Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What going to Guatemala meant for me

I got back from a trip to Guatemala a few days ago, and I realized that all the things I went there or were not things I accomplished. Conversely, all the things that God sent me there for were accomplished.

I signed up for the trip hoping to be on the team drilling a well. Then everything changed, the original location of a well was changed, we were doing a different water project first, and there was a much greater need for women to do Bible stories, games, and hygiene education with the kids. Needless to say, I felt like the old bait and switch had happened, but didn't want to admit that it was in God's will. By the time the trip came I had finaly conceded that maybe God knew what He had for me to do while I was there, even though I had no idea. My official position in the team was floater with an emphasis in VBS/hygiene.

First lesson learned, sometimes God doesn't make everything clear so that we can learn to trust Him and rely on His judgment more than our own.

Once there chaos ensued. We were not as well organized as we thought we were, and the people we thought would lead either weren't there, or didn't want to lead. Everyone apparently had their own visions for this trip, and it seems none of them were realized, or if they were it was not according to our plan. We got to learn patience, kindness, and how to do everything without complaint, even when everything seemingly deserved a complaint. We didn't have the option of mutiny, instead we had to find new ways to adapt to what God gave us to work with.

Second lesson learned, do everything without complaint, even when others are complaining. God is watching all hearts, you don't need to watch yours and theirs.

I thought that going to Guatemala was to help the people there. Silly me, God used them to help me. The whole time I felt like my heart was like a cicada. I felt like my heart came to the surface, and started breaking free of it's old skin to grow bigger. It literally at times felt ripped open by the smile of a child, or the hug of a sister who only spoke Spanish, or the laugh and snuggle of a baby on my knee. I had become comfortable in the amount of love that I showed my family (church family included) and had no idea that God wanted my heart to be bigger, in order to love people more fully with His love.

Third lesson learned, God is not content to leave us where our hearts are comfortable, He wants us to become ever more like Him.

Out of the blue once I was there I was asked to work on the well drilling team on Thursday and Friday. I had totally given up on the idea and didn't even pack clothes for this kind of work. Thinking I would be working in the mud in a skirt I dug in my backpack only to find a pair of pants I had thrown in at the last minute that worked perfectly. Two back-breaking days of work gave me such a great respect for the woman who does the same things I was doing for two weeks straight. One day I was pouring blood from my hands before I realized I probably needed gloves, to which someone found me gloves that worked. We were unable to complete the well; we pretty much ran out of materials. Worried that the community would be up in arms over us drilling a well and not completing it, I discovered that people are much more forgiving in Guatemala. They understood why we didn't complete it, weren't mad, and were glad that someday we would come back and complete it so that they could have clean water.

Fourth lesson learned, sometimes God says "no" or "not yet" and these are opportunities for us to learn trust as much as the "yes" moments are.

On Thursday night I was asked to present a devotional on Friday morning for the team. My heart panicked, but my lips said yes, which later I was a little angry at myself for. Everyone on the team was older than me, wiser than me, our brothers and sisters in Guatemala who would be there have obviously been through a lot more in their lives that I have, and I felt I had no right to stand in front of them and lead anything. In my room that night I studied, prayed, studied, then prayed a lot more. Finally I just prayed that I would get out of the way, and let God speak. In the morning I had a few speaking points, most of which I didn't touch. I forgot to get the Spanish/English Bible my dad had, and my Spanish interpreter decided to go for a walk at just the wrong time. Nervously, I started speaking from my heart, and somehow God helped me get out of the way so that He would be glorified. I don't really remember what I said, but I know I cried at how good God is. That's right, I cried in front of a bunch of people, but at least it wasn't selfish crying!

Fifth lesson learned, sometimes God humbles us so that in our weakness He can be greatly exalted.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. - Philippians 4:4-8