A 19 Hour Mission Trip

It started with a question from a doctor about where our worship team had purchased the wooden pallets for their new stage, and resulted in two of our staff and one university boy driving with a caravan of vehicles to a community five hours away.

They went to an area that was badly damaged by the recent earthquakes, and brought with them dozens of wooden pallets to create a floor so that those living in shelters wouldn't have to sleep on the wet ground.  National and international response to the big communities hardest hit was extremely generous and, when our guys arrived, they found that an abundance of physical help had already arrived.

They did what they went there to do, constructing floors of wooden pallets, but they also witnessed something that bothered one man in particular.  More than the damaged buildings and the people living in temporary shelters, he was struck by the continued fear he saw in the people there.  There have been hundreds upon hundreds of aftershocks in that area, and each movement brings back the memory of that first one that changed their world.

Seeing this need, and motivated also by frustration with the divisiveness of the Christians in the area, he decided he had to go back .  He wanted to share the hope of a God who loves them and cares for them, hope that can cast out fear.  So over the following month he gathered a team of us together and last weekend we went back to that community with that purpose.

Part of the team made plans for fun times with the kids, and others were there to spend time with the women.  I went to be present and supportive as a leader.  Cold weather has arrived in force earlier than usual this year, so we also brought 500 warm blankets with notes of encouragement to hand out to people.

To be honest, I am weary and was not really looking forward to this 19-hour mission trip (10 hours of which would be spent on winding mountain roads), but I felt a call to it and was committed to go.  I was glad I did because I enjoyed the whole experience much more than I expected to.  I think we were all blessed by that day, and we hope that God's purposes were accomplished through what we did.

I spent the majority of my time making Christmas cards with the youngest children, while the older ones joined in on the fun of rally.  The kids' social adeptness surprised me.  One little girl came up to me and said, "I want to play with the kids, but I'm embarrassed."  I said, "Well, should we go together?"  She agreed and I took her by the hand to join the group of kids playing with a ball.  I told the leader why we were there and he asked her, "Would you like to play?"  "Yes," she said with confidence, and she jumped right in :).

We had expected that some of our guys would hand out the blankets in local neighborhoods during that time with the kids, but the scheduling worked out in such a way that we were all able to participate.  It struck me how receptive people were to us, a parade of tired people on a blisteringly hot day, handing out blankets to anyone who wanted one.  They would tell us thank you and we would respond in the customary way of speaking here at the children's home, "Thanks to God."  I hope the encouraging notes that went along with the blankets left a lasting impression on those who received them.

Your continued prayers for people and communities around the world affected by traumatic events are important.  We live in a time when it is easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of news about natural disasters and evil acts.  Never before this age of information did we get news so quickly of earthquakes here, fires there, corruption in that country and attacks in this. And when something new happens, the cameras turn towards the next big event, leaving the others forgotten.

But as believers in Christ, we are not without hope, nor are we without resources.  We believe that this weary world rejoiced at the coming of the Savior and we can share that message of hope.  There is great power in prayer for people near and far.  There is tangible power in loving those God has placed around us in this life.  And there is the so often untapped power in loving our enemies, and truly praying for those we disagree with or are heartily against.

Below are some of my pictures from our time in the isthmus, snapped on my cell phone as we went through our day.  Thank you for your prayers for our trip, I am especially thankful for the safety and the fellowship we experienced.  I don't know if we'll get a chance to go back, but I trust that God was at work there before we came, and will continue to work there into the future.

 Making Christmas cards with the mothers and little children.

Making Christmas cards with the mothers and little children.

 Christmas cards are not a tradition here, but they caught on quickly. Here the girls pain strings of Christmas lights. Knowing we wouldn't have great access to water in the camp, I went with q-tips instead.

Christmas cards are not a tradition here, but they caught on quickly. Here the girls pain strings of Christmas lights. Knowing we wouldn't have great access to water in the camp, I went with q-tips instead.

 I ran out of simple ideas for cards, so from upside down I quickly drew a tree on one paper and then about three others wanted a tree drawn for them.  Work with what you have.

I ran out of simple ideas for cards, so from upside down I quickly drew a tree on one paper and then about three others wanted a tree drawn for them.  Work with what you have.

 Feliz Navidad! One thing I hoped to achieve with these cards was a way for them to encourage one another.  One older boy wrote a message inside of his card that said, "Sister, it was a while ago that we fought, but I wanted to say I'm sorry."  Wow!

Feliz Navidad! One thing I hoped to achieve with these cards was a way for them to encourage one another.  One older boy wrote a message inside of his card that said, "Sister, it was a while ago that we fought, but I wanted to say I'm sorry."  Wow!

 This was one of the older kids, I was amazed by the beauty of the touch of color he added to his snowflake.  I said, "You are an artist!" and he smiled shyly.  Later he came back to show me another thing he'd drawn and truly surprised by his creativity I said, "You really are an artist!"  "I know," he said with a smile.

This was one of the older kids, I was amazed by the beauty of the touch of color he added to his snowflake.  I said, "You are an artist!" and he smiled shyly.  Later he came back to show me another thing he'd drawn and truly surprised by his creativity I said, "You really are an artist!"  "I know," he said with a smile.

 Walking through the neighborhoods that were more seriously damaged by the earthquakes.

Walking through the neighborhoods that were more seriously damaged by the earthquakes.

 Our truck and trailer were full of the 500 blankets.

Our truck and trailer were full of the 500 blankets.

 Part of our group consisted of some of the teenagers from the children's home.

Part of our group consisted of some of the teenagers from the children's home.

 We encountered many people working on reconstructing their homes.  It is good to see the resiliency and strength of the people in this place.

We encountered many people working on reconstructing their homes.  It is good to see the resiliency and strength of the people in this place.

 Every single blanket came with a note written by staff and kids from the children's home.

Every single blanket came with a note written by staff and kids from the children's home.

 At the end of this hot day we had time to visit a lovely waterhole.  Not having planned for this, many just swam in their clothes.  I sat on the edge and moved my feet around in the water (moved them around because if I kept still little fish nibbled on them).

At the end of this hot day we had time to visit a lovely waterhole.  Not having planned for this, many just swam in their clothes.  I sat on the edge and moved my feet around in the water (moved them around because if I kept still little fish nibbled on them).

 Driving off into the sunset at the end of  a long day.

Driving off into the sunset at the end of  a long day.