Have you ever had a Jonah experience? I don’t mean being swallowed by a whale, but running from something you didn’t want to do? I had a similar experience on my first mission trip. I was asked to chaperone a group of teenagers to Rio Bravo, Mexico. I don’t know why I said I would go, and I was ready to bail after the first hour on the bus with these kids! I tried to think of excuses to get off the bus. I couldn’t fake an illness because the team leader was a physician. Then I thought I could hide at the next rest stop and not get back on the bus. This wouldn’t work either because we always counted heads before we drove off. I was stuck, and the airport was still three hours away. At the airport the kids scattered, and trying to keep up with them was like herding cats. As we got ready to board the plane we noticed two children were missing. I suggested we leave them and pick them up on our way back. This suggestion did not go over well with the other chaperones.
The situation didn’t improve at the base camp. The kids were up all night, and they made sure no one else slept. In the morning I was still planning my escape. We piled into another bus and drove across the border to the work site. When we arrived everything changed. The kids stopped talking, they turned off their music, and they became silent. I don’t think any of us had ever seen that level of poverty. We were all changed that day. The older kids were anxious to help with the building project, and the younger kids cleared a place in the dirt to hold a Bible study for the children in the area. I realized why God had volunteered me for this trip.
God volunteered me for another mission trip in 2012. This time we were going to help with the building of a church in Guadalupe, Mexico. The church is called Refugo De Paz (Refuge of Peace). The construction work was hard, but I’m proud to say I can add ‘experience working with rebar’ to my resume! Another purpose of our trip was to install a bell in the tower of a church in Casillas. The church, Liro De los Valles (Lily of the Valley), is located high in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This is what Mount Sinai must have looked like to Moses. What an awesome experience to hear that bell ringing across the valley calling God’s people to worship. I could feel His presence across the valley as we worshiped that day.
God called me back to Guadalupe last February. The mission team went back to Refugo De Paz and continued with the building of that church. I was able to use my experience with rebar once again! I have fallen in love with the people I have met on these trips. They surround the team with love and prayer during our stay, and I continue to feel that love when I return home. They are in my prayers daily, and I look forward to the return trip. It is such a blessing to be able to serve God in this way.
On February 7, the team will return to Refugo De Paz, and it will be so exciting to see the progress on the church building. The team will be there for a week, but I will be staying until the middle of April as a liaison for other teams that will follow. I am extremely humbled to have this opportunity to serve God in this way.
Jonah did not plan on going to Nineveh, and I didn’t want to be on that first trip to Mexico. God tells us through Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When doubts, anxiety, and fear creep into my mind, I fall back on my favorite verse from the Bible: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 3:13). God’s grace is sufficient, and I can do this!
Please pray for me, our mission team, and for the teams that will follow.
Submitted by Cathy Powell, Albany UMC