What a beautiful end to one of the most transformative summers of my life. Belize was absolutely incredible; and God faithfully answered my prayers by delivering a week full of so much joy and laughter. I partnered with Jenn, a summer staff “alumn,” who worked in Costa Rica the last two summers. I was really excited to work with Jenn who I had heard about all summer from those in the community who had absolutely adored her; and it’s obvious why. Jenn is incredibly gifted; she has the ability to balance both organization and leadership with relationship building and spiritual development. When the Lord binds leadership together it’s clear how much it can define the entire experience. I like to say Jenn and I were soulmates from the start; and to say I loved working with her would be a complete understatement. I felt so blessed all week to get to lead with Jenn, it’s amazing how she makes everyone just fall in love with her. Throughout the week our leadership team would have dance-party breaks (we made up our own move of course), pillow-talks, and even a team fast to re-focus on prayer. With that said, I really hope one day I get the opportunity to lead another team with her!
Not only was the Lord faithful to bring an amazing partner to lead with, but He delivered an incredible group to lead. Our group of 15 adults from Indiana brought me so much joy and laughter throughout the week. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with a team and every single person was filled with so much charm and wit. I always say each team has some kind of gift or passion that is seen throughout the week, and with this team it was definitely their strength and hard-work. I was so impressed with their ability to just go-go-go and by the end of Thursday morning we had completely finished the construction project for the week. Belize was an awesome community to work with; and for the first time, I felt like we were actually working under the local church. La Familia de Dios is a network of 32 churches around Belmopan that work together to reach the community for Christ. The church body rises up to basically host the short-term mission teams that have come through Experience Mission to meet the need for a particular church. It was a beautiful experience to feel like I was working UNDER the local church, under their vision, under the local workers, under the local pastors; rather than feeling as though I was the boss or the one responsible since I was the one with the resources. It was so refreshing and I think it just re-iterated to me how important it is for short-term missions to work underneath an ongoing ministry and seek direction from local pastors.
There are too many memories from this week, I could go on and on; but all I can say is that I feel truly truly happy that I had the opportunity to go to Belize and lead this team. Jenn and I talked often about the plans of the Lord, how every moment of every day has a specific plan for His Kingdom. We waste our lives believing the lie that this life is about us and our desires and our motivations. Even as Christians, we somehow begin to think we have it all figured out or that we are worthy to pass judgment on others. For me, God continues to bring me back again and again to humble brokenness. After reflecting on this summer, I will openly admit that I failed time and time again; that at times I fell short in loving people; that I allowed myself to be overcome with worries and tasks; that I listened to the lies of the Devil who told me I couldn’t do it anymore. But even through all these failures, I can proclaim strength in God’s Name and that’s the most incredible part about Christianity. It’s not about getting all we want, or feeling happy all the time, or buying our way to heaven – it’s so so so much more. It’s freedom. It’s joy much deeper than feelings. It’s a mercy that is woken up to each morning. It’s a love that’s unexplainable. It’s eyes that see the darkness of the world and a heart that burns wanting others to know truth – to know life. If you want the truth it’s this: I’m a total mess-up. I still struggle with perfectionism and getting caught up in trying to please man. I still lust after materialism and want what others have. I still succumb to complete selfishness, mood swings, and want for control.
But the Lord brings good news.
He reminds me that I am not a victim to this world, that I have found victory in Christ. Each morning, I am encouraed that it is not about what I can or cannot do, but what HE can do. I am strengthened in my weaknesses. I find purpose and life in His Name. For so long I was a dead-man walking, I thought I had it all figured out, I placed God in a box and let Him support me in whatever I happened to choose for myself, I treated others with little concern for love or grace. Now, if there is one thing I know – it's that ALL people need the Lord to know life. Not just in the third world or inner city or middle of the jungle – but everywhere: within your family, in your workforce, right next door, literally all around you. So what are you living for; for money or “success;” for a God who serves YOUR plans; for that future Christian man or woman? We hear it all the time in the church, that reiterated Bible verse – go and be disciples of nations. We are the Lord’s disciples and we are living in every nation. Are we “going”? More importantly, are we “being”? We are fighting a battle that has already been won; but how many will be on the losing side, how many are our very closest friends and family? All deserve victory in Christ- because without it we’re dead.
Thank you for praying and supporting me throughout this incredibly challenging and stretching summer. Without the power of prayer and words of encouragement from back home I know the attacks of the Devil would have been felt that much stronger. Please continue to pray for the communities in Talamanca, Costa Rica and Belmopan, Belize – both have passion-filled, strong churches that I know the Lord will use for the salvation of many. Pray for both Pastor Indalecio and Pastor Nelson who are stretched beyond belief as leaders of their congregations. Please pray for Experience Mission staff who will continue to partner with communities and work alongside them to empower local churches and give them hope and vision for the future. Please pray for Susie, Roberto, and Jenn as they all return home and enter into the next season that the Lord has for them and continue to take up their cross and follow Him. Finally, pray for your own lives – your neighborhood, your church, your family, your closest friends, this is our mission field.