Have you ever done or said something and suddenly or soon thereafter wished you could take it back or have a redo? Unlike TV shows or fantasy fiction we cannot undo the past. In fact, one of the most certain things we have in life is what has already happened. You must live with your decisions. But how do those decisions affect you in the long term?
Many years ago, 20 now to be exact, I was riding my brother’s bike on a warm August day down the sidewalk in front of our family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky. I had secured the bicycle after protesting my mother’s initial misgivings about me riding a bike that one, was bigger than mine and two had handle brakes which I was unused to. She was baking cookies and decided not to argue with me further. As I wheeled my prize out to the driveway I took no thought for the future, only the impending adventure I was about to enjoy. Less than 30 minutes later I lost control of that bike and went face first over the handle bars and skidded violently into the pavement. Or so I’m told because you see I have no memory of what happened. My face however told much of the story.
I remember waking in the ambulance and being unable to move. I was told to stay still and I can still hear a voice asking my mother questions. I can hear her voice talking to me and telling me it was going to be all right. Little did she know that after they had done a CT scan on me, sewn my bottom lip torn like a piece of paper towards my chin, bandaged my scars and run numerous tests, that four weeks later an aneurysm would form in the upper lobe of my brain.
Our family was out late at another family’s house. We got home, and I had become somewhat quiet and non-responsive in the back seat of our ’88 Plymouth voyager. My Dad carried me into the house and laid me at the foot of the stairs to the second story of our home. He instructed me to get up, put my pj’s on and go to bed. Mom came, but minutes later, and half dragged me up the stairs laying me near the bathroom door. I should insert here that I was a known sleepy head and unresponsive once I was asleep. I began violently throwing up on the bathroom floor and try as I might could not move my body to the toilet. Mom and Dad came in and tried to get me there, Mom kept telling me to sit up and finally Dad said, “Pam, maybe he can’t”. I tried to respond to my Dad’s questions, but it was as if all my motor function skills were gone. Actually, that is exactly what had happened. My aneurysm had bled, instead of bursting like most do and it was causing me to have a seizure.
My family got me to the hospital and wouldn’t you know it God had the most renown brain surgeon at the time touring Kosair Childrens’ hospital that night. The last time my parents saw me I had tubes out my face, shaved head and taped eyes. 9 and a 1/2 hours later they would receive the words that I was in recovery. But along the way so many things would happen in surgery. The vein around the aneurysm was clear, but they put two titanium clamps in my head to hold the ends of the destroyed vein.
Obviously I survived, and let me tell you I’ve omitted hours of this story. I had to learn to walk again, saw double vision for months, had the worst headaches you can imagine, days of being carried to the bathroom, being bathed because I had so many wires connected to my body. I still have the scar on my right hand where they tried unsuccessfully to stick an IV in me. I have the scar on my head that runs from sideburn to sideburn that reminds me of all this and more.
All this because I chose to ride my brothers bike on that warm August afternoon in 1996. What if I hadn’t? Our decisions do affect us. What if I could have a do over, would I take it? Have you ever wished you could have a do over? Maybe meet someone for the first time again or maybe a second chance at a first date.
I’ve been thinking a lot about do overs lately. You’ve heard the saying; “You only get one chance at a first impression”. Every day is our only opportunity for what we do with that day. Are you living with regret for things you wish you could change? You can’t have those situations back,’ but even if you could should you change the past?
The past affects the future. Thank you captain obvious, right? Consider Romans 8:28, a verse we are all likely familiar with, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” God works in and through your decisions to bring about His perfect will. Perhaps you should have made a different choice to avoid painful outcomes but does that limit what God can and, according to Romans 8 will do through that mistake? When we live in the past and dwell on our mistakes, we limit the reality of the sovereignty of God in our lives. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from our mistakes or choices, or even that we shouldn’t ask forgiveness for when we are wrong, but we cannot allow those choices to control our current reality out of fear or discouragement for what might have been.
If I could go back to August, 1996 when I was standing in front of 2306 Burrell drive, would I change my decision to ride my brother’s bike that day? It is not for me to decide. The choice was made and now it is up to me to live with the reality that my decisions have made. God’s grace is sufficient for your mistakes and your wiser choices. Do not actively resist that grace by dwelling on your mistakes.
There are moments I have wished I could take something back or have a redo. But I cannot go back. So I’ll work on moving forward and using the time I am given. Hindsight is a funny thing, it can be a source of great discouragement if you let it. Let it motivate you to live more fully for Christ and in His grace. Live! Every moment.
Have you ever felt like God designed you for a specific time and place? Somewhere He put you on purpose? On Sunday evening, just over four weeks ago, I looked out over a field of grass, dirt, and little cabins built of concrete blocks. There is an entrance to this landscape just to the left of my view and through it are driving four large buses, aboard it are 86 Ecuadorean children and numerous young helpers. They are coming because God has a plan that is bigger than we can fathom. Just two short weeks earlier this moment seemed impossible, like it might never happen. You see, every year we host a group of kids in a small beach town on the coast of Ecuador. But this year, because parents were worried about the earthquakes and families didn’t have the money, camp was in jeopardy of happening. When Pastor Benjamin informed us that camp would not happen this year, we decided that something had to be done. We prayed, called friends back home, and used social media to spread the word. As a result we raised $10K plus to send 90 kids to camp who would otherwise never have come.
As these kids poke their heads out of the bus windows their eyes are met, many of them for the first time, with the landscape that has for me become so familiar over the last few years. They know nothing of what God has in store for this next week, a fact I will soon realize we share in common. You see, most of these children would never be here but for the donations of so many who sponsored this opportunity for Ecuadorean children to play at the beach, watch skits put on by American young people, play soccer at camp, and most importantly hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them over and over again.
Their faces are a mix of curiosity, pure anticipation, and all out excitement to be here. The hugs are plentiful and the feel of love and welcome of our team from the U.S. is unmistakably genuine. These kids need this love and attention.
The hellos are plentiful but soon over and the week gets started. Time fails me to give you detailed description of the days ahead. They are filled with early morning time alone with God interrupted by children laughing and wanting attention, eating food with 140 people loudly cheering in a mess hall style building, cheers for camp team colors – Verde! Roho! Tomate! Morado! Azul! – and let’s not forget the kitchen team, Amarillo!
Rotations everyday give the children time to be split up in individual small groups and hear about God’s message of salvation and who He is by experiencing crafts, games, and stories. Beach time, “vamos a laplaya” is a common cry each afternoon. Taking 86 kids to the beach is no small feat but the experience is worth the “trouble”. Returning to camp with 100 plus sweaty, sandy, and all out messy people is a daily routine that never gets old.
Then we begin down time and some futball [soccer] with the kids, which rounds out our free time. Every evening, we line up the teams after dinner to the dreaded sound of the whistle. This is an ever threatening call to the kids as they come screaming from every corner of camp so they can win points by being, the first, second, or third team to make it. “Wave your flag” plays over the PA as the children run single file into the chapel where we sing and actually wave each team flag to this popular tune. Verses, songs, and a crazy skit with a serious message, round out the evening.
Saying goodnight, hugs, selfies, water games, stopped up toilets, battidos [milk shakes], quiet times in the hammocks (never), slamming cabin doors, yells of “GOAL!”, soccer tournament, serious questions about salvation, more hugs, tense moments playing games, “Una Fila chicos!” [One line kids], more clogged toilets, creepy poodle dogs that bite, mosquitoes, demon ants that bite, ecua volley, beach time, water fights at the beach, waves and holding little handicapped boys afloat – experiencing the ocean for the first time – are just a few memories that flood my mind. But you see, the children are gone and I’m looking at an empty field covered in these memories. The buses are rounding the corner leaving these scenes and this week behind but carrying with them memories that will last, for me a lifetime.
As I look back on three weeks of working with kids, I can say it was not always easy, in fact at times it seemed downright impossible to go on. The truth is life is not easy for the believer. It was never promised to us, and we should never anticipate or expect it to be. We should revel in the difficulties, because whether we know it or not at the time, those are the experiences that will shape our relationships with others and Christ. They define who we are.
The people we worked with, the places we went, and the memories that I will forever hold in my heart serve to remind me of my humanity and need for Christ. We are each of us given times and opportunities designed to be light for Christ and to create a stronger relationship with Him. Will we fail? Absolutely, but only when we fail and see our inability will we turn to Christ and see our total need of Him.
Have you ever felt like God designed you for a time and place? Somewhere He put you on purpose? On Sunday evening just over three weeks ago I looked out over a field of grass, dirt and little cabins built of concrete blocks dreaming about the week that had just passed so quickly, too quickly. Yet, knowing God had me right where He wanted me to be. All the difficulty in the world cannot separate you from the love and success of living a life devoted to Christ when you are looking to Him. Success is not defined by the world but by Someone else. We do not know how or when God will use our inabilities. So, we must keep seeking Him and trusting Him wherever you are, and when you reflect on life you can rest in the knowledge that it’s not you that carries the weight of the results. Some things – many things – change, but there is a consistency, an unchanging truth we can and must rest in as time goes by. God has put you just where He wants you, here on earth for a very short time. So, don’t waste time fretting about the results or about what is next. Trust in an all-powerful, all-knowing God whose sovereignty should remove all doubt from the believer.
Photo Credit: Meagan Wanschura
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
I learned two things specifically on the Global Encounters Christmas trip – now just over a week gone by since we landed back in the states. I learned what Winston Churchill said, “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”
We had such a short amount of time to work in Ecuador, just two short weeks in which we packed more children’s programs and traveling than I’ve done on trips twice as long. Just six of us traveled to Quito two days after Christmas. Our mission: to spread the gospel, meet and encourage the believers in Ecuador, and open doors of opportunity for future teams to go further into the reaches of this country. God blessed us on all these fronts.
We spent the first week doing morning and afternoon programs in and around Quito. We worked in new places we had never been before and quickly fell in love with the kids we met. Our translators went with us every day and were as much a part of our small team as any member that traveled from the states. Without them, our trip would have been for nothing.
At the end of the first week, we spent New Year’s with Pastor Benjamin and our close friends in Quito! Experiencing and participating in Ecuadorean customs were some of the best times I have had. Our team rang in the New Year playing a very aggressive game of spoons and watching fireworks takeover the night sky in Quito.
We had the opportunity to spend a night in Otavalo (a mountain city we have visited in the past) and see some of the kids our summer team had worked with. We experienced a soaking rain in the local market but the team managed to acquire some excellent finds and gifts to bring home.
The second week was a challenge as we knew it would be. We flew to Cuenca, a beautiful city with unique architecture. From there, we were joined by two translators – thanks to our friend Justo Pillman a missionary in the city – and we traveled by van out to the mountainous region of Cochapata. We were informed no American Team had ever stayed in this town before. Pastor Gonzalez, a native of Ecuador, and his family moved their two years ago without anything but the clothes they had. Since then they have begun to build a church building, and as he told me one evening, they are encouraged by the openness of the people.
In the mornings, after a night spent sleeping in a hammock or tent, we made our own breakfast and prepared to work with single mothers and their children. Some of these mothers walked close to an hour through the mountain paths to join us. Later, after lunch, we walked about 30 minutes to work with kids in the afternoon at a local school. Everyone on our team would tell you they were challenged in different ways, but we saw God working. Soccer with the kids and snack time every day for three days was just a small part of the time we spent with these kids.
One night while we were sitting around the table of our campsite, I asked Pastor Gonzalez through a translator what would make a man leave his church and comfort of home and come to this place. He told me that after God laid it on his heart he argued with Him for two weeks, and then he said ok and moved his family here to Cochapata. I told him I wanted to pray for him and through great emotion I prayed with the team gathered around him. I learned so much from a man who gave up his comfort to spread the gospel, and I hope one day to see Pastor Gonzalez in Ecuador again.
There is not enough time to tell you about team leaders being attacked by bugs or of the reunion we had with churches visited in years past by other teams. However, please indulge me for another moment. I will recount one, if not my favorite moment of the trip. I was quite sick and lying in bed last Saturday, the rest of the team had flown home, and only Liz and I remained. Pastor Benjamin had gotten word to Melany, a little girl who I have grown quite close to over the last few years. Melany and her mother showed up where we were staying with gifts and the cutest smile. We sat and caught up on life for about a half hour. Besides making my day, I was and am reminded of the impact the teams in years past have had on so many people in Ecuador.
Emotion overtakes me as I realize words are insufficient to explain what we saw and what God is doing in this country. Before we left Cochapata, Pastor Gonzalez asked me to tell the believers in America to pray, “Please tell them to pray for what is happening here.”
Oh, and the other thing I learned on this trip was that there is not enough coffee in the world when you are on a missions trip. Also, I found out that getting a parasite is an effective weight loss program but one that I do not want to repeat. I won’t bore you with the details of shaking uncontrollably with fever or body aches. Trust me, it is not the best way to spend your days in another country. However, with proper medication I am on the mend.
Thank you for praying! Please keep praying because God is working all over the world. How do I know this? Because I have seen it.
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
In early July I flew to Florida and joined 19 others, most of us meeting for the first time, to begin a journey to South America. We landed in Quito late Saturday night on the 11th and as we walked off the plane and officially into the Country of Ecuador I turned to a fellow team leader who was also returning and said, “We are back!” It is always a feeling of excitement to see friends and fellow believers we have worked with in past trips and reignite the memories and make new ones.
We spent a week in Quito doing our normal children’s program in the mornings at Iglesia Evangelica Iñaquito (the church we work with in Quito every year). In the afternoons this year we were able to visit Carapungo, a section outside Quito much like a suburb. There we worked with a new group of children and formed new friendships with the church there. Leaving the first week was tough for the team because we formed such close friendships in such a short amount of time, and for some it didn’t seem like it could get better.
Normally we would travel the second week to Esmeraldes which is on the coast. However, this year there was a change of plans. We spent the second week just a few hours away from Quito in the mountain city of Otavalo. There is a large population of indigenous people in this city, so many people couple traditional clothing with modern or wear traditional clothing.
The weather in Otavalo is much cooler in the evenings. Sweaters and jackets were handy to have. The kids here were much quieter than we had become accustomed to, so initially things seemed to get off to a slow start, but by the second and third day they warmed up to our team and there was plenty of laughter and good times. By the last day, while saying goodbye there were enough tears shed to fill our team bus to the brim.
We met many new people and created a great relationship with the believers in this city. I was blessed to get to know Pastor Roberto who spoke great English having lived in the U.S. for some time. He told me something before we left that week. He said he knew we usually go somewhere else during our second week as a team (Esmeraldas) but he knew we were meant to be there in Otavalo, because we were teaching the people there how to work with the children. He told me there were so many children as well as adults that were unreached and in need of the gospel. What a blessing it was to spend time with the believers worshipping on Sunday with them and building a bond in Christ.
Perhaps the most memorable time of the trip came when we were staying in Otavalo. We had the opportunity to take the team to an orphanage where only children infected with HIV were staying. I made the decision to only take a handful instead of all 20 plus members. The conditions at the orphanage were very sad. The children did not appear to be on any kind of medication and the place was not well kept. We told stories and tried to teach crafts, but the kids were unruly and out of control. Near the end of our time we opted to give piggy back rides and just play one on one with the kids. Those who went to the orphanage that day could tell you it is something they will never forget, and it continues to lay heavy on their hearts. The conditions the kids were in and their overall lack of any kind of respect for each other or other people was disheartening. Knowing that without medication the life expectancy of these kids is very short was beyond hard to realize. One team member said to me through tears; “It’s the faces of the children, I can’t forget the faces.”
The last week we spent at camp. It’s at a little place called Same, and it’s about a 3 minute walk from the beach. It is run just like a summer camp. We teach the kids lessons during the day and take them to the beach. The kids are divided into teams with a color for each one and they gain points by winning events together as a team. The kids love the soccer tournament and the events, and there is a lot of competitive spirit that comes out as the week progresses. I was reminded of why we are there at all through a conversation I had with Pastor Benjamin one afternoon. We had returned from the beach, always a stressful though fun time trying to keep 60 plus kids many of whom cannot swim safely in the water. I was sitting with Pastor Benjamin in front of his cabin talking about the trip and different things. We were quiet for a moment when he turned to me and said, “The kids love you, you know? They love your team.” I looked at him and said, “How do you know that?” and he said, “Because they tell me, the kids they tell me they love you” tears fill my eyes even now remembering.
Many things happen on a trip with different people, personalities, and sickness. It is easy to get distracted, especially when you have to make sure all the details happen and everyone is fed and safe. Sometimes you forget why you are there. I was brought back to reality with that little encounter. Upon returning to the States I read a quote by John Piper that stuck with me.
He says, “God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.”
We went; we go every day in life as believers to share a gospel of hope to the nations. The hope is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We saw children come to know Christ, and that only happened when the Holy Spirit worked through our team, and the kids saw the love of Christ in us.
How do you say goodbye to a country and a people that captivated your heart? You don’t. You keep them with you. The experiences and the memories that evoke emotions every time they come to mind are evidence that your purpose in this world goes so far beyond what you can imagine. God takes us places and leaves imprints of His grace on our hearts and lives so that we can see His glory and be blessed by the time we have had and perhaps someday be reunited with those we were fortunate enough to meet.
Leaving Ecuador never gets easier even though I know, God willing, I will be going back. I cannot let my love for that country, the people there, and the things we do diminish the work that God will do through me right here at home. I encourage you to not let anything diminish where God has you right now. He is the ultimate prize, and He will glorify Himself through your life as a believer. That is more than enough for me.
Featured image courtesy of Carpe Diem Photography
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It sounds so comforting. But how do you tell that to your friend or family member who is suffering through hardship?
I was talking with a friend a couple of nights ago discussing a particular situation he was going through: a situation difficult to see the good in. It had to do with a guy/girl relationship. He told me that even if the situation didn’t work out he knew God was going to bring someone along to make it okay. My initial thought might usually be to agree and hopefully bring some comfort to this situation, but, owing to what God has been teaching me lately, I had to disagree. “What if God never brings someone along?” I asked. “In fact, what if God has designed for you to wake up at age 65 still sleeping alone in your bed?” This was not what he was expecting to hear. It is not really what anyone wants to hear at any time but especially when you are questioning your relationship status.
Proverbs 16:4 says, “God has made all things for his own purpose: even the wicked for the day of evil.”
God has even made the wicked for an appointed day, according to the writer of Proverbs. How does this work? When Jesus tells Peter to “Let down your nets,” in Luke 5:4, Peter had already been fishing all night with no fish to show for it. If Peter had let down the nets when Jesus told him to but caught nothing, would that make God a bad God or Jesus untrustworthy? Remember, he told Jeremiah that he would preach his entire ministry but never see a convert.
What’s my point? God is more interested in your holiness than he is your happiness. God has made all things for his purpose. That includes whatever you are currently going through or will go through in the future. God may plan for you to have a spouse and get a job, but what if that is not His plan. Will you serve Him joyfully? God is not in the business of giving us what we want. He is God and he will draw His children closer to Himself. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
God is not necessarily most glorified when we are happy with our current situation because we got what we wanted. Remember, Hosea was told by God to essentially go find his harlot wife and bring her back to his home. If I am Hosea my first thought is, “What?! How can God do this?”
Remember, God sees all and is not only watching but causing all things. That’s action! Don’t believe me?
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God CAUSES all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
For anyone going through hardship or for those who may be questioning what God is doing in their lives, I want you to know this. God loves you and has a divine plan for your life that includes hardship and tough times, but He is working each of these things out for your good and His glory. Even if you do not see the reasons, there will be a day when you understand. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.”
Does this mean God gives His children bad gifts? Absolutely not. Just read Matthew 7:11. He loves to give good gifts. But good is often mistaken for what we want.
This side of glory we cannot know all the reasons God is doing what He is doing, but for me it is enough to trust Him and leave the outcome in his hands.
How is it that I have been traveling on missions trips for 10 years and I still learn something new every trip I make? You would think after all this time I would be an old pro at traveling.
My excitement for leaving the country this summer cannot be overstated. I looked forward to seeing friends I made last year, reliving old experiences and making new memories. I always assume God is going to teach me something on the trip, maybe through the kids we work with or on our team from the US. God had other plans this year and my training began early when I was denied an exit from the US due to my passport being three months shy of expiration. Long story, but I spent three extra days in Miami trying to get a new passport. My biggest question was, “Why God?!” followed by many exclamation marks. I know God does things for a reason but this seemed absurd.
I still don’t know for sure why God had me stay in Florida three extra days and miss traveling with my team and some of the early experiences. I’ve thought of many different possible reasons, what else can you do when you are sitting for eight hours in the National Passport Agency, but the most important reason is trust. Trusting God is not something I do well. I like to fix things myself or at least live in the illusion that I am handling things. This time God didn’t leave me room to “fix it” on my own, as if I could, He walked me through this experience and showed Himself strong. I was one of the last people to get my passport and, just as I got it and ran out of the agency, gratefulness that I can’t describe filled my heart. I believe God kept me in Florida three extra days, not just to show me He was in control but to show me He loves me enough to put me in situations where I have to learn trust. My preparation is more important to God than my own comfort or happiness. (Shout out to the awesome Forman family for taking care of everything I needed during my extended stay.)
The first week in Ecuador is spent in the Capitol City of Quito. Our team taught at the church Iglesia Inaquito in the morning with kids, who for the most part go to church with their families and have the benefit of a spiritual influence in their lives. Those of us who were returning reunited with translators and kids we had met the year before. It was refreshing to see so many familiar faces and to be hugged over and over again by kids that remembered us or just wanted a hug.
In the evenings we did the same VBS style program we had in the morning with kids on the outskirts of the city. These children do not all have the benefit of good influences in their lives and you could tell they were hungry for attention and listened closer than the morning crowd. These kids needed more love and our team showed it to them.
The end of the week brought goodbyes, which are always tough, but we knew we would see some of these kids at a camp where we would work two weeks later. The weekend brought some sightseeing and a well-deserved 12 hour vacation. We took the team to a mountain town where we stayed at a very nice hostel owned by native Ecuadorians. Shopping was in order and some sleep. The latter doesn’t happen so easily with a team as full of energy as ours.
One 6-7 hour bus ride later found us beginning week two in Esmeraldas, a coastal city with 48% unemployment. Approaching this city I felt a need for the gospel to be spread and for God’s Spirit to work. Our days were spent in the schools and at a local orphanage that our host, Pastor Louis, has developed relationships with. Pastor Louis and his wife are the sweetest couple and their love for their city is evident. The temperature is hot and humid on the coast compared to Quito where the average high was 65 degrees during the day. Many showers were taken throughout the day as we went to and from our hotel to regroup for each trip. So much could be said of our trip to Esmeraldas. We visited a little area called Roca Fuerte one of the days we were there. I must say this was a highlight of the trip for me. This small town has very little Christian influence and its occupants are very poor. The children are blessed to have a pastor from the church in Esmeraldas come and work with them throughout the week. We visited last year and it was a blessing to see the progress he has made. They are building a school house to begin teaching these children. There were between 250 – 300 children by the time we ended our program, many of them without shoes or adequate clothing. Tears fill my eyes remembering their faces and the way they clung to us as we tried to leave. Many of our teams had 25-30 kids on them which can get crazy, especially if you are a game team!
We visited an orphanage one of the days and it was definitely another highlight. Last year I met a little boy there who had eight brothers and sisters all orphaned since they were very young. He and one sister were the only two who had somehow made it to this orphanage. Many of the kids come and go so I knew seeing him would be iffy. But, he was there and we were reunited with laughing and making hand motions (the price of not speaking each other’s language). When we were preparing to leave he looked at me and said, “When will I see you again?” I smiled choking back tears and confessed that I did not know. But, I told him I would come back even if it took another year.
During the evening I was tasked with leading the youth program. I was less prepared than I would like to have been. But the amazing thing is that God worked through my lack of preparation and my hesitation. These young people listened and responded to each speaker that shared from our team. I am grateful for Elizabeth Fox, Danny, John and Daniel (my brother) who each brought from their hearts a message to these youth. The message of the gospel went to them and I pray it finds its mark!
The last week we traveled to Same Beach for my favorite part of the trip, camp week! We are reunited with many friends from the first week in Quito. This year we did a world cup theme and the kids loved it. I believe it is most Ecuadorian kids dream to one day play professional soccer. Camp is special because we spend all day and night with the kids. They are split into teams and win points together throughout the week that will add up to 1st through 3rd place awards at the end of the week. What a year at camp! We had kids ask how to know Jesus and truly saw their hearts change. During line up (which is always fun, I blew a whistle and mayhem would ensue) Ashley Dickson, one of our team leaders, came running over crying. She said that Denise, one of the little boys on her team, had trusted Christ for salvation. In perspective, this little boy was a trouble-maker and not the one you would go to for laughs during the week. We had to work with him one on one, on more than one occasion. But he spent time with Sammy our translator and asked so many questions about God. But to hear him say the words “Jesús está en mi corazón” (Jesus is in my heart) brought a smile to my heart and caused me to thank God for using this team in the lives of these kids.
Goodbyes to best friends are the hardest things in the world, especially not knowing if you will meet again. Our team, energetic group that they were, invested so much love into the kids. When we returned I was asked by the dad of one of our team members to tell him one thing that stuck out to me about this trip. I told him I have never worked with a team where everyone gave 110% of their heart and passion to the kids. It was a blessing and so refreshing to be a part of Ecuador 2014. I have left out so many stories and parts of this trip that I could tell but for the sake of length I will close. I hope you have made it this far in my writings. If you are still reading this I would have you know that God is doing amazing things in Ecuador. I know He is working around the world but I haven’t been to every part of the world so for now I will tell you about Ecuador. Something happened to me the first time I went and a piece of my heart will always be there. I love the people, the food and the culture. Most of all I love that God chooses to take broken vessels that leave the comfort of their homes, go to share, teach and affect the lives of people in other countries and find their lives forever changed.
I am grateful for Pastor Benjamin and Rosita his wife who have become such close family! (My Ecuadorean family.) We would never make it without them. I miss so many, especially little Melany who became such a close friend last year. Being reunited with her was another highlight of my trip! I know I will go back and I look forward to continuing to be a small part of what God is doing in the world for His Glory! Oh yes! You should take a short term missions trip, it WILL change your life.
Every true believer should have a heart to see the world come to know Christ. It is not only a mandate from our Savior just before He ascended to heaven, but the gospel is the prominent theme throughout the New Testament.
I am convinced that a heart for missions will flow out of a daily walk with Christ. You and I are called to preach the gospel; it is our commission as believers in Christ.
In Chapter 10 of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he states that there is “no difference between Jew and Greek” because all are guilty of falling short of Gods glory. He then charges these believers to share their faith and to not hold back (v-14), “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Paul specifically talks about his ministry of the gospel in Romans 1:6 when he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Our commission is not limited to our own country, political persuasion or ethnic background. Each of us has a responsibility to share our relationship with Christ – not only with our friends and family but with those whom we have never met or heard of.
As believers, we are not asked to share the gospel (the good news) that is within us, we are charged with that mandate as followers of Christ. This is why seeing the world first hand is so important. Our interaction with people in our community and around the world by way of serving will open our eyes and hearts to opportunities where we can invest the message we have with those we never thought to look for.
While in Ecuador this past July/August the team I was traveling with spent the evenings of the first week working with kids in a more rural section of the Capitol City of Quito. The children in this area were typically poorer but notably interactive and responsive. On the second evening I noticed a little boy sitting by himself. I went over and asked his name. He hugged his knees and looked between them to the ground and told me in a hushed tone that “Sebastian” was his name. He was noticeably frowning and wasn’t participating in the activities so I asked him (via translator), why he was not participating. He told me that he was thirsty. I told him to wait, I went and got a glass of water and brought it to him. Upon finishing the water (he drank all of it) I asked if we could be friends. He looked up at me for the first time, smiled, and said, “Yes, we are friends”.
My challenge every day is to practice, as Paul says in Romans 1:6, not being, “ashamed of the gospel of Christ”. There are opportunities everywhere to invest the love of Christ. It does require giving ourselves and investing our lives, something I don’t always find easy or what I want to do.
I will never forget little Sebastian or his contagious laugh and I will forever remember the sight of him walking away on our last day with him, wearing his purple headband. Missions is not always some great story of preaching the gospel to crowds or risking your life to put a Bible in someone’s hands. Many times, as in this case, it is as simple as putting a cup of water in a child’s hand, showing them the simple love that comes from a heart transformed by Gods amazing grace.