Tag Archives: Mission trip

They Don’t Live Jesus Every Other Day

Even though I had yet to fully process through it, or barely even recognize it, seeing Jesus in small moments (that somehow weren’t small at all) began before I even left the Atlanta airport to head to Guatemala City.

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I had just posted this status update to Facebook:

“So early morning flights still aren’t my favorite. But really. How many other times do I get to sit in relative silence drinking coffee, staring out the window at a sunrise over Atlanta, and watching a city come to life? There’s something rather life-giving and refreshing about this moment. Preparing my heart to be fully present in every moment, encounter, and opportunity the Lord provides over the next few days. #serveguate”

And I meant every word of it.

I had just been sitting at the window near my gate (caramel latte from Caribou in hand) as the sun came up, spending some time in prayer, and specifically asking for help to be fully present in each encounter I was given.

But then I switched seats because I knew my friends and travel companions would be arriving from their respective flights soon.

I was texting, facebook messaging, and tweeting to keep track of of the rest of the team leaving from Houston, and I was looking forward to the moment when we would all be together in just a few short hours.

He approached me in a moment when my eyes were still glued to the screen … distracted and anything but fully present.

A Guatemalan himself, he started talking about all the gifts he was taking back to his family that were sure to be under-appreciated.

Truthfully, I have no idea why. I was only halfway paying attention at that point, and it took a couple of minutes for me to recognize that my prayer for being fully present in every encounter was being answered far sooner than I had anticipated.

So as I put my phone down (because those messages and conversations could wait…), the conversation wrapped itself around to why I was going to Guatemala. What would I be doing and where would I be staying?

I told him that I was going on a mission trip with a team of about 20 people to spread the name and love of Jesus Christ and that we would be staying somewhere in Antigua (but I didn’t really know exactly where). We would be serving in various places around Antigua as well as in Guatemala City in the community around the garbage dump.

He nodded and acknowledged that he knew the area and then began to explain how Guatemala City is divided into several different zones. I didn’t understand all of it, but it sounded interesting.

He then expressed his disapproval and disappointment that we were staying in Antigua. In his words, “It’s too American. You need to go outside of the city to experience true Guatemala.”

I said that I appreciated his perspective and that I would love to travel further outside of the cities someday.

But he wasn’t finished yet.

He began to describe the processionals – “They’re like a big parade. Beautiful. Colorful. Many days.” – that take place in Antigua the week before Easter. Holy week. He encouraged me to come down to see them one year. And to spend more time there. He was grateful that we were going to spend time in his country, “but five days is so short.”

“Because Guatemalans love to celebrate Easter, but they don’t live Jesus every other day of the year.”

And then he ended the conversation and walked away.

I’m not sure what this man’s name was and I’m not sure if he knew Jesus personally (though I got the impression that he did not, which made his observation all the more fascinating), but that’s not a conversation I will soon forget.

And I can’t help but pray that, by God’s grace, I would live Jesus every other day of the year.

Not just on Holidays. Not just on Sundays.

Every. Other. Day.

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My Favorite Small Moment in Guatemala

“Am I not enough?”

I carried that message – that question – close to my heart for those 5 days in Guatemala as the Lord and I continued an ongoing conversation.

And on the last day of ministry, as we arrived at the abuelo’s (grandpa’s) home for those of an older generation that needed care, but had mostly been abandoned by their families, while I still didn’t necessarily “feel” much different, I had a deep appreciation for the peace that came with simply knowing … that He was God, that I was there because He invited me to join Him there, and that He was enough.

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After painting the nails of some of the women at the home, I sat down with one of my teammates, Sara, who had struck up a conversation with two adorable ladies … one of whom was 96 and blind. She made sure to tell us that several times. Her name was Nina. And she was precious.

Even with the language barrier, we managed to have a decent conversation that was filled with our limited Spanish vocabulary, the help of Google translate, many smiles and so. much. laughter. I think those ladies were quite amused by the way we pronounced our limited Spanish with southern accents!

After more-or-less exhausting our conversation abilities, Sara moved across the outdoor hallway that surrounded a beautiful courtyard to visit with another gentleman and I moved from my spot on the floor to the empty chair right beside Nina.

I hadn’t been there longer than about a minute when she reached for my hands and pulled them both closer to her, so she could rub my hands and arms.

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It was such a simple gesture on her part, but in a way I can’t quite explain was such a huge blessing for me.

And that seemed so backwards.

Because wasn’t I supposed to be there to bless and to serve her? Not the other way around?

I couldn’t help but think this must of have been a small taste of how the disciples felt that night at the last supper when Jesus washed their feet.

As if it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

But it was supposed to be that way, and it was right.

And so was this small moment with Nina.

She expressed to one of our leaders how grateful she was that we were there … that we were taking the time to just sit with her, to just be with her.

And in that moment, I knew with even more certainty that this trip back to Guatemala, one that was full of questions on my heart and full of moments that were tempting to view as small and insignificant (but somehow weren’t at all), wasn’t about me.

It was about the Lord moving in and through me to do the work and have the encounters that He had prepared in advance.

All He needed from me was obedience and trust.

And this obedience, this walking out the Gospel in the small interactions that I have with those who cross my everyday path … some who I’ll almost definitely see again and others who I almost certainly will not?

This is what this life is all about.

Seeking Christ, following Him where He leads, and being fully present in each moment with each individual He places before us.

And yes, sitting with Nina as she rubbed my hands was an incredibly small moment, but it was entering into her world, being present with her there, and loving her well.

And that really wasn’t small at all.

This is how we’re called to live. To enter into the mess and uncertainty of relationship. To do life with others. To sit with them where they are.

So I held hands with a 96-year-old Abuela in Guatemala. And I know that we were both sitting in the presence of Jesus the whole time.

Christ Makes All Things New

I don’t know how to fully express all that still runs through my mind and heart as I recall and reflect on the time we spent in and around the Guatemala City dump.

I don’t really even know where to begin. But every time I think back to that day, Marlon’s powerful testimony and truth-filled words still echo clearly …

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As our vans pulled into the vicinity of the dump on the morning of our second day in Guatemala, the first sense immediately affected was smell.

Oh, the smell.

But that would soon become of minor importance as we learned that 11,000 people – 6,500 of them children – live near and work in the dump each day.

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I couldn’t imagine a life where getting up in the morning and going to work meant looking through the trash, searching through each new heap left by the seemingly endless stream of dump trucks, in hopes of making dollars a day to provide the most basic needs for my family.

The surrounding community calls those who live this reality “scavengers”, a term filled with negative and judgmental connotations, but Potter’s House – the ministry with which we partnered to serve that day – knows them as “treasures” because they, too, are human beings, God’s highest creation.

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Marlon is one of those treasures.

We stood on a cliff overlooking the busy dump as this now 20-year-old with a 9-month-old baby of his own resolutely recounted through a translator from Potter’s House his story of a difficult and heartbreaking background filled with drugs, abuse, violence, life on the streets, and even a pact with the Devil.

But then at some point in the middle of the story, beautiful and overwhelming redemption.

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Following his father’s tragic and violent death, Marlon began working in the dump at the age of 6 to provide for his mother and siblings. He ran away for a time during his teenage years, but came back to continue providing for his family and now openly and unashamedly speaks of the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

When asked how we could pray for him, he most selflessly, humbly, and genuinely declined, pointing down at the dump and saying, “No, don’t pray for me. Pray for my friends working down there. I will be ok, but they can’t change this life without Christ. He’s the only way.”

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Marlon has a dream for a different life, a dream that includes preaching the message of hope and trust in Christ to a full stadium.

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Yet even from the difficult and dangerous life he currently leads as he continues to work in the dump for now, he still proclaims with boldness, directness, and assurance that this life is borrowed and Christ makes all things new.

And in those moments, I caught another glimpse of the Lord’s compassion and love for His people. Seeing with His eyes. Feeling with His heart.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)

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To read more about Potter’s House, the Guatemala City dump, and Marlon’s story, check out these posts from my teammates / friends:

The Most Inspiring 20-Something I’ve Ever Met – Jeff Goins

The Shocking Tale of a Brother and Sister – Alene Snodgrass

A Life You Can’t Imagine – Susan Stilwell

That Child is MY Child

On that Sunday afternoon after attending church in Antigua, just prior to receiving the challenge to use $5 however the Lord would lead, we were sent out on our first ministry assignment: to spend an hour walking around the city (in pairs) and observing our surroundings while quietly praying that the Lord would allow us to see through His eyes.

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My partner and I headed to the crowded and colorful market – in many ways the center of the city and its culture.

As a videographer great at both seeing and telling a story, he was completely in his element, but although I love the Charleston market and something about the Plaka district in Athens forever captured my soul, without my camera in hand, I was completely overstimulated and out of mine.

Although honestly somewhat skeptical of the assignment at hand, I was genuinely seeking the Lord and at least halfway expecting Him to open my eyes to some profound theological truth or insight. Because that was the whole purpose, right? No pressure.

But when we paused for a moment not long after entering the outskirts of the market, the Lord allowed me to watch a seemingly everyday sort of scene unfold in one of the clothing shops. Two women, a toddler, and a baby in a walker who appeared to be about 10 months old were all crowded into an incredibly small square space full of merchandise. The shop was a step up from the ground, so every time the baby walked close to the edge, one of the women (his mother, I presume) pulled him back, so he wouldn’t fall.

Beginning to feel introspective and without even realizing that the Lord was answering my prayer to see through His eyes, I heard the Lord say in one of those it’s-so-clear-it’s-almost-audible sort of ways:

“This is not about your desire to have a child someday,

This is not about your desire to adopt a child someday,

This is not even about that mother’s child that you’re watching so closely,

This is about knowing that child is MY child.”

Seeing with His compassionate eyes. Loving with His overwhelming heart. Longing for His Kingdom growth. Over and over again.

He is the faithful Father.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”

Romans 8:15-16 (ESV)

The Night I Rejected Jesus … and the Day I Was Redeemed

It was about 10pm on a Friday night in mid-November. I was driving home from a worship ministries retreat where I had just spent the better part of 4 hours worshiping and rehearsing and where I would be returning early the next morning to do more of the same.

For some unknown reason, I chose to drive home through town rather than taking the interstate.

As I slowed to a stop at a rather rough intersection, I saw him standing on the street corner with a sign asking for money.

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I justified the heck out of why I shouldn’t give…

I was a female by myself, and it was late (there were other cars),
I never give money to homeless people like this (so what?),
I might not have small bills in my purse (I did),
The light would change quickly (it didn’t).

But although I clearly sensed the Lord telling me to give that man money and trust Him with whatever happened after that, I flat-out told God “no”.

After what felt like an eternity, the light eventually did change, but I drove home under the heavy weight of conviction: I had just rejected Jesus on that street corner.

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Fast forward to a Sunday afternoon on the busy streets of Antigua, Guatemala. Our team had just been challenged to spend an hour walking around and observing our surroundings while quietly praying that the Lord would allow us to see through His eyes.

He did.

We were then given another challenge: to take $5 and spend a couple hours walking around the city listening for how the Lord would lead us to use the money. No rules. Just to listen and obey.

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As my partner and I began to walk around, I sensed that I was just supposed to give the money away. That was certainly uncomfortable, and meeting a physical need certainly seemed more practical, but this time, I was ready to listen.

After about an hour of walking, we came to a crowded place in the sidewalk. I was a few steps ahead of my partner, and I literally had to come to a complete stop to allow several people to pass in front of me.

When the sidewalk cleared, I noticed a homeless man sitting against the wall, with his hat beside him, playing an instrument.  He was taking up most of the sidewalk (hence the lack of space), so as I stepped past him, my shoe touched the bottom of his. In that moment, I just knew. The $5 was for this man. It didn’t matter how he would use it, I was simply to be obedient and give.

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As I walked away, I recalled the night I rejected Jesus on that street corner in Charlotte, and I knew that on this day, I had just been redeemed on a street corner in Antigua.

Such a simple moment.

But such beautiful and undeserved redemption that could only be orchestrated by a loving and faithful and gracious God.

He is so good.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40 (ESV)

His Children

As we entered the gate of the ministry site late Monday afternoon after multiple physically, spiritually, and emotionally draining encounters earlier in the day, I didn’t know what I had left to give.

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So after touring the facilities on the grounds of the home/orphanage for children who came from a difficult background, I sat down on the grass to watch the basketball and soccer games forming on the front lawn. Beginning to feel guilty for not participating more, I glanced around hoping to spot an opportunity to engage with at least a few of the children. Even, maybe especially, from my place of emptiness and lack.

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As I was taking a few photos of both games (because at least I could do that…), I briefly considered whether I should just join in one of them. Some of our other team members were already playing, and it seemed rather unimportant at that moment that sports aren’t really my thing. Uh, at all. But the kids likely wouldn’t care that I wasn’t any good, and the whole point of all this was to be uncomfortable for the Kingdom, right?

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But at the moment that thought crossed my mind, Oliver, who walks with a cane, came and sat down in the grass a few feet away from me.

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Timid at first, but showing some interest in my camera, I took a photo of him and then showed him his face on the display.

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He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Spanish, but somehow we communicated from there and it was clear he wanted to look through the viewfinder. Still a little uncertain of it all, he let me hold the camera, but moved it around until he found his image and simply said “Si” when he wanted me to press the shutter button to take the photo. We looked at it together, I praised and encouraged him for his shot (it really was good!), and he literally beamed with how proud he was.

It was just precious. And totally melted me.

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As he warmed up even more and we took more photos together, he started telling me the names of the kids in the photos he was taking and telling me about them. Again, I don’t know how we had this conversation (other than attributing the whole thing to the power of the Holy Spirit!), but I knew what he was saying … even when I didn’t. He eventually pointed out his brother to me, Anthony, who joined us in the grass with bubbles shortly thereafter.

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Anthony warmed up to the camera much faster than Oliver and was quickly holding it himself, walking around, and taking photos of absolutely everything.

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I became a bit of a mediator at that point, making sure the boys were sharing the camera and taking turns … Oliver even counted Anthony’s photos at one point (he counted to thirty something, which was far outside of my Spanish counting abilities … I think he passed my knowledge at twelve) to prove it was his turn again. So cute.

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And I loved every minute of it, not minding one bit that they were all over the place with that camera. I’m careful with my camera, but it honestly never really occurred to me to be concerned about it. It was just a camera. The risk of it breaking seemed so small and insignificant compared to this moment that I would never be able to get back.

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As the boys and I reviewed the photos together again and again, as I raved over them, and as they both expressed how proud they were of their work, I couldn’t help but think that these were (and still are) my favorite images from the entire trip. They saw things in a way that I couldn’t. And Anthony had a great eye!

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It was such a simple moment, really, but I saw through their eyes that day.

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In the midst of circumstances that could easily seem broken and hopeless, I saw overwhelming joy and perfect peace in the faces and smiles and photos of those two boys, of those children, His children.

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*except for the first & last, all photos in this post were taken by oliver & anthony*

Heading to Guatemala

Two days from now (on Saturday), I will be heading to Guatemala on a short mission/vision trip with a team of about 20 strangers-soon-to-be-friends through Adventures in Missions and co-led by author/blogger, Jeff Goins, as a sort of extension of his book “Wrecked” that was published last year.

Heading to Guatemala

We’ll be serving in various settings as we walk in the midst of poverty for a few days (from February 2-6) with the anticipation of our hearts being wrecked, or broken, for the sake of the Kingdom/Gospel.

I’m slightly terrified and so crazy excited all at the same time.

Afraid of being changed, but more afraid of not being changed (yeah, even I know that’s hard to make sense of…), the fears are mostly irrational and not worth the time, so I’m humbly choosing to allow them to be swallowed up by the excitement of it all.

I’ve been on several mission trips and I’ve been on a couple of international trips, but this trip is new. It’s both. It’s different.

I truthfully don’t know exactly what to expect from this trip. Except to hope that I would better know, see, and feel the heart of God. And that my heart would align with His.

I would so appreciate your prayers, friends…

that we would serve as a unified team,
that the center and focus of all that we do would be Christ and His Kingdom,
that God would move greatly in our midst,
that God’s love for His people would be evident,
that God would move me out of myself and out of the way,
that I would be fully present in each moment and opportunity,
that my eyes and heart would be open (and selfishly hoping for a photographic eye to boot…),
that I would be keenly aware that none of this is about me … because it’s just not,
and mostly that Christ’s name would be proclaimed and exalted!

Thank you to those who have already prayed for, with, and over me in preparation for this trip. You have each been such a blessing!

I’m not expecting to have much (if any) internet access while in Guatemala, but I look forward to sharing how we see the Lord work during our time there as I’m able and certainly upon my return.

Grace & Peace!