Wow, you guys. It's been a week since I came home from one of the most transformative missions I've ever been on.
My 7th short-term mission trip to Guatemala was heart-changing, faith-affirming, and equipped me with so much hope and truth that its too great to share in one blog post. I think this is going to be one of those "let's continue this over coffee" posts because my soul is on fire with so many incredible stories that I could share with you. I love to talk about my experiences in Guatemala because the unique type of service is not one that many people have the opportunity to experience, but when it comes down to it, Jesus teaches me stuff on these trips that I know my friends back home will relate to and benefit from regardless of religion, culture, or background. Since I've been home, I've noticed Him seeking me out and speaking into my life even more than I did while I was in the jungle.
So even though my heart was making this expression before going on the trip...
I recognize now that my own uncertainty and hesitancy was utilized by Christ as a vehicle to teach me more about His heart which was what I have been seeking all along. So here you have it, stuff I learned in Guatemala that will meet you where you're at.
1. I Don't Have to Fix it All.
I spend a lot of time buried in news articles. With my furrowed brow, I give my full attention to the latest commentary from the WBUR Newsroom and any NPR sound-byte nugget that I can find to use in my next pageant interview.
Ask me any question about the political climate in the US, racial tensions in the city of Boston, our broken immigration system, foreign trade, the opioid crisis, gun laws, LGBTQ+ inequalities and discrimination. You name it, I've got an answer and sometimes even a plan to set the country up for success in tackling the issue. I studied Political Science for two years and interned in the Massachusetts State House to add to my experience.
I was born to be a fix-it girl.
But there's a price that comes with spending every waking second looking at all of the problems. And if you serve in public office, Lord bless your soul. How high level politicians could ever manage to raise a family, show up for your kids, your spouse, your job, and your constituents is a spiritual gifting that I'm not sure I could hone. The comparatively small amount of time that I spent drowning in the negative began to shift my perspective of God.
I began to look at the broken situation and ask "what does this situation say about who God is" instead of looking to God and asking "God, what does Your heart say about how we should be taking on this broken situation?"
Pretty early on in our trip, I was reminded that my role in this world is to love God and to love others above all other things. To me, that looks like doing whatever I can to be a part of the solution to the world's brokenness. Serving brothers and sisters who are struggling to recover from drug addiction. Welcoming with open arms the gay teenager who's family has written them off and making sure that they know that they are just as worthy of love as anyone else. Calling out racism in a way that is carefully designed not to feel like an attack, but an opportunity to teach and offer a glimpse of another person's perspective.
I'm sure that there are Christians out there who would say that these actions that I would take are not the "Christian" way to do things. But I know in my soul that Jesus loves. He came to earth to love and He died because He loves the world. In following Him, I will strive to love it too.
2. Walking in Faith is Real.
One of the tasks that my group took on in Guatemala this year, was to deliver water filters to people in several different villages. 3 of these villages were totally new to our group. Delivering the water filters to them personally would allow our group to cultivate a foundation of trust and begin a partnership with the people living there. In order to get to one of these villages, our group had to cross a bridge.
Now when I say bridge, I don't mean...
I mean a bridge that every single one of our members looked at and felt panic set in. Here's an unedited glimpse of what I mean...
"I have never in my life prayed my way through an entire situation like I did when crossing that bridge."
This is what my new buddy Rich said to our group after a long day of serving and crossing this bridge more than one time in a single day. Terrifying, exhilarating, insane, and for the people living on the other side of the bridge, just a part of everyday life. But the experience was a reminder to me that your faith doesn't have to be gigantic, overwhelming, and 110% all the time. We're not always going to feel the presence of God in every waking moment of our lives. Sometimes faith the size of a mustard seed will grow to be the very faith that carries you through a terrifying season in your life that is filled with nervous laughter, anxiety, and shaky hands.
Maybe you're staring down your own demons. You could be struggling to rid yourself of a negative relationship, dealing with an inner battle of self-doubt vs self-love, you might feel like you can't even think about dealing with the weight of your struggles another day. But if there was one thing that made me take the first step to cross that bridge...and then the next step...all the way to the other side, it was faith. Faith says that I can get there because God placed me in this position at this time for His purpose for my life and that purpose is good.
"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
- Jesus in Matthew 17:20
3. I can See the Golden Thread.
I was reminded during this trip that my life is woven together by my experiences, my identity, my past, my present, and the things to come. Woven all throughout this tapestry of my life is God's golden thread. His presence in my life has opened doors that I've walked through and when I look back, I know undoubtedly that it was His hand working together the choices I've made and the things that I've done to advance His kingdom and prosper the blessings in my life. Even through the bad stuff.
My dear friend Kayla's testimony was a reminder of this. She lost her sister to a car accident caused by a drunk driver several years ago. And while her story included many hardships that she's walked through, she tied it all together with her understanding of the divine ability that Christ has to turn broken into beautiful. It reminded me that that is who God is. He turns broken to beautiful.
For me, I was utterly destroyed by a bad relationship a number of years ago. That's a different story for a different day, but after recovering my decimated heart from the carnage of a messy breakup, looootttss of therapy, and time, I'm able to see that God was able to spin the hurt and bitterness on its head and bring new hope into my life. Now I know what not to do. I understand who I am and have been able to fully dive into becoming the woman that God created me to be. My brokenness transformed into determination, unapologetic goal chasing, unashamed service with a crown on my head, and I was forced to believe the truths of what Christ's love says about me instead of the lies that I had been believing about what other people said about me.
I can see the golden thread. And if I'm being honest, I had forgotten what it looked like. It's not every day we sit down and reminisce about past heartache and seasons of learning. But they serve a purpose and God uses them to bring us back to Him and to remind us that our potential is greater than we know.
4. He has Prepared a Place for Me.
This goes back to my needing to fix all of the things. It's taken me and still is taking me lots of time to wrap my stubborn spirit around this one...
I don't have to fix all the things.
And I shouldn't. There are 7 billion capable, functioning human beings on this earth that should each be playing a part in creating a society that serves each and everyone of us in a unique way. It's not all up to me.
Not gonna lie though, I still (even as I'm writing this) feel like I want to rip my hair out and run down the street to volunteer for some nonprofit somewhere that serves homeless adults who are trying to find jobs or something. I always feel like I should be doing more.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
- Jesus in John 14:1-3
I was reminded that on my trip to Guatemala, I was placed there to serve. To pass out water filters, to sing Spanish songs with kids I had never met before, and to embrace the children that I have known their whole lives as I've returned to Guatemala for my 7th trip. And when I am home, He has prepared for me a place at Boston University where He opened the door for me to pursue my degree in Child Life. He placed me in the Miss America Organization growing in a sisterhood that loves to serve others. He placed me with a loving fiancé who makes me laugh and who loves Jesus so much more than he loves me- which I think is the best thing ever because we get to love Jesus more together.
Side note: Alex got baptized double dunk style in Guatemala this year... protip- bend your knees 😉
He has placed me in a home with backyard chickens who taught me that friendship comes in many forms, and with parents who made it their mission to mold me into being an unapologetic weirdo. He continues to prepare my place and He will always give me more to do when I ask. But He also reminds me, that I don't have to do it all.
So there you have it, folks!
If you're still craving for more of a peek into the trip, here's a sick recap video that I threw together with some insane drone footage and pictures from friend and fellow tripper, Richard Pelley!