A few days ago, Josh wrote on our missions blog about how our trip to Costa Rica last week challenged him to question where his heart finds contentment. It’s a good post, and if you haven’t read it already, you should. Hopefully Nate will write a little about what he gained from the trip as well. And Emily. We’re still waiting on her to make her debut on the missions blog. (chicken.)
But I’ll just do mine here.
It’s really easy to come home from a missions trip and talk about what we did there. People always ask the questions that are easiest to answer… like “what was the food like?” or “was it really hot?” or “did you go to the rainforest?” Those are easy answers. Most often, people ask, “so what did you DO?” I tell them about the construction project (“we put a roof and a floor on a church”) and the children’s ministry (“we taught some bible lessons and made some crafts with the children”) and they seem content with that answer. Or I tell them that Emily and I got to know the area, and walked some neighborhoods, and met our future team. Great summary…Sounds good.
But it’s not enough. That’s not what happened.
I mean, that stuff did happen, but it’s not enough to talk about what we did without talking about what God did. None of the stuff we did on the trip matters if God isn’t working mightily through it.
The last night of our trip, our team sat around and talked about the ways that God had moved in our hearts in just 8 short days. For everyone it was different. I wish I could share each person’s journey, but those are not my stories to tell. God taught each of us new things, and we shared them with one another. Most of us cried. But it wasn’t just some spiritual high from being on a missions trip. I’ve had those. This was different. For me, this whole trip was different.
I listened as the team told story after story of lives that were changed – theirs and ours – after coming in contact with one another. Of ways that God encouraged Costa Ricans by sending a random little group from Mississippi to pray with them. Of ways that God encouraged Americans by showing them what it looks like to have blind faith and little else. Of ways that God drew the team to Himself during hours spent in prayer and Bible reading, because there’s nothing else to do in your free time out in the middle of nowhere. Of the way they fell in love with Costa Rica and its people.
I listened as my father and 8 members of my church talked about how much they love these people and want to be involved. About being on board with this ministry and its work. About being passionate for the ways that God is working in Costa Rica.
I cried as I listened. God was confirming yet again, through this small team, that this is exactly where he is calling me.
I was watching people develop a passion for the very place that God is sending me, and it was beautiful.
One of our teammates looked right at us with tears in his eyes and said, “I want you to know something. When y’all move here, you’re not alone.”
And it’s true.
We’re not. God showed me last week that our church is behind us. My family is behind us. Our friends are behind us. In a sense, they’re all going with us. We’re not alone.
And our future team is there. I spent a week living in Heather’s house, eating her food, playing with her children, chatting over a kitchen table till the wee hours. I hung out with Jana, our team leader’s wife, and learned about her journey. I listened to both of those ladies’ stories of how they ended up in Costa Rica, and I was amazed at the way that God has been working in all of our lives at the exact same time for many years past to bring us to the exact same place. Our stories are intertwined. These women are with me. We’re together.
I met Adele, a Nicaraguan woman who helps Heather out at home. Even though they don’t speak the same language and come from different parts of the world, God has knit their hearts together in a beautiful way. A friendship that transcends culture. And He will provide that for us.
I spent the week sharing a room with Emily (and baby Matthew), a woman I’m bonded with not only because of our past friendship, but because of our future calling. Next year I will physically leave all of my lifelong friends behind, except for her. She’s going with me. She’ll be there, just like she has been for the past 5 years.
I sat in church on Sunday listening to everyone around me speak a language I don’t understand. We sang tunes I knew by heart with words I could not understand. I followed along, singing foreign words with foreign people, but our hearts were the same. We were brothers and sisters, worshiping our Father. We’re miles apart, but we’re the same. Christians living in a world that’s not our home.
We’re not alone.
But even if all of that fell away, even if I were moving somewhere without a friend, without a team, without a Christian church, I still wouldn’t be alone. He promised me that, and that’s enough.
All week long this truth resonated in my heart. These are blessings. These are loving gifts from my Father’s hand. But they are not my life, my survival. Jesus is enough. With him, I’m not alone.