Monday, April 5, 2010

Nicaragua Mission 2010 (Part 2 of 3)

Our Spiritual Journey

Rich and Poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:2)

I call this installment “Our Spiritual Journey”, but it is really my journey. Even though many of us shared the same feelings, each member of the team had their own unique experience during our mission. Each of us had to come to terms with our purpose and our own relationship with God. In the next installment I will try to share some of the experiences and reflections of the other team members.

My journey began at Western Hills United Methodist Church when we had a short presentation one Sunday last summer. The missions committee was looking for members of the congregation to go to Matagalpa, Nicaragua in March 2010. They showed pictures from the 2009 trip and explained the mission and the tasks they worked on. At that time I thought it was interesting and that it would be a neat experience. Over the next few weeks, I discussed it occasionally with Andi, the team leader.

The more I thought about it, the more the thought that it would be “neat to experience” evolved into a feeling that I had to do it, but I wondered why. Why did I feel so strongly about it? Was I hoping to make a difference or to be a tourist? What difference was I going to make that someone else couldn’t do better? During a phone call to my sister, I mentioned that to her, and she told me that maybe it wasn’t all about that. Maybe in addition to the mission it was God’s way of helping me to find my purpose. Baby sisters can be so insightful sometimes.

So, even though I didn’t have this blinding flash of inspiration or see a vision, I do believe I was being called to make the journey. I continued to pray daily for guidance, discussed it with my wife, and finally wrote my check.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

As our departure date drew nearer, we were given a mission journal to help us prepare for the trip. The journal began with 7 days of spiritual preparation, ideas for meditation, prayers and scriptures to read. Each day as I read, it seemed so perfect. The scripture for day one was John 15:16:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

Our journal continued to guide us in meditation about blessings, prayer, humbleness, love, life and purpose. It seemed that each day of preparation and meditation made it feel more like I was working toward God’s true purpose for my life. Would I actually find God’s purpose for me on this trip? It was exciting and scary at the same time.

Our days in Nicaragua flew by and each day brought new thoughts and feelings. Our fist encounter with the locals near the airport included children begging for money. We had been instructed not to give in to their pleas, but it was so hard not to. We are, after all compassionate individuals and so we begin our journey with a little guilt for not helping these children.

In the book, “A Mile in My Shoes” by Trevor Hudson he says that every pilgrimage consists of three essential ingredients: Encounter, Reflection and Transformation. Each day of our mission we encountered a variety of people and situations. In the “busyness” of the day the thoughts and feelings that were experienced got pushed to the back of your mind. Even though Andi was really good about reminding us to remember that we were there for the mission, not the task, it was very easy to get caught up in the jobs we were doing and to place more importance on the job than the people.

Each evening after dinner and before preparations for the next day’s work, we would gather together for a time of devotion and to discuss our experiences of the day. These discussions gave us some insight into the other team member’s experiences and allowed us a time to reflect on our own experiences.

The true transformation for anyone only comes after the reflection on the experiences. We must take the time to think about what we have seen and felt. We must ask ourselves what it was that God wanted us to take away from the moment, and that can take time. The lessons may evolve as we continue to reflect, as we look back at our journals, and go over events again. Some things come to you right away, and others take a little more time.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Next issue…insights and transformations.