Tracy said..."How has love changed your life?":
Many years ago, when I was first saved, the church I was attending had a mission trip to Mexico. In my own naïve way, I sort of understood there was a need, but to me it was, well, Mexico… I grew up in Arizona, I’d been to Mexico multiple times, and it just didn’t seem really exotic. But I was a new Christian and it was a mission trip, and I was excited! I just knew that I had something to offer. While that was true and in itself a good thing, I’ve since realized how prideful I was. It never occurred to me that I would bring back more than I could give.
Our church had a sister-church in Mexico that we were partnering with. We did a clothing drive before we left, with the intention of giving it all to our sister church to have on hand and distribute as they saw fit. I was a part of the team that went through the clothes, sorted into groups and sizes, etc. We had a ton of clothing dropped off, which should have been a good thing. Unfortunately, I was shocked and horrified at the amount of clothing that was given that was torn, completely stained, vulgar and offensive, or otherwise completely inappropriate! We salvaged what we could and though we threw away about half of it, we still managed to take down a decent sized load.
The specific plan for our mission trip was to help re-build a church that had burned down. Now, I’m not exactly a construction whiz, but even I understood how much more difficult it would be without basic construction equipment – like a bobcat for moving dirt, or an abundance of fantastic power tools to make it easier, faster or more fun! Everything was pretty much done by hand, including digging out, and moving, huge boulders. It was hot, and dirty, and very laborious. It was also fun, lively and extremely rewarding.
One day, we stopped construction early to go spend some time at “Cardboard City.” Of course, that term can sort of give you an idea of what is coming, but “sort of having an idea” and confronting the reality of the situation, are vastly different things. There was an area of land, outside of town and next to the local dump, which had become home to hundreds of the poorest of families. The dwellings were literally made from cardboard, which conveniently came from the dump next door. The sights and the smells were overwhelming.
To say that I never realized how rich I really was would be a GINORMOUS understatement! It was shocking and heartbreaking. But it was also enlightening. These families were just doing what they could to survive. They had next to nothing. The basic necessities were absent. But they made do. The families stuck together. Children were running around and playing, like American children would. But unlike American children, sticks and cans were their toys, and they were happy to have them.
One incident in particular is crystal clear in my mind. One of the gals on the trip was a truly delightful teenager. Kelly was passionate for God, and a very hard worker. She had also taken three years of Spanish, so she was a great translator too! When we were at “Cardboard City,” all the children were drawn to her – especially the girls. Kelly was young and very pretty, with blonde hair, blue eyes and braces. She hugged and loved on every child that approached her. They all wanted to touch her blonde hair and were totally fascinated by her “teeth jewelry.” In my own ignorance, it hadn’t even occurred to me that they wouldn’t know what braces where! Kelly was great about it all – she talked to them, explained what braces were and let them look closely at them, she let them play with her hair and just loved them! I realized even then that I was actually witnessing the love of God in action and what Jesus would do. That teenage girl taught me more about the heart and love of God than any preacher I’ve ever heard, to this day.
Before we left, we had church in a small metal building set on concrete. The service was in Spanish, there was no air conditioning or even seats, and worship was sung with an old tape player and tape – also in Spanish. But boy, did God meet us there in a huge way! I think most of us were completely broken at that moment. When it was time to leave we received hugs and smiles that would melt an iceberg. It was a far more somber group that went back that night. The experience was too great and precious for frivolity, and I think there was a lot of introspection being done, and I’m certain we all left a changed person.
When we left for home, I brought a souvenir. Of all the boulders that were found when we were doing construction, I personally found the three biggest, that had to be dug out and removed. I brought home the smallest of these three boulders. I cleaned it up and was delighted to see how pretty it really was. I then selected a Bible verse to paint on it, to remember this very special trip. Returning home, I knew I received far more than I had given. I had given my time, tons of sweat, and even some tears and blood. Among the many things I received was a compassionate heart, an awareness of just how blessed I really am, and memories that will last a lifetime!
Oh, and about the boulder. I still have it and it remains one of my most prized possessions. The Scripture that was painted on it is this:
“And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” ~ Matt. 16:18-19