Exactly 2 years ago at this time, I was in the thick of my first Mission Trip! I was on a hiatus from blogging at the moment, so I thought I would take time to reflect on all I learned from that trip and share it with you today 🙂
I had felt the pull to do a Mission Trip for a few years. Patrick and I helped fund various friends to participate in Missions over the years and hearing their desires to go and their stories of change after made me yearn to step out and do the same. Only problem was, I hadn’t a clue on how you got invited on a Mission Trip!
When I was very newly pregnant with Beau, I’m talking so newly pregnant that it was still just mine and Patrick’s secret, we attended a charity dinner for International Justice Mission, or IJM as I will refer to it for the rest of this post. IJM is a global organization who rescues human beings from lives of slavery, sex trafficking, violence and abuse. Their work doesn’t stop there though, IJM also brings the offenders of these crimes to justice and helps the survivors to heal. It’s an amazing organization doing beautiful work in our world!
Before going to the charity dinner, I had read a book on the work of IJM called “Terrify No More”. It is written by a man named Gary Haugen, who is the founder and president of IJM. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at one of the Professional Athlete Outreach conferences we attended. At this point I was pretty knowledgeable on the work of IJM, but I had no idea that one day God would put me to work through IJM!
At the dinner I met a woman named Michelle Conn, a worker for IJM, a Nashville resident, and also the wife of one of our Veterinarians! We chatted and the topic of Mission Trip opportunities in the future came up. Michelle promised to keep me in the loop of upcoming trips…fast forward a few months to Michelle reaching out to me, inviting me on a last minute trip to India! I was excited for the invite, but I had to turn it down because I was pregnant! Ugh! Seemingly not good timing, but don’t we all know God’s timing is always perfect! God allowed me to go on a Mission Trip after I became a Mommy, and I think He did this because after I became a Mommy, my heart for children grew so much more! Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved children, but I was always a little scared of other peoples children other than my nieces and nephews. It wasn’t until I had my own kiddos that I realized how much it means as a Mom to have others love on and pay attention to your child. It really warms your heart when you see someone take the time to notice your child and make them feel special 🙂
In November of 2013, when Beau was 7 months old, I officially agreed to go on my first Mission Trip to Guatemala City, Guatemala. It would be all women serving together, which set my heart at ease, since Patrick would have to be home taking care of Beau. Being that he would have to be home, the timing of mid-February was perfect being that it was in his off-season from football. Before agreeing, I reached out to numerous friends asking if they would like to join me, but everybody I asked could not go. I battled a lot of doubt and fear getting to the point where I could say yes to going alone, but I knew deep down in me that God laid this on my heart for a reason, He opened the doors to this trip for a reason, and I knew that I needed to go for a reason and was excited to find out why!
I kept a journal before and during the trip which I pulled out for inspiration in this post. I have to share my first excerpt because it made my heart so incredibly happy reading it, remembering a time I was so scared but had such faith in the Lord!
“It’s 11/27/13 and I am set to go on my first Mission Trip in February, 2014. I tried to get a group of my friends to go along with me but was unsuccessful at rallying up a troop…that would put me going on my first Mission Trip alone, knowing nobody nor what to expect. To say I am scared is a complete understatement! I am terrified! But I know God opened the doors of this opportunity for a reason…I need to TRUST Him! I can’t lose faith! I pray God will be with me every step of the way, never allowing me to doubt Him or His plan for my life. Writing it down I now realize, I won’t be taking this trip alone, I will be taking this trip with God!”
Wow! I love it! 🙂
I did end up getting to know Michelle a little better before we left for Guatemala, and she introduced me to LeeLee, another woman from Nashville who would be making the trip with us. The three of us synced up our flight info so we would be traveling together. I was so thankful for this because as you can imagine, when the trip finally rolled around I couldn’t stop thinking “What was I thinking?! Why did I think this was a good idea? What if something happens to me? What if I never see my husband or son again? What if Patrick can’t handle Beau?” You get the idea…so many seeds of doubt that I was letting the devil plant in my brain…he didn’t want me on this trip doing God’s work! Just because I was on it didn’t mean he was was going to back down, and he taunted me endlessly making me feel so weak, until I became strong…
The first night in Guatemala, we had a welcome dinner where I got to meet the women I would be serving with! We broke down into a few groups…There was me and Lee Lee, The Nashvillers, The IJM’ers, this group consisted of Michelle, Johanna and Isabelle, all who worked for IJM, and Jan, the fabulous and always pleasant wife of Gary Haugen! There was Deidre, one of Jan’s best friends. There were the Midland Girls, Lori, Connie and Mitzi, 3 best friends who are some of the most beautifully eloquent prayers I’ve ever met! There were the sweet California women, Linda and Lucie, two close friends who traveled together. There was Molly, who was also from California, but traveled alone (I didn’t figure this out until the last day of the trip though!) And then there were the Colorado women! They consisted of 8 fun, loud women who brought the laughter! Keri (Jennifer Aniston in disguise, and later my twin – ha!) Tanise AKA “T”, Julia, Amy, Ann, Laurie Linda, and Stephanie rounded out, and mostly made up our group!
*I sincerely am sorry if I forgot anyone’s names! It’s 2 years and another child later, I’m working with some serious Mom-Brain these days!*
These women were AMAZING! And I’m not just saying that! I can’t imagine having a better group! I felt like I got to know each one of these women on some level. Some I became closer to and still keep in touch with to this day! We all shared such a unique experience together, and I will forever remember each one of these women so fondly!
Day 1 – I remember playing JJ Weeks Band – Let Them See You, over and over again as I got ready to serve that morning. This song was my Mission Trip song! It was the prayer I prayed before and during. I went on this trip to do the Lords work and I so badly wanted Him to speak and move through me, so when I felt weak I’d sing to myself
“I give my life an offering take it all take everything
Let them see You in me let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, just let them see You in me.”
We spent to morning at the IJM Headquarters learning more about IJM. Some facts that stayed with me…
10’s of thousands of children are being victimized in Guatemala, and for many of them, home is the most unsafe place. In many cases a family member or a neighbor is the attacker.
1-4 girls are victims…wrap your head around that stat.
In 2012 there were over 32,000 pregnancies in girls aged 10-17.
But no alarming stat can compare to hearing about it from the mouth of a victim. It makes it so much more real. Please take a moment to listen to Griselda’s Story.
After watching that video, it became so much more real that the women we were about to meet had very similar stories. It was hard to not feel sad as they entered the room one after another. But after spending the afternoon crafting journals with them, I felt happy for them, knowing each was able to overcome the unthinkable and smile today.
One of the women had a little boy on her hip who had to have been the same age as Beau. He was adorable! Seeing him brought me to tears. I missed my boy in ways I didn’t know I could! It was my one moment of weakness, giving in to the capacity of all I was experiencing. I needed to get that weakness out of me because what I was about to encounter the next day would need all of my strength!
Day 2 – We traveled to Potter’s House, a Christ-centered foundation fighting poverty in Guatemala. This is a safe place for some of the poorest of the poor in Guatemala, providing children with meals and an education that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to attain. Potter’s House is located right in the midst of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump, where many of the areas population work as “Scavengers”, literally sorting through trash looking for anything that could be of any value. This is their job, this is their livlihood, day in and day out. Could you imagine?
After learning a brief background on Potter’s House, we broke into groups and were sent out into the community of homes inside The Dump to bless them with bags of food we put together the previous day and to pray over them. Yes, families make their home inside this Garbage Dump…it was the most humbling experience of my life. We met some of the most beautiful soles inside these walls of whatever they could find to create shelter. We were there to bless them, yet they were the blessing to us. I’ve never before in my life witnessed such generosity. One family we visited gave us oranges with some sort of spice sprinkled atop. We were there to bring them food – because they had very little – and they were sending us away with some of the little food they had. It was like living “The Widow’s Offering” story in the Bible.
It was while visiting these homes that God revealed His “why” to me, why I was there. At this time in my life, I knew how to pray aloud, but I was nervous to do so. I was afraid I wasn’t as eloquent in my words as the others, and feared my prayer was doing an injustice to these sweet souls. But I felt the Lord pushing my to pray while visiting a specific family, and when I did, words that weren’t mine came out of my lips. When I finished and lifted my eyes, I was met by tears from the matriarch of the family. Our translator then told me what she said as tears streamed down her face. She said “You being here today brings me hope, for I now know that God hasn’t forgotten about me.” That right there was worth every fear, it was worth leaving my son for a few days, it was worth traveling alone, it was worth everything that it took to get me to that home in that place and time. I will never forget that moment in my life.
Each group had a different experience to take home with them, though I think we all left a little somber. Seeing the conditions that these sweet families live in was hard on the heart. It was a welcomed change of scenery to head back to Potter’s House and spend time with the children! We served them lunch complete with cake – which was a real treat for them and us!
One little girl in particular took a liking to me when I served her a piece of cake. After she finished she found me and gave me a hug which completely stole a piece of my heart!
After lunch the kids took turns knocking down pinatas.
The little girl whom gave me the hug earlier found me in the yard and sat with me. When the piñata broke open I had to coax her to get up and get candy. When she did, she brought back 3 pieces, one for me, one for my friend who was also sitting with us, and one for herself. I tried to show her that the candy was for her, to which she showed me the one piece she had for herself. Again, another selfless act knocking me down a peg! I went on this trip thinking “I’ll be helping the poor.” But the poor were helping me more than I could ever help them.
Day 3 – Our final day of serving was our “Day of Joy”. We got the opportunity to take the IJM families to the Zoo. It was explained to us that going to the Zoo in Guatemala is like going to Disney World here. This would mark the first time many of these children and adults had ever gone to the Zoo. I don’t know about you, but I have a membership to the Nashville Zoo, and I’ve been to Zoo’s in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Atlanta and St. Louis…and I take it for granted every single time…
A friend and I walked with a beautiful Guatemalan family who had 6 children. Both the mother and the father were there which was not the normal family dynamic. Looking at them, they were all so happy, it was hard to pinpoint which one of them had been victimized. We had a lot of fun with them asking “Que es esto?”, or “What’s that?” in Spanish, and repeating the names of the animals in Spanish then responding back with the English name for the animals. It was so funny to me to see Raccoons at their Zoo – haha! I didn’t know how to tell them that we have those in our backyard!
After this “Day of Joy”, we toured a Gesell Chamber, which is a set of two rooms divided by a glass wall. One side houses the victim and a psychologist who is being fed questions to ask the child from a set of lawyers on the other side. This allows the victim to be in a comfortable area with no fear of facing their perpetrator. It was fascinating to learn more about the process to justice for these sweet innocent children.
In the morning I would wake up and say goodbye to my new friends and head home to my husband and baby. Though I would be leaving Guatemala, a piece of my heart would stay there forever.
Some of the big things I took away from this trip…
1.) The language of love is a universal language! You may speak a different languages, but smiles and hugs are always the same! Kindness can be felt without words!
2.) There are so many GOOD people in this world who want to help the oppressed! The organizations that are out there helping are amazing and deserve our funding and support!
3.) You can travel to a foreign country with 20+ strangers and come back with 20+ friends if you just open yourself up to the opportunity!
4.) We can help the less fortunate, but I’m convinced that the less fortunate help us more than we can ever help them!
5.) When God puts a whisper in your heart to do something, do it! His plans are always greater than our own!
If it is ever on your heart to participate in a Mission Trip and you are scared and need someone to talk you through it, please reach out to me! I would be honored talk you through your fears!
Lastly, if you would like to help support my next Mission Trip, please visit my Soles4Souls Donation Page. I am raising funds in honor of my 30th Birthday, and would be honored to have you be a part of this next story!
Be Blessed & Be A Blessing