It is hard to put into words all that is in your heart and mind once returning from a trip overseas. As Christians, we are in awe of what we see God doing in the world! We are stunningly aware of the truth of God’s statement in Psalm 46:10 “Be Still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Yes, you will God! Yes, you will!
Below I list 5 observations/reflections from our recent trip to Ecuador.
- God is still saving people!
Several years ago during our trip to Ecuador, we finished up our trip by having a foot-washing-service with the staff there at the camp. It was a very meaningful time together with another U.S. group as we thanked, blessed and served the Ecuadorian ministry team there. One of the interesting things that happened that night is that there was an indigenous man in the room who was observing all that we were doing. This man was not a believer in Jesus. The folks there know him well, and he is always welcome there. But he and his wife had not decided to follow Jesus yet. Well, as we were washing feet and singing songs, one of our group members went to him and asked if he could wash his feet. The man (surely curious about what was happening) allowed our team member to wash his feet. I remind you that this indigenous Indian man wore sandals, not shoes, and his feet were more rough than any feet you would ever see in the states.
After the service ended, nothing more was really said or done and the night ended. We traveled home to the US the next day. A few weeks later we were informed that the man had been shocked by someone wanting to wash his feet. He asked what all that meant. And an Ecuadorian staff member was able to explain Jesus and John 13 to him. Our Lord Jesus is a servant. Not only does he serve us daily and physically, but Jesus also serves us eternally and spiritually. He died for our sins. If Jesus does not wash your sins away, you cannot be His follower. We rejoiced to know that this unbelieving man had been served by a Christian, had his feet washed, heard the truth about Jesus, and was thinking over all of that. Indeed, seeds were planted and watered that summer!
That was 3 or 4 years ago, and I had not heard anything more about it since then. When I arrived in Ecuador this summer (2014), one of the first things I was informed of is that that man had become a follower of Jesus and was about to be baptized. I was so delighted to hear this good news! I asked questions as to how this came about. They went on to tell me that the man had continually been thinking about a God who washes feet and has people who wash feet too. And the man explains that that foot washing that night was key in him coming to faith in Christ. That real-life story along with many others is proof that God is still saving people in Ecuador!
- The needs are still huge!
While we were so encouraged by all that we were seeing that God is doing, it is still very obvious how great the needs are. Specifically, the need for teachers and trainers. Not only are the church folks eager to be taught, but the leadership of the churches are begging for someone to train them. I recently began re-reading Reaching & Teaching by David Sills. Dr. Sills speaks directly to this great need.
I am already considering and planning how our church can take another separate trip specifically to do pastoral training.
The world is so full of people. We often hear of 7 billion people on earth. And we know that is a large number. But it is always overwhelming to get into a crowded city and think “Wow! There are a lot of people here!” Whether we were in the capital city Quito (2 million plus) or in the small indigenous town of Apatug, we were realizing how great the need is for Christian people to be here making disciples for Jesus.
- Kids can go!
Kids can gain a lot from short-term mission trips! Valeria and I were hesitant but we decided to take our 4 children on this year’s trip. That is a 6 year old, a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a 17 month old in a third-world-country for 16 days. Upon our return back home, we are happy that we took them. They are learning so much from their time spent in Ecuador.
1) They are learning first-hand about international mission work. Not only do they hear about missionaries from home, but now they have real relationships with these heroes! 2) Their intercultural awareness is much increased. They are more familiar with the world’s diversity. They have eaten unfamiliar foods. They have been to unfamiliar homes and churches. They are speaking Spanish better and better. They have friends now who have no idea of the American lifestyle. And 3) It was not that hard on them. Sure there were times they got worn down and fussy. But that actually happened to me more than them. Honestly, they did great. They enjoyed it. They got tougher. (Above is a picture of JJ asleep against the plane window. Eli is asleep in his lap. And Carolina is asleep on Eli.) They are better off now because of the trip. We hope to take them again regularly. Kids can do short-term missions trips!
- Serving can be enjoyable!
Serving, helping, working can often be burdensome and not enjoyable. That is certainly the case when we are not focused on Jesus. But when we do delight ourselves in Christ and aim to be like him, serving can be a blessing. I saw that very clearly this year in Ecuador.
Our church sent our largest team yet. Twenty-three folks from FBC Fairdale went on this year’s trip. Everyone was so eager and willing to work hard. Hundreds of dishes were washed and dried by hand each day. Toilets were scrubbed each day. Floors were swept and mopped each day. I even saw little children walking around with bags gladly giving away their own toys to other kids.
As our pastor, it was thrilling to witness all of this humility. Our team was so focused on living like Christ and helping others. There was no complaining. We all looked out for each other. And we were very happy because of it. Several of our team members pointed out – there is no reason we shouldn’t be serving like this back home. That is absolutely the truth. Serving can be enjoyable! As Trip Lee says “I’m nothing special, just a vessel. Service makes me happy!”
- Good for the church! These trips are so good for our church. They really are. They are good for us there. And they are good for us here. They are good for those who stay home and support through giving, prayer, serving in the absence of others, and observing those who go. They are good for those who go because they get to see the world, are opened to the greatness of God, the diversity of peoples and cultures and languages. They are fantastic for the church when the team returns home. The new fervor and zeal is so healthy and contagious. They are so good for individuals. Many have been called to a life of career missions through a short-term trip. Many have learned how blessed they are. Many have learned how selfish they are. Many have learned how to reach out. Many have learned how blessed they are to have a church family.
These trips are such a blessing! As long as I am a part of the church (until I die), I want to be involved with short-term mission trips. They are so good for the church.
As always, we were so blessed by this year’s trip. We are continually learning! May God be glorified through us as we serve Him! And may FBC Fairdale become more and more of a Great Commission Church!