My trips this summer have been FULL of so much, so much grace, love, laughter, spirit, life, tears, joy, hope, wonder, friends… I could keep on attempting to expand this list, but I’m having difficulty articulating much of anything. I guess the best way to do this would be to go about highlighting things one trip at a time – lots has happened since i’ve last really updated.
Mexico Caravan – Miguel Aleman
We departed bright and early on my birthday, and as I picked up the first two students on my drive, this smile on my face set in and I don’t think it departed for days! As we arrived in Miguel Aleman in the late afternoon, I knew this trip would be a true adventure… I was suddenly learning that God, for some reason, thought it’d be really cool to have me run part of this trip… something she never considered. Prior to leaving, I had written all the lesson plans for said trip, and truly felt like that was enough. Well, there I was Monday morning at 7:30 am learning that I would be working alongside Jennifer in running prayer walks, visits to a garbage dump, and house visitations every day with different groups of students. It’s something I’d desired to see more of our the caravan trip to Mex., but never really believed it’d happen while I was around… HA! There we were, a 24 year old and 22 year old, and we were constructing with these two Mexican pastors, a new form of ministry with this church that would truly be changing the face of Faith Ministries work, let alone our own lives. The ideas came out that for starters, we would be going out every morning to different communities in the area and pray in the with our groups (we had 4 groups of students and adults total, which made up our group of 51). Each day, Jennifer and I would go out with Pastor Marcos to a different community and pray for the people in them, paving the way for invites from the church body in the coming weeks. Essentially our prayer was the initial touching stones for our friends at La Iglesia Presbiteriana de Miguel Aleman… God would be using our eyes, our hearts, our tongues, and our mouths for a purpose far greater than what either Jennifer, Scott (my boss), or I could ever really fathom. Each day brought on different challenges and struggles with these prayer walks. Our first day wasn’t really a prayer walk, because, well, when you’re in Mexico, I hate to break it to you, but there’s not a real clock in use. So the 9:30 am meeting time that Jennifer and I had with Pastor Marcos and David didn’t actually start til 11 am. In the meantime, we took the initative to take our group of 10 students around the different places that i was familiar with and do a drive by around the community, and it was the students first real introduction into prayer walks. Now, they’re not something I’m fully used to doing, but God has equipped me enough that I felt remotely comfortable attempting to explain it… it was simply amazing to watch our students, whom I barely knew at all, go from being afraid to pray a single word out loud, to the end of our day when eachh one of them prayed for a family we visited, a few in Spanish – the Holy Spirit was truly at work and I was simply dumbfounded and on my knees in awe and wonder. After daily prayer walks, our group ventured with Pastor Marcos to the trash dump, a few homes of which you can see at the right. Last year a group of 10 of us went there during our fun day, instead of swimming, and brought food there. It was there we discovered that people actually live on this football stadium-sized trash dump (basurero). Imagine if you will, smoke blowing everywhere, being slightly elevated up off the ground, and windstorms blowing through, blowing trash all around, along with dirt, glass, smoke, etc. Each day students were in utter shock at the depravity and desperation, and yet the joy and gratitude our friends showed us from the basurero. Because both Jennifer and I travelled there daily, we became good friends with a number of people at the dump, including this dear woman Maria Anastacia… my heart still breaks to this day thinking of just part of her story. Feel free to ask. Our final day at the dump, I met a girl, Priscila, who had a 2 year old. Her husband had been gone over a year, almost assuredly in the United States, having found work and most likely, another woman. She was left to fend for herself with some cousins as at the dump. Her son, Jose Fernando was probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen… and one of the most dirt-covered people at the dump. His mother, I discovered, was 21 years old, and hadn’t seen her husband in a year. As we talked, we talked about how precious and intelligent, joyful and beautiful her son was, and how he was having so much fun with one of my students. I gave her a huge hug and kissed one of her cheeks just before we left and whisped how assured I was that our Creator loved her and was holding her in his arms (brazos) and how all I wanted was for her to lean on him in her times of joy and struggle. She clutched so dearly onto me and said that she would. I said that he thought she was so beautiful and he loved her, and she whispered this word to me in Spanish that had me bawling our entire drive back to the church: “igualmente.” It’s easy – it means, equally; essentially, he thinks the same of you. There I was speaking to this woman in Spanish, finally not caring if i was wrong or write, just letting words pour from my mouth, and at that very moment, I knew that God’s spirit absolutely had to be moving in me and through me, because there’s no way all the thoughts I wanted to say were coming out, but his were… and that she could quietly and so innocently minister to me (well, that God could through this 21-year-old Mexican woman), was about as moving and beautiful as i could allow myself to think. As we closed in prayer for the final time with our group from the basurero, I found that words couldn’t even come to my lips. My heart broke in such a way; I found my heart questioning why? and how? and this isn’t fair! and this better not be the end, God!. But finally, all I could scream in pain in my head was God, you are SOVEREIGN and we claim victory in this place… you reign supreme. As I prayed, tears streamed down my face. I found it so utterly beautiful (not me crying), but the whole experience… we had just sung happy birthday to one of the children there, and our of our students as well, and there we were, a true community. We don’t know the exactly “fate” of our friends that day, but I know that God was making himself known – they wanted us back. More importantly, they wanted nourishment and life… and we were able to slowly explain to them that God was the nourishment and that life, that we were there not for ourselves or even for the people, but because we trusted that our God reigned. There’s so much more from that experience that i could share, but I’m rambling.
Our days each will filled with so many experiences, of a student who learned of his fluency and started to see God in a new way because of his ability to translate Spanish with such ease, to the students who finally were discovering family and community. God was far too good to each of us…