So, here is my first go at blogging! I’ve always enjoyed writing as a therapeutic measure…getting one’s words out on paper (or electronic print) can be so helpful for processing life’s happenings. We’ll see how it goes…
I do not just want this to be a therapeutic measure for myself though. My hope is that others will be encouraged by the wisdom that the Lord has been pouring into me through others and His Word lately. Not my words, but His. Not my strength nor abilities, but only His. So, here we go…
I have just started a new adventure I have actually been dreaming of for the past few years…”being a teacher in Guatemala on the mission field.” If you are reading this and you know me well, there is a good chance I have mentioned this passion to you before. A little over three years ago, I went on a short-term mission trip to San Cristobal, Guatemala for one week. To put it plainly, I fell in love with Guatemala and its people…specifically the children. I knew immediately after that trip that I wanted to come back.
In March, I received some news of an incredible opportunity I did not have high expectations of actually happening. I was selected as one of ten recipients of a grant that would fully support a mission-trip proposal for me to serve in a developing country. I went through a long process of crafting a proposal, and well, in the end my proposal went through. Something that had only been a dream because of a shortage of funds all of a sudden was a reality. I was going to Guatemala for five weeks, and by the blessing of the Lord through my college, would not have to pay a penny.
Two months later, here I am in Sumpango, Guatemala. I am working with a sweet, kind, and passionate couple with full hearts to pour into the students in the area. Barbara and Gerry have already taught me so much about what it means to be compassionate missionaries with a clear purpose. Their purpose is succinctly outlined in their ministry title: PILAS. It is a Spanish acronym that means “Preparing and Inspiring Adolescent Leaders of Sumpango.”
Not only do Barbara and Gerry share Christ’s love with the students in their ministry program, but they help them develop skills that will help them become leaders in villages that desperately need them…places that are begging for change, but don’t have the right people to initiate it. Specifically, they focus on teaching the students English. Barbara and Gerry’s vision is to shape leaders to be the hope for positive change in the surrounding villages of Sumpango. And I am getting to be a part of their vision. What I believe is also God’s vision. Amazing.
To backtrack a little bit from where I currently am, I want to highlight a few things God has been teaching me. Before I came to Guatemala a little over a week ago, I had only a week of rest at home after a crazy semester of college before leaving the country. I think it’s safe to say that I was an emotional mess…
I was drained physically from late nights of studying and early mornings of cramming and exams. I was drained emotionally from, well, a lot of things. I was drained spiritually from a lack of sweet, sweet time with Jesus, who I neglected to spend much time with because of my studies and tiredness. I wanted to be super pumped up for leaving the country, but I lacked that spark that I thought I would have right before leaving.
And I was believing a lot of lies about myself.
I had so many thoughts like, “I am not ready for this” and “I am not going to be what the missionaries expect me to be” and “I’m not in a good enough place spiritually for this.”
I was spending time with Jesus too, yearning for passion and a sense of readiness, but it wasn’t there for some reason. I was being pummeled with feelings of inadequacy. It was not until I was sitting in the Houston airport on my layover before flying into Guatemala City that God showed me the problem…
I was reading a book called Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson and minutes before I boarded the plane, I read this:
“These are your mission fields and you are the worker God has appointed for the harvest there.”
What!? Man, God has impeccable timing.
It was like he waited for that very moment to reveal that special truth to me because that’s when it would really sink in. Right before I boarded the plane for my “mission fields.” I had been striving to be the person that I thought I needed to be for this trip, and what God wanted to tell me was that I was already that person.
Wounds, scars, brokenness, tiredness and all…He chose me, and I was being prepared through his sweet, sweet grace.
I have also been flooded with His blessings of peace since I arrived in Guatemala. I was so worried that all of the things that were keeping me preoccupied before I came were going to keep me from focusing on the work God wanted me to do. I had a fear that I would be here in Guatemala, yet my mind and heart would not be completely present. But again, God is so faithful. After I arrived, I had a couple of days to settle in, get used to the time change, and do some sightseeing with Barbara and Gerry. On my first Monday here, I went to the local school where I would be teaching English. I glided right into the classroom, and I have had so much of the energy and passion that I feared I would not have.
I have been free of worry and fretting about the things that had unhealthily consumed my thoughts before coming. Praise be to God for His incredible grace.
There is so much more to say about what I have been learning here this past week. I have had so many different experiences and roles that I could start anywhere. I will begin with the youth groups in the villages. Barbara and Gerry do youth group in three Guatemalan villages near the city where they live, Sumpango. There is so much that can be said that is typical of Americans visiting developing countries. Nonetheless, it is heartbreaking to see the conditions some of these sweet people live in.
We visited one particular family in a village after youth group in which the father had been sick in bed for days. Through discussion with family members, we discovered that all the local clinic could provide was a small package of Ibuprofen to manage his pain. I looked around their humble home. I saw two young children with smiles and shining eyes that could melt any heart. The gratitude that the family displayed was incredible as Barbara and Gerry spoke with them and gave them some more Ibuprofen. There was a point in the visit where I barely managed to choke back tears and keep a smiling face. As we said goodbye, the young daughter gave me one of the most meaningful hugs I have ever received.
I could babble on more, but that is the gist of my experiences so far…
Lastly, here is the verse that God has put on my heart lately. Romans 8:37-39:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, not powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ our Lord.”
I may have felt completed defeated and far from God from all that was draining me emotionally, but nothing can separate us from Christ our Lord.
He always draws us back to himself when we fall and are weary.
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says.
And we don’t have to be all fixed up by ourselves in our own strength. We can come to him in every season and He WILL bring us peace.
He is so good. So faithful. His ways may be mysterious, but they are also beautiful.
The beautiful Antigua, Guatemala