Mission Trips. It all started with Mission Trips. Back in 2004, I went on my first one.
I saw it in the church bulletin and it sounded adventurous.....an eyeglass ministry mission trip to Venezuela. A couple weeks before the trip, the State Department warned that it was too dangerous to make the trip for non-essential travel. We ended up in Puerto Rico building a church. Mission Lesson 1: Flexibility.
Other trips followed to different places: 2008 Cambodia; 2009 Uganda. These were amazing experiences and I really wanted to share this with my then 13 year old daughter. The minimum age was 21….that was a long time away.
In 2010 we made the trip to Poland because the age parameter worked. Great trip but again, I was feeling urged to look for something else. We got back and I went to our Pastor, Chuck Schlie, at Messiah Lutheran Church in Weldon Spring. I told him that I felt we needed to find a place to take teenagers that we might be able to help with basic physical needs as well as Spiritual.
He scribbled down a couple of mission organizations, handed it to me and said, "I suggest you check it out and invite people to go." So that's what I did. I found myself on a "Get-to-Know" trip in Guatemala with CALMS (Central American Lutheran Mission Society). That first trip was a group of 12 people from different parts of the country, all looking for a place to bring a mission teams. We visited 8 different villages in Guatemala, all with similar challenges.
I couldn’t get home fast enough and was ready to bring a team. In June 2012, we took our first team from Messiah! We visited a village in the mountains called Quebrada de Agua. There are very few resources here….no electricity, very limited water supply, no place for work. Actually, I don’t think they had ever seen white people before. There we were, white people speaking a different language than their Spanish and talking to them through a translator. We were singing with a laptop computer with song videos on the screen.
Can you imagine being in a place with no electricity or any type of electronics and these white people come in and put a laptop in front of you. They looked at it in amazement. And there we were sticking little boxes in their faces (cameras) and their photo appeared. Had they ever even seen themselves? They don’t exactly have mirrors hanging in their homes.
They really weren’t sure how to respond to us so it was very quiet for a couple days. We did VBS in the mornings and had raised the funds to build a house for a family in the afternoons. The family that was selected (by the COCODE, the Village Leaders) was the family of Rigoberto Garcia. Rigoberto was a leader in the community and set an amazing example. By the end of the week, we started understanding each other better.
We left and told them we would be back next year. I’m not really sure they had a concept of time and how long a year would be. They probably questioned if we would even come back. But we did. In summer 2013 we brought another team. We wondered if they would be happy to see us. When we got out of the van, who was the first one at the bottom of the steps waiting to greet us? Rigoberto Garcia of course. He greeted each one of us with hugs. I knew then that this was a relationship we needed to continue!
We wanted to continue the relationships and committed to bringing a team each year. One of our challenges was when we had someone that wanted to make a donation and support the mission financially, we didn’t have a way to do that. Our church wasn’t set up to be able to manage that and CALMS didn’t really want 50 separate checks. I mentioned this in a meeting that Donn Herring was also attending. He said he might be able to help and a week later we were sitting Starbucks. And Guatemala Outreach was born.
This was an answer to a prayer.
We took teams in 2014 and 2015 and have our 5th team coming up in June of this year! It’s all about relationship building. We have several repeat team members, as well as new ones. The minimum age is 13 with a parent. This opens up many opportunities for our young people.
SIDE NOTE: The 14 year old daughter that I took on this first trip, is now almost 19. She will be joining us in June on her 5th trip to Guatemala. She spent the entire summer in 2015 in Guatemala as an intern for CALMS. Guatemala has become her passion and she wants to live there. She’s in college and figuring out how to make that happen. As a mom, I am so proud of her. The seeds were planted and she feels called to do this. As she was growing up, I always prayed for her to have a heart for the Lord and a heart to serve others. I just didn’t think it would be so far away. Be careful what you pray for. God is Faithful.
We will continue to take teams…..
Where else has this led? Stay tuned for the next Chapter….Shoes & Hope.