classrooms, building a house, assembling furniture and running multiple VBS camps for the children. There was no lack of laborious work to be done and no shortage of children to shower the love of Jesus with. However, without that abundance of need, we would not have experienced His palpable presence and faithfulness in, you guessed it, such abundance.

There are countless stories I could share about our time serving the people of Guatemala. Stories full of laughter and joy, stories of God’s goodness and the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Stories of conviction, confession, repentance and transformation. With a touch of guilt I’ll admit that the stories I hold closest to my heart, don’t directly involve the people of Guatemala. Trust me, I get how awful that sounds! But, without them, along with our mission and purpose to serve them, the other stories would never have come to pass. The moments where I saw and sensed the Lord opening the eyes of these students, breaking chains in their lives and revealing Himself to them, were the moments we shared together. Just us as a team, each evening as we gathered together for worship and prayer. In these moments I experienced that same confirmation of intercession I felt deep within my being six months prior. That same press from the Holy Spirit to stand in the gap and pray for them as they shared so vulnerably. In these quiet evenings together is where I experienced a fervent call to seek the Word and speak truth to them as they shared their testimonies. It was in these moments that a deep love for each of these students and leaders was birthed, growing rapidly as each night went by. But then why, why was it here in the beauty, vulnerability and intimacy together when the nagging question returned? “Is this worth it?” Are these moments worth the exchange of all that prayerful wrestling? Are they worth the countless conversations as a family and all of the spontaneous tears of worry and sadness at bedtime with my children? Was the new love for these people worth leaving my children behind for nine days? All the hours of planning, all the compromises and sacrifices, was it worth it?

Here is where the overwhelming emotions really kicked into high gear. Yes. Without a doubt, yes, it was worth it. But, far too often guilt stepped in and attempted to convince me otherwise, stealing the joy and peace Jesus gives so freely. Why was I so conflicted? Why was it so hard for me to truly accept that the Lord desired for me to go on this mission trip, regardless of my role as a wife and mother. Then, I remembered a note my husband snuck into my carry on. Until this moment, over half way through the trip, it didn’t feel right to open it. Reading the encouraging, reassuring and supportive words my husband had prepared for me days prior, my heart softened and my gaze was fixed back to Jesus. His heart for the Lord reminded me that Jesus tells us to come to Him when we are burdened and weary, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He desires to lead us and teach us, we must only seek Him. In what felt like an instant, the Lord reminded me of His faithfulness, trustworthiness and provision. He is sovereign over all things and He was working through my presence in Guatemala and my absence back home. A simple shift in perspective allowed me to experience freedom in Christ and the abundant life that only He can give.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

I can’t help but smile and feel that flutter of expectancy all over again when I stop to consider the significance of this mission trip and the team the Lord appointed to go. We all went to serve Jesus and I can say with certainty that the Lord brought us all home with a fresh mindset, and new found passions and desires that align with His will. The mystery of not fully grasping the significance of it all is what keeps that short-term mission trip flame burning inside of me. I pray He calls me to go out and serve in that capacity again. And, Lord willing, I pray He calls my family there too.

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