Story of my life. You expect students to want to leave early but not the professors…
Yesterday I made the most difficult decision in my entire life. Making the decision was easy because it was obvious what I had to do, but executing it was the most terrifying experience. I’m sorry that I had to say no, but I promise you that when this opportunity comes again, I will be more mature, more ready, and more happy to embrace this responsibility.
So it’s been a month since I’ve been back from a three month mission trip to Belize and I’ve always wanted to write a little recap on tumblr about my experience but kept pushing it off. I did a brief Q&A session at the church that sponsored my trip (Centerpoint Christian Fellowship in Gainesville, FL), and my whole experience was summed up into four simple questions.
1. What’s the difference between a week long mission trip and a three month one?
So I’ve been to Belize five times now, but the last four times have been a week long. It’s a jam packed schedule with no time to breathe. It’s exciting and exhausting all at the same time. It’s filled with constant contact with crazy excited Belizian children. When I went for three months, it was a lot more slow paced than I imagined. We (my two friends and I) were more like rubber bands as Brother Han (the pastor we served under) liked to call it. Some days we were stretched beyond our abilities and strength, and others we are just limp and relaxed. I felt a bit guilty on those relaxed days where I spent my time reading, watching shows, or sleeping in, but I had to be flexible and wait for the next opportunity to come along and take advantage of the rest.
2. What was your greatest joy?
The youth. I’m not used to working with high school kids. They act so cool and apathetic, I’m not sure what to do with my awkward self. But working with them was the greatest privilege. One of the youth groups we worked with disbanded because it was not working out a few years back. When we came, we tried to revitalize the group. At the first meeting, only three kids showed up. But by the end of our stay, we had over ten kids attend. My hope is that when I go visit next year, the youth group will be even bigger and more on fire for God. I was glad to have the opportunity to get to know them better.
3. What was your greatest struggle?
The youth. Lol! They were the greatest joy AND the biggest struggle. I’ll always remember this one experience. We hosted a boys only youth retreat. We were completely understaffed, and all the Belizian adults left us three interns alone while they went home to sleep. The night was filled with animal noises, screams, and locking us out of the cabins. I lost my cool and threatened them to open the door. A couple days later, I was reading a book (“Kisses from Katie”) and a line caught my eye. The author was responding to the famous saying “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Katie disagreed with the quote. GOD DEFINITELY GIVES YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE SO THAT YOU DEPEND ON HIM MORE. I missed that crucial yet basic principle the night I was locked out of the cabins by the youth boys. I never once asked God for help. I just tried to do it on my own, and that fueled my frustration and failure. It is something that I still struggle with. I am a control freak. I have to remind myself everyday to depend on the only one who CAN and WILL handle it.
4. What would you tell someone who feels called to do the same thing you did (long-term missions)?
Listen to Nike. Just do it! I feel that a lot of us have this tendency to think that we are not created to be in the mission field. We doubt ourselves. We feel that we have no gifts or skills to offer compared to those who seem “made” to do missions. “I can’t play instruments like so and so. I can’t speak in front of others like so and so.” We feel that we are just…ordinary. May I remind you, however, that God uses ordinary people. The Bible is filled to the max with examples. They were only seem extraordinary because we focus on all the accomplishments they achieved, but we forget to remember who they were before. They were ordinary people like you and me. Amos was just a fig picker and even he was called to do something that was not in his job description, yet he obeyed. Don’t focus on what you lack. It’s not about you. It’s about the God above and how far you will go to obey.