JULY 2, 2012
Submitted by: Ashley
I really did not know what to expect this whole trip. I went into it blind mostly and did not want to set expectations because I figured they would either be set too low or too high. I did expect to go to Mexico and feel unsafe and to be attacked by monstrous bugs on a constant basis, but actually felt the exact opposite. I’d like to take a few lines to talk to anyone who may be considering going on a mission trip in the future, but who makes excuses like I did. I never once felt unsafe while in Mexico. Everyone we had the chance to minister to was open and receiving. That was my first surprise. Second, the bugs are nothing. This may seem irrelevant to talk about to most people, but I know some people use the “I don’t do bugs” or “I don’t do camping” excuse. If I can do it – TRUST me – you can too. This was the most life-changing, chain breaking, Holy Spirit-filling experience I have ever felt. So I want to encourage anyone who is looking for a deeper relationship with the Lord to just give yourself one week out on the mission field and I guarantee your life will never be the same.
Now time to get down to the real reason I am writing this. I really want to be able to share with all of you how God has changed my life so dramatically in one week’s time and also what He has shown me. The first day we got to the airport early in the morning, and we started the devotionals. Mark Hogan started off with an amazing devotional about preparation, and it’s obvious he has prepared this message. I, on the other hand, have to do the devotional later that day and realize I have not prepared anything. Panic sets in. How does Pastor Don expect me to follow Mark Hogan? Like it wasn’t already bad enough! — I’m terrified to speak in front of people, and he has set my devotional after one of the most well-spoken teachers in our church.
So I began to pray, mainly for my hands to stop shaking from nerves, but also for the words to say. Three months prior to this day, a scripture was laid on my heart, and I knew it was for the mission trip. Three months also went by with nothing but a scripture. No words to go with it, just one little scripture. So needless to say, I was pretty discouraged. Then, God really moved and showed me he was still with me. As I was sitting in the airport in front of the loading gate, I heard a young girl ask me if I am on a mission trip. I turn around and answer “Yes” and yada yada yada. We began to speak. Turns out she is a Christian. Her family lives in Taiwan and are missionaries there. I laugh to myself a little, knowing God will somehow use her to help me prepare for my devotional. Her name was Claire, and she was traveling back to the states to visit her Grandma, but what she didn’t know is that just from her encouraging words my mind opened like a Holy floodgate, and I started writing down exactly what God wanted me to speak about. The best part was not only that she encouraged our team but also that we encouraged her as well. She was traveling alone and had prayed earlier that day for God to put someone in her path…and He put our whole team! This just really showed me God is always with us. There are tons of Christians out there all fighting the same fight, and we are not alone.
Later we arrived at the compound and to my surprise it didn’t look like a little hut with dirt floors and roaches flying everywhere. It was actually very nice compared to what some of the people in Mexico have to live in. I prepared the rest of the afternoon for my devotional, and it tied in perfectly to what Mark had been speaking about earlier in the day. That was my first victory of the trip. It may be a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
The next day we split up into different groups, and I was in the group going to the orphanage. I knew beforehand this was going to be very difficult for me. Considering the fact I have a three-year-old baby brother and a seventh-month-old baby sister, I knew this would be difficult for me to see children that were abandoned. I was right. The whole time I was there, I couldn’t help but feel so guilty for all the “problems” I thought I was facing. These kids were filled with such an immense amount of joy when they practically had nothing. They knew they had each other, a place to sleep, a place to eat, and people to tell them about Jesus. Sometimes I forget how much I am truly blessed. If all I had left in my life was what they had I wouldn’t handle it as well as they do. That was a real eye opener for me. I became very close with two little girls while I was there – one named Camellia and one named Maria. Even though there was a language barrier, I could feel the love from these children. They came and sat on my lap and played with my hair and giggled while exchanging words I did not know. All I knew was this must be a portion of how God feels when we come to him. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do to get on that bus and not take them back with me. It was a truly humbling experience, and I am so grateful I got at least the time I got with them.
Friday was the beginning of a breakthrough for me. We had the whole large plaza in San Blas to ourselves, and we were so excited to finally show all the skits, music, and activities we had all worked so hard to prepare. As we were unloading, however, the skies opened up and it began to pour. The rain never let up, but instead of getting discouraged, we pushed through. One by one people from our team would walk out into the pouring rain in front the stage, arms held high, worshiping the Lord to the wonderful worship music that was being sung. I at first hesitated and did not want to get soaked like all the other people, but once I realized I would never get this day back, I stepped out into the rain and began to worship. It was by far the most liberating experience I have ever felt. I have never felt so close to God as I did that night. Our whole team did all of our skits, puppets, songs, dances in the rain, and we all bonded closer as a family that night. People from San Blas were lining the shops surrounding the plaza just watching us, some even came out into the rain to get closer. That was incredible to see people drawn to what we were doing, not caring if they got soaked but wanting to get closer to God. I just thought of all the times in my life when I would hold back from what could have been an awesome experience with the Lord just because there was something blocking the way. Once I let go, I truly found a peace I had never felt before and that will always be a time I will never forget.
Saturday was the most special day of this trip for me, but also one of the scariest. Friday night I was praying and was very discouraged about the language barrier, feeling like I was never going to be able to minister to anyone. I prayed God would open a door for me and He most certainly did. Saturday morning was our women’s breakfast. I walked into the doors of Magdalena’s and Pastor Juan’s church and I saw a little blonde girl smiling at me. I said hello to her, and she casually replied, “Hey, What’s up?” in ENGLISH. I was not going to let this opportunity go to waste. I truly looked at this as an open door. I began speaking with this young girl named Joralynn, asking her how she came to be in Mexico, what her interests were, her hobbies, so on and so forth. I felt a bond to her right away. She had such a kind heart and was so excited to be around our team. As the day went on, I began to speak to her about Jesus, if she had any sort of relationship with him or if she had ever accepted Him into her heart. She wanted me to explain more. As I began to explain, she told me that she would like to accept Him into her heart. I was so thrilled and asked Candace Browning to come over and pray with us. We all began to pray together and as we did Joralynn accepted Christ into her heart as her Lord and Savior. I want to tell you that there is truly nothing more amazing to me than watching someone give their lives to the Lord.
I was so honored that regardless of what I was going through God would use me of all people at that exact moment to share with a young girl about Him. I was on such a spiritual high I felt like I could run about 100 miles nonstop! I was so excited to tell everyone later that night about the incredible news, but as we got to the beach to meet with the men, everything changed. My brother Codey fell very ill from severe dehydration and eventually had to be taken away to the hospital. It was one of the most terrifying experiences for me to watch someone I love with all my heart be so sick and when we were in a different country. I felt so helpless and so defeated. Thank God for Mark Hogan and Carol. They knew exactly what to do and took excellent care of him. I knew everything was going to be okay once I saw how calm they remained, and I could never thank them enough for everything they did on that trip.
Codey was just the beginning of what I like to call “D DAY” the D for more reasons than one haha. Soon after Codey went down, Jake went down, then Kim, and then Mayra, then Samii. There seemed to be no stopping it. One by one, more than half our team fell ill. It was discouraging at first. We weren’t allowed to do anything except eat toast and high five each other on our ways in and out of the bathroom. Seeing everyone miserable and sick and possibly at their worst was not my idea of how I wanted to spend the end of my trip. Luckily, though, something great came out of it. We were able to bond even closer as a family. Everyone took care of one another. It didn’t matter if you knew the person that well or not, you were there for them and they were there for you. Where else could you find a church family like this?
I was so blessed watching everyone sacrifice their own comfort to take care of others. I have never seen a team pull together so much in times of trouble to help one another. Pastor Don didn’t force us to go do anything. Even if we wanted to go, he still wouldn’t let us if we were still sick. He made the calls he had to like the amazing leader he was and he made do with the people he had left. It was amazing to hear when the small team Pastor Don had assembled had returned to tell us how amazing it was, how Renee had sung and danced all alone, how each one of them had represented our team to the fullest, and how the mission was completed. Even with more than half the team being sick, Pastor Don persevered and finished the task. I learned a lot from him this trip that I will carry for the rest of my life.
Each member on this team has impacted me in more ways than one. God definitely had a mission and a plan, and it was completed. I came home knowing we did what we went there to do. I came home with eyes wide open and a family I love now with my whole heart. It was sad to go our own ways at the airport, but I knew I’d always carry the memories I had made with this group in my heart for the rest of my life.
I have so much more that I could say. This trip was incredible. No words can properly describe how amazing our God is, how he is a lover, protector, restorer. This whole trip we talked about being in the valley on the way to the mountaintop. Everyone wants that mountaintop experience, but for me I gained a family, a closer relationship with the Lord, a confidence I never had before, and friends I will never forget – all in the valley on the way to the mountaintop.
My journey doesn’t end here. It’s going to continue, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store.
Thank you so much to all the people who prayed for us, supported us, and believed in us. I love you all more than words can say. God Bless [♥]