How many of you start books and never finish them? How many of you are “reading” 5 books at the moment and a few of those you’ve been “reading” for 5 years? This article, “Biblical Literacy Begins with Reading,” reveals a problem we may have thought little about. It’s not about getting the Bible into the hands of more people. It’s about teaching those people to obey (Matthew 28) by actually reading and understanding the Bible in a way that translates into life. But not the kind of reading that we do haphazardly – intentional, focused reading with accountability.
There are a lot of Christian books out there about how to be radical today – how to live simply, be significant, make a difference, and all that jazz. Micah Project, an organization I worked with while I lived in Honduras, is not a tagline, but a transformational ministry. Take a look at this video to see their story (narrated by a boy who went from street kid to professional through the power of Jesus).
And, just because I don’t want your Monday to drag, check out this article on the “awe of God.” It puts theology and Mondays in their rightful places.
I am still trying to process and understand the many lessons from the past week. Really, it’s not just the week busting at the seam with lessons… it’s the week of the mission trip pointing to everything God has been moving in my heart over several years. This week, one of the students from the mission trip literally gave the shoes off her feet to a woman whose sandals were broken in half. She walked out with plastic bags tied around her ankles. Later, she told me, “I mean, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.”
I’m just sitting here, amazed by it all. God is transforming lives right in front of my face. I can’t shake off the joy! I just can’t! One thing I kept telling the students during the week was, “I promise that if you are serving the Lord with your whole heart, you will find yourself with an abundance of joy. I’m not promising this because I can give it to you… I’m promising because the Lord is faithful.”
I know I can’t tell them they will always be happy when they serve others, but I can say that a life of serving others will bring you close the Father’s heart… and there joy runs deeper than anything else. So, I’m trying to encourage this reflection of the trip because I don’t want the students to think it is only about the people or the memories (because given a different purpose, like vacation, they would have had a completely different experience with the people). I hope they will look back and remember how beautiful it is to come together in community with the goal of loving God and loving others… with an attitude of “a la orden” in the ways God has gifted us.
With that, here is David’s reflection. It’s very long, but very worth it!
Very frequently, as imperfect human beings, we tend to believe that the world is a bubble formed by our own problems, fears, difficulties, and achievements. However, when one takes the time to let go of worries and decides to focus on others, one finds that there is much more in life. As a Christian, I had many times wondered, “What is my purpose here? What is God going to do with my life?” It was this 2011 mission trip that served as an eye-opening experience and answered these questions I kept in my mind. This mission trip has been used by God to revolutionize my world and give me a new perspective on life.
“Why did we decide to do this? Why did we decide to give up the daily comforts we have? Why did we decide to make sacrifices that people out there might consider out of place?” If I were to answer these questions with one word, that would be LOVE. It is because of love that today we can declare that we are saved. What a greater example of love than He who came down to the world and took the nature of a servant, making himself nothing to give the world a chance? As Christians, we need to resemble Christ in every way possible; it is our duty, then, to go out to the world to share His love and His wonderful message of salvation.
Christian life is a narrow road that few are able to find. Once you find it, walking in it demands everything you are to the point that you are willing to give up all you are for it. Even though at the moment it might not seem so, at the end you will have what is actually important- the salvation of your soul. Personally, before going on the mission trip, I decided to let God guide me and was willing to listen to his soft whispers. Like always, He was faithful and gave us the most spectacular and spiritually-rewarding week that we could have asked for.
God called us during this past week to do several demonstrations of His love. Personally, what impacted my life the most was the evangelism we did at Villa de San Francisco. I was amazed after seeing how little people know about God and how desperate they are to establish communication with their Daddy, the one who gave them life and created them in His image. When I stepped out of the van with my group, I thought to myself, “I don´t know how, but God will do amazing things through us today.” I made no mistake. Just starting, we met a group of about five teenagers who were clearly not very pleased with us coming to talk to them; after giving us the opportunity to talk to them, a couple of them seemed to be interested in learning more and started to debate with us about whether God was real or not. Even though the conversation wasn´t as fruitful as we would have hoped, we were sure that some of the guys were questioning themselves about how unlikely it would have been that Jesus was made-up by history, taking into account the fact that He is the only one that has turned the world upside down in such a manner.
After our first encounter, we felt even more motivated to find people to talk to about God. We found several more people and talked to them about God and about His purpose for their lives. It was really hard to conceive that most, if not all, of the individuals we approached that day had misconceptions about the requirements for getting to Heaven. Several were amazed to be told that all that was required was to truly believe and accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior; many said they were not ready to make this choice, because they did not want to change their way of life. A guy we talked to that day told me, “I might be rejecting the best invitation that has
ever been made to me in my life; however, I assure you that one day you will come back and I will then call you ‘brother.´” This phrase made me smile, even though I tried to make him realize that the next day could be too late for him. Like him, many others shared how much need they had of a God who helped them get through life but how unwilling they were to give up everything for that God.
The seed has been planted, and we are sure that God is going to do what He needs to. We were just humble instruments used powerfully by the Holy Spirit throughout the week to bring a smile to a number of orphans, do a couple of work projects, and spread the Gospel. The world is in need of people who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe and for what God expects from them. Are we willing to be part of that group of people? Are we going to answer? We need to be ready to listen to God and be quick to answer, “Here I am LORD. Send me!” There is much more work to be done, and what God has done this past week in our lives is just a great motivation to let go of ourselves and give out all we are in name of Jesus Christ, our wonderful and mighty Savior.
There are so many stones for this monument of blessing! I’m learning so much from these students as we build up a place of remembrance for our Lord!
I’m just going to continue the comparison to a monument from earlier today. The ways God works and reveals Himself in our lives are like stones we pile up into mounds. Then, we can look back in the hard times and remind ourselves who the Lord is and His crazy faithfulness throughout history.
Read from Hiroshi about his experience:
First of all, I want to thank God for the mission trip. I want to thank all of you as well for praying for us while we were in this mission trip and for helping us financially so that we could be part of this trip. The mission trip was one experience I will never forget in my whole life. I am so happy I had the chance to be part of the group in this mission trip and be able to serve others and share the Word of God. So many amazing things happened in this trip that I don’t even know were to start.
The most important thing in this trip was how we were used by God to plant the seed in many people´s lives. As we were evangelizing, people opened their hearts with us and they were really nice and allowed us to spend time with them. As we were sharing, we learned how each person had some sort of problem and how they needed someone to help them. We were able to share how God is always with them and how they don’t have to do this alone. The most important thing was how we were able to tell them that accepting Jesus Christ in our hearts is the only way to receive salvation and how good works doesn’t get you to heaven. Even though they didn’t take the decision to accept Jesus and follow Him, we can be happy that we planted the seed and it’s their decision to receive that seed or not receive it.
Evangelizing not only helped other people to know about God, but it also allowed each one of us to learn a lot of things and grow in our relationship with Him as well. As we were sharing with all the people from the town, we learned how this people have all these struggles and we have all the resources to live, but we forget how blessed we are. It allowed us to remember how God is always taking care of us and how we should always give thanks to Him for everything we have. We should let our pride aside and realize we are nothing if we don’t have God. Evangelizing was one of my favorite experiences in this mission trip because I had the chance to talk to many people and learn things of them.
While we were in Valle, we had the time to spend some time with many kids in the orphanage. This was a really special experience. To see how this kids show love to each other and how they are always happy even when they don’t have all the resources is something that makes you want to cry. As we had a special night with all the kids, we were able to play some games and do some skits for them and share some testimonies. Once again, God used us to plant some seeds in many kids. I know that many of them took a decision to want to follow Jesus and change their lives.
Having the opportunity to serve by doing work projects, evangelizing and be with kids is something I wouldn’t change for anything. God blessed us the week on the mission trip and he used us being imperfect people to accomplish his perfect plan. Having the time to spend some time with the PCA people and have fellowship with them was something I wouldn’t change for anything as well. I had the opportunity to learn many things through them and knowing them helped me make new friends that love Jesus Christ as I do.
I am really thankful with every one of you. This mission trip has been one the best experiences I have had in all my life. While this week finished, I am more motivated to grow in Christ more and more and serve him every day of my life. I know that if every one of us being Christians serves in different places, many would know there is a God that loves them and wants them to be saved. I want you to now that I am really really thankful for helping me be part of this trip. God made amazing things during this week and He will continue to do His work throughout your lives and all of us here who are willing to serve the lord every day of our lives. God bless you all and I hope He keeps using all of you in many ways.
Remember in the Old Testament where the Israelites were constantly messing up and then God showed Himself merciful? It seems like quite often after a lesson was learned, the people built a monument – to remember how far they had fallen and how beautiful God’s great hand swooped down in rescue. I love that idea of monuments we would construct to remember the work God has accomplished in our lives.
For me, these stories are our monuments… a bunch of little stones piled up in mounds to make our monuments of blessings. Hopefully, we can look back at these stories and praise God for who He is and how He works through us when we make ourselves available to Him.
Check out what Daniel has to say:
So I am home now that the mission trip is over, and I am getting to understand just how great of an experience this mission trip was. It was great to get to know the PCA group from Dallas – they were each very special people. They helped make the whole journey special and worth the effort. I look back and I learned so much in so little time, and with the smallest things.
One thing that made me realize just how fortunate we are and how easy it is to help and give love was seeing the delight in the kids’ faces when we played games and gave them prizes. They were filled with joy and energy and each of them appreciated what we were doing, which feels great. Another moment engraved in my mind happened during the Tuesday night event. We had tons of pizza to give out for free, and some was left over. I remember when one of the guys gave a lady a full pizza, and the lady was SO thankful for that! She probably needed it to give food to her family. Moments like that are what make the trip worth it.
Another thing that I just thought of that I really liked is how both groups of students, PCA and ALP, bonded together as a family, and everyone looked out for each other and worried about each other. One specific example that I give is when we were swimming at the beach in Tela. We were all in the ocean and there were pretty big waves in it, and we were swimming over them and under them for fun. One of our girls was not the best swimmer around, so we always kept an eye on her to see how she was doing. Then a wave came and threw her around, and then when she got up another one hit her straight away. When we saw this all of us swam toward her and picked her up, and one of the guys carried her to the shore.
I guess that this is a reflection of your spiritual walk in life. You are in a vast ocean, and waves (trouble) often come and take you down, and they will keep you down if you are not careful enough. However, if you have friends that are near you and look out for each other, they will help you stand up and face those waves, not alone, but together. This is just a little idea that came to my mind as I wrote this, and it reminds me of Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” So now remember, you are not alone. Help is always found, especially when you are a Christian and trust in God to aid you. Be that helping hand to others who are struggling, and they will be there for you when you need them.
Beautiful words this morning! Here is a short photo montage of the trip that we will show in chapel. It is by NO means a full summary, but it’s a taste.
Wow. Yesterday I thought it almost impossible to gather the team before leaving (4 were coming from San Pedro and one was en route to the hospital after a soccer injury), but somehow we were ended up around a campfire to talk about our hopes and fears for the week. We were all in agreement that God has some pretty amazing plans set out for this time.
I won’t blabber much, because Carlos wrote up a little reflection to share… but I do want to mention that I was the brave one to hunt out a mouse this morning in our dorm, which sprinted up my leg. We still haven’t found it, so I might have a sleeping buddy. Today, we gave a cultural seminar and the PCA staff/students spoke in chapel. Then we went to admire the city from a lookout point on the way down the mountain before we headed to the orphanage for the afternoon. Okay – enough details. Here’s Carlos and his reflection:
God calls his servants to aid others in any way we can. There are numerous ways we can do this. For example, we can donate to good causes, give money to our church, go to orphanages, give food to the poor, go on mission trips, and many more. This week our school, Academia Los Pinares, has joined Prestonwood Christian Academy, for a second year in a row, to do a mission trip. A mission trip is defined as a trip with specific plans to benefit specific people or groups, outiside your culture.
So, we, the ALP students, are on an outreach project or service project in our country, Honduras, while the students and staff from PCA are on a mission trip; they are serving outside American territory. Anyway, whether you participate in a mission trip or outreach project, the goal is to spread God’s Holy Word, the gospel, to others through acts of service. Also, another goal is to help the individuals, spreading the gospel, to draw closer to God by sacrificing their commodity, work, money, etc. and just focusing on what God has planned for them. For example, sacrificing luxuries (hot water, good food, cozy bed, etc.) allows you to see that earthly things are not essential to your spiritual life. Sometimes, it is easier to see God’s work in your life and how He is working in it. Also, it lets you realize that all the things you have aren’t your,s but are from the Lord. The things you have, are lent to you by the Lord, who can take them away whenever He wants.
During the week of the mission trip, both ALP and PCA students and staff have decided to give up many things, such as luxury, to be able to come to Valle de Angeles and Tela to preach about God’s free and eternal gift of salvation. Finally, by sacrificing ourselves to serve others, we show love. In John 15:13, it says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
So, that’s the first of many students to share. I hope you are encouraged tonight! Tomorrow is a big day, so keep us in your prayers.
May the Lord strengthen us in His WORD and guide us in His light!!
There was a Ray Boltz song that my dad really liked called, “Thank you.” Actually, I think I might have sung it with him once or twice. Today, I thought of that song as I made this video with my students who are going on the mission trip on March 6-13. Each of these students have stories of lives changed by someone’s willingness to share the message of the Gospel. Now, they are taking that hope and boldly walking in faith to share the message with communities around them. We are so thankful for sponsors and support from our teaching staff and community here, but we couldn’t figure out how to express our gratitude for the ones far away. This specific video is a thank you to the church in little Atlantic, Iowa… where the people have hearts WAY bigger than the town!
I hope your heart is as warm as mine after hearing their grateful hearts! These kids are such a beautiful reminder that God is forever moving and working in our hearts to bless others. Each time I hear their testimonies or witness their crazy lives in motion, I praise God for his faithfulness. There are other sponsors as well, from both the States and here and we continue to be so thankful for God’s provision through them!!