“People will wonder why you will spend money to go work your tail-ends off rather than relax at the beach on your school vacation. You know why, but when you go back, they won’t understand.”
It’s far earlier than I ever want to be awake and I’m standing groggily in a parking lot with a group of people I’ve been living with for the past week. We’ve already cleaned, finished packing, and crossed the Mexican-American border before arriving at our buses and all I want is to sleep and go back to Mexico.
While we’re waiting, a man who had been working with another group was leaving the parking lot in his pick-up truck and stopped to say those words above to us. It felt like a scene out of a movie because once he had finished talking, he drove off and we didn’t see him again. His words were filed into the back of my head and my sleep-deprived mind returned its focus to my two desires; Mexico and sleep.
The thing about hours in a bus is that there is ample time to sleep and think. After dreaming about Mexico while I slept fitfully across two seats, my thoughts turned to the words the Gandalf-esque man had spoken to us in the parking lot. While staring at the monotonous Texan landscape, I realized something important:
People back at home don’t understand why I choose to spend my vacations and money on trip like this, and sometimes I don’t either.
Sometimes I question why a group of teenagers give up their spring break to ride 18 hours in a bus and work hard every day, but all it takes is a well-placed verse in an early morning devotion to remind me why we go.
“…just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
We do not go on trips to places like Mexico to work, to play, or to relax, we go to love in our own way. Love sometimes expresses itself in being a brute force of laborers so that those who are ministering can continue to do so. Other times love shows itself in playing with children and teaching them Bible stories. This week, I learned that sometimes love is taking pictures to preserve those moments.
Love is the driving force behind our lives. Christ came to earth and sacrificed himself because he loved us. He suffered tremendously and died a horrific death to pour out his blood in love. We are forgiven and made new because we are loved.
Mission trips always teach a lesson, and not all of them are obvious. I am only now realizing the lessons taught to me three years ago in Arkansas, but other times, like in Mexico, the lesson calls out loud and clear.
I learned to show compassion because it does not come naturally to me. I learned that it’s alright to cry because things in life are never certain. I learned that I never gave away my heart because it is not mine to give anymore.
I gave my heart to God, and he has left pieces of it in Mexico that will always remain there.
No matter where we live, what country we come from, or what language we speak, we are united in Christ because of his love.
“There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” -Ephesians 4:4-5
It is impossible to understand why we go on trips like these if you do not understand the bond of Christ’s blood. While we are not related, we are united together by the sacrifice of Christ, by the rugged cross upon which he died.
Life is more than where we go, it’s what we do when we are there. I desire to see the world and to meet all kinds of people because I want to learn about them.
I want to see how they experience God in their lives that are so drastically different than mine.
I want to see God build his kingdom everywhere.
I want to see the power of Christ’s blood work in glorious ways.
I want my world to become bigger and my bank account smaller.
Last year, after ignoring the call to mission work my entire life, I finally listened to it while lying awake all night. I realized that I could not sit around and cross my fingers, hoping that others would go and make disciples of all nations, I had to be one of the ones who went.
I finally understand that I go on these trips to learn and my prayer is that the lessons we learn, the lessons I learn, will not be forgotten.
I pray that we will allow our lives to be permanently changed because these trips.
I pray that we will learn to “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
I pray that we will never forget what we learn, no matter where we learn it.
This year, in Mexico, I learned to love.