The mountains that called my heart 16 years ago….
Sixteen years ago I embarked on an experience that I had no idea about – no idea about the implications. No idea that it would lead to this. No idea of what a mission’s trip even was. No idea of the gains it would give me, of perspective, or the changes that would happen because I stepped foot on that team. And I still could not list how my life was changed because of those 11 days that I first spent in Guatemala. We often say, “I would not be here today if not for this.” Well that ICO trip serves as this moment for me…. The beginning of seeing the world immensely differently.
The truth is that I did not want to go. The truth is that a year earlier I was asked about going on that trip. And I said no – selfishly. I didn’t want to raise money for a mission’s trip. I didn’t want to give up my spring break. I didn’t understand missions. I needed to study and catch up on my academics after a long basketball season. I didn’t really see the benefit that a week could have – on either side. Except for a waste of money. And that is exactly how I felt. It was a waste of time and money. My roommate at that time asked me about going and I said no quite quickly – without praying about it. Without giving it any thought. But as she was preparing for Guatemala, and as her trip came closer and closer, I realized that God really was calling me to Guatemala. I realized that when my roommate asked me to go on that trip, that really that was God nudging me towards that trip. Nudging me towards surrendering more of myself and giving up yet something else. It was one of the first times in my life that I realized that my “no” to going was actually a “no” to God and an act of disobedience. This taste of disobedience is something that I have tasted a few times since… something that is stirred from within that I realize God is asking me to move and I need to be obedient to this calling. Whether I want to or not.
And so, before she even left, I made a promise to God to go the following year if God still wanted me to. That was my sophomore year. And as the beginning of my junior year started and trip signups began, there was no doubt that God was calling me to go. It was something strong within my heart. It was the call to obedience. And so, regardless of the fact that the Twin Towers had just been destroyed and there was a lot of fear about travel, I committed to that team that year. And my life has never been the same since. I never expected God to call me to the mission field again. I wasn’t going on the trip to explore what a life over seas might be like. And I most certainly did not think I would ever live overseas. I simply went because I knew God wanted me there. And I completely expected it to be a one time and done thing. Yet, like so many times….God had more in store for me.
There are moments that I can remember so clear while I was here the first time – where God spoke to me about my return here. And where I denied in my heart what He was doing. Time with the children. A culture that stole my heart. My understanding of missions broadening. Dena (the director of the orphanage) telling me that I would return here to this place. Not being frustrated through the challenge of communicating. And so as the following year came and God called me to return, I already understood a little deeper what obedience and disobedience looked like. I can’t say that I followed the path of obedience easier… or that it ever becomes easier. Or that I ever get it right. But I can say that that call God put on my life has changed everything. Absolutely everything.
I reflect upon all of this because last week that team from Grove City College just made another trip to the home – as they have year after year since that time. I didn’t get much time of interaction with them, except for a visit they made over here. But one thing I am sure of – there were hearts there who are open to what God has for their lives. They are hard workers. They have hearts full of love for Guatemala, for others and to serve. I am still grateful for a college that saw a need to give its students a greater perspective of the world. What started as inner-city outreach ICO has reached around the globe. And it made me reflect on what it was like to be in their shoes… and how I walked on this dirt here at the age of 20 having no clue that really God was doing something in my life that would change my future forever.
Here are a few pictures of the team that came this year…. Looking the same as we did 15 years ago.
The faces and smiles that captivated my heart.
The team taking a look at the hospital.