Gracie jumps out of the van as it finally arrives in La Laguna, Mexico, and races toward the tiny girl standing beside her dad on the steps of the church. Gracie, five years old, takes the gum out of her mouth and sticks it into the mouth of the smaller child, who chews and grins. Yanet takes it out of her mouth and puts it back into Gracie’s, and I think, “Okay, then. God? A little help here?” Neither little girl seems to suffer any ill effects at all.
Welcome to the world of missions.
We’ve just heard gunshots out in the streets of El Progreso, Honduras, and yet the children on the patio don’t even seem to notice. They see us with big bags of candy, but instead of crowding toward us, they turn and run to sit at picnic tables, watching us with big eyes and smiles. We pass among the tables and place a small pile of candies in front of each one, smiling at each other when one little boy looks up from his three Tootsie Rolls and screams, “Cho-co-lahhhh-te!” An older child nearby raises her hand and asks me a question in Spanish, pointing to a tiny boy beside her. “We all have five pieces and he only got three. Do we need to give him some of ours?”
There’s no better experience of koinonia, that wonderful fellowship that makes us church, than a mission trip with the Belton Church of Christ. My best memories and lessons in love are snapshots, moments from mission trips that opened my eyes to the deep, sweet bliss of souls with their Savior.
Our last day in the little town of Nuevo Padilla, we decide to go out to the lake, a man-made body of water not quite covering the last remains of Viejo Padilla, the little village flooded to make the new lake. A few families are camping there, cooking fish and scattered around the edges of an old and beautiful building, which had been a school a hundred years before. Teenagers were lounging around the old porticoes, listening to a boom box blasting, “La Macarena.” Our own teens jump out of the vans, run to the porch, and make a line, going through the motions of the song with the Mexican teenagers dancing there. Grins came out, high fives exchanged, and we smiled for the rest of the day.
Each of us felt valuable, each as important for what we could contribute as the next, and safe together. My language skills were nice, but Mickey’s quick way of setting up my tent was much more important to me after a long day of travel. Rodney’s cooking skills and shopping in foreign markets were the most important thing of all, at some point. Teens ran wild with children, playing long past what I could have done. Dick and his helpers brought desperately needed medical attention and eyecare resources; Don made construction jobs easy, Donna did VBS perfectly…the list goes on.
We shot potatoes across the canyon with a potato cannon, jumped around on pogo sticks which we left for the village to enjoy, poured concrete floors, visited the sick, gave away candy, crayons, and clothes. One year we outfitted a whole village with new shoes. The children enchanted us, the ladies fed us, and God’s guardian angels guided us. We drove through breath-taking mountains on narrow, hairpin turns, and stopped to sing in the open-air mountain chapel where truckers and travelers lit candles at shrines for safe passage. We run into the Gulf of Mexico waves, Allen holding a tiny Gracie close as they ride up high on the rushing waters, enjoying her shrieks of just too much fun.
I wish everyone could be part of a mission trip.
Bruce leads us into the rain forest terrain, where we zipline across deep green canyons, leaving trails of terror and tremors in the sky behind us, mostly grinning and finally relieved to be on tierra firma again. We work. We’re all of different ages and life stages; it doesn’t matter. We love each other fiercely and treasure up every single moment we have together.
When we get home, my guardian angels check into some heavenly rehab somewhere to rest, my husband does mountains of laundry, and I unpack souvenir coffee from every tiny crevasse of my luggage. My heart has stretched to make even more room for my fellow travelers and the people we met, who will forever stay in our prayers. I am so grateful. So blessed.
- Jane Gibson
Take a few minutes—without distractions—to reflect on this story. Finish your reflection time in prayer. Pray especially for the people of Honduras, and the work of Mission Upreach.
You can find more information about Mission Upreach online at missionupreach.org.