"Christianity is not a religion; it's not a system; it's not an ethical idea; it's not a psychological phenomenon. It's a person."
-Sean Mcdowell, More Than A Carpenter
I read that book for the second time on the flight to Panama, whether it was the first or second plane I don't remember. Headphones in my ears shut the world out, leaving only myself to distract me from the mission.
I'm not much of a blogger, but in these next few paragraphs I'm going to try to show you what a mission trip is like, the reasons to go on one, and how to prepare yourself for one. For starters, preparing for a mission is more than just buying travel sized bottles and snacks. I will admit, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of flying, seeing new places, and being tourists for a day, but that's not what it's about. I've found on my past trips(Panama January 2016, Mexico July 2016) that the days, weeks, or even months leading up to your mission are difficult. I struggle with the devil and his distractions before I even step foot on a plane. It's an investment of time and focus, every day to be in the Word and communicating with God.
On this trip that's what I focused on beforehand. I now can say I am no longer motivated by an image of satisfaction through well-intended experiences, but by an overwhelming desire to serve and please my all-knowing Father and Creator. No longer am I controlled by a want for something I can't attain but through Jesus Christ.
I felt the calling early on, Christ inside of me was just prodding me to go. So when we finally landed in Panama, it was an unexplainable familiarity, like I belonged there in that moment. Typical greetings and introductions came once we got through customs, and I met our translator Karissa and our driver, Ramfis. We all hit it off immediately, and I knew Karissa and I would have an amazing time rooming together. By the time we reached the hotel, it was 9:30PM and we were all exhausted.
The next morning we went to the church service, seeing all of the people again was so joyous. Karissa translated the entire sermon, and we went out to lunch and the beach after, which was nice considering the heat. Janice witnessed to a Catholic couple on the beach, she was ready to go from the start. The day was full of introductions and scoping out the week. We had a VBS meeting in the church before heading to dinner. By the end of the day we were all wiped out, and prepared for VBS the next day.
The kids were eager to learn and try to speak English, the second we met them our hearts melted. We taught them values like respect, honesty, and love. It was hard, hot work, keeping up with them. After their lesson, and we played Futbol outside, the heat sucked the energy out of my body like a vacuum. My little amigo, Octavio, decided I was his permanent playmate whenever he so desired, leaving me panting and sweaty but it was beyond worth it. The third day two teenage girls got saved, a joyous victory.
I remember one day hearing Karissa say, "those six hours fell on me like fire," referring to her usual seven. I laughed at her but I was feeling it too. We sang and danced with the kids to songs we could hardly sing, attempting Spanish(and failing a lot if you're me). By the time the end of VBS came along we all had made many new friends. Octavio exclaimed angrily that I would be back Friday, to play Futbol again.
After VBS we drove back to Panama City, checking into a new hotel and planning our day of tourism. We visited the canal, watching ships pass through. My favorite part of the canal is the wind, when its 80-90 degrees the breeze is amazing. We went to an outdoor market, shopping for gifts and souvenirs . I wasn't ready for it to end.
To finish out our last day all the ladies and I went out on a long walk, sharing testimonies and stories. I could tell we were all a little closer than when the week began. The van ride to the airport in the morning was silent. I was reflecting on the week, praying for the two teenage girls who became saved and who they will impact. It was sad we were leaving.
If you're feeling led to go and serve internationally, Glen Locklear has mission classes that you must take in order to go. If you check the bulletin on Sunday it'll have the information you need to take the class. Don't let worldly distractions get in the way if you're feeling led. Mathew 28:19-20 is a great motivation for anyone who is feeling God push them towards missions.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Always remember, your life is a mission and the entire world needs to see God's love through us.