We just had a team return from Guatemala. It was our church’s 4th trip in a year. We have embraced Guatemala and we love it’s people. The hope is that we will be going to Guatemala until our last breath, if that is what God intends for us.
My husband and son have both been on two of the trips. My future daughter-in-law has been on two of the trips. I have been on one (so far). My husband and I just celebrated our 25th Anniversary and our plan is to be able to go to Guatemala together in December. It takes a lot of juggling for us to leave town at the same time. Owning your own business can do that to you, but we are determined to go and have the opportunity to serve together.
Each time any of us have come home from the trip, we have been broken. We have been ignited. We have passion. We have purpose. And we can’t wait to go back. We have seen those same things in almost every person that has gone. People come back all fired up. But sometimes we start to forget.
Having been witness to people who have come back fired up (including myself) had me wondering what we can do to keep those fires burning? To keep our heart pierced for the people that we served and left? One thing I absolutely love about what our church is doing is that we are building relationships. We aren’t serving in a remote village, never to show up again and see things through. We are going back to the same places each time. Learning names. Making friendships. Taking photos. Giving them gifts. Cooking for them. They are cooking for us. They are giving gifts. This is relationship. This is how it should be done. One stepping stone at a time.
I’ve been so thankful for social media like Facebook. Through it, relationships are continuing to be built. I speak to some of my Guatemalan friends as often as I do the ones who live in my town. What a fabulous tool we have!
Some thoughts for keeping the fires burning. And please know that this list came from discussion at home for all of us. This past trip was the first one where someone from our household wasn’t able to go. How do WE make sure we never forget? That OUR fires continue to burn with intensity for the people of Guatemala!!
(I will use Guatemala but please think of wherever it is that you have served)
1. Pray. Pray that Guatemala will pierce your heart and you will be at the point of ~having~ to go back. That you feel homesick when you are not there and others are. Not jealous. Never, ever jealous. But that you have a longing to be with the people. To be with your other family.
2. Keep in contact with the people of Guatemala. Use social media. Send a letter or gift. Keep building those relationships even though you are hundreds of miles away.
3. Talk about your experiences with others. Let them see how fired up you are and it helps to spread the passion. The more people who are excited about this ministry, the longer it will continue. At this point around 60 people from our church have gone to Guatemala. That is so exciting!! And you don’t have to get on the airplane to be involved. Donating items, vitamins, money or time to prepare crafts, etc. is all so vital and makes you a part of the team. Praying for the people of Guatemala and the teams that travel to there makes you a part of the team!
4. Don’t allow yourself to be puffed up because you went on a mission trip. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But sadly, we are humans and our nature is to pat ourselves on the back. “We did this”; “I did this”; “Look at what I did”…….no. It’s look at what God did. God did this. God used us. God allowed me the opportunity to do this. It is never by our own strength or ability. It’s all God. Hallelujah!
5. Stay informed. Make sure that the leaders of the ministry are keeping you informed. Once you’ve been on a trip, you should be on a mailing list that allows you to know what’s happening in the villages. Keep your leaders accountable to that. All who have a vested interest in Guatemala belong to this ministry. (We are fortunate in having a Facebook page that our Mission Ministry leaders use to keep us up to date. Most recently a villager passed away and everyone was able to know about this, whether they knew him or not because of the use of social media. Grateful.)
6. Stay in the Word. Sounds so easy yet it’s one of the toughest things with our busy lives and schedules. Stay in the Word. Do a Bible Study on missions. Read a novel about a Missionary. Find scripture that relates to service and missions. Keep fanning the flame.
7. Take some of that energy and put it into your local church and community. There are many, many ministries that need our contributions. What are we doing in our own communities? What are we doing at our churches? What teams are we involved in right here in our own backyards? God calls us to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ~then~ to the ends of the earth!
8. Pray. Mentioning this again because it is vital. It is our lifeline. The IV hookup we need to be solid in our faith, unwavering in our passion and strong in our desire to serve. Pray for your own life and growth. Pray for the Holy Spirit to keep the drive in you. To not allow the burdens of our everyday life to put out the flame. And also pray for the villagers who you want to serve. Pray for their health. Pray for their lives. Pray for the children. Pray for their leaders. Just. Keep. On. Praying.
To those who have served on a mission trip, what would you add to this list?