It’s 4 days before my daughter and I join 13 other people from our church for a mission trip to Ecuador. The reality of what we are about to do is finally beginning to sink in. Although I’ve been to Ecuador before, there are still butterflies.
Will any of us be detained in the airport? Will we find ourselves in a difficult situation because we don’t know the language or culture? Will I be able to keep my daughter safe? Will we get sick from the food? The worries are sometimes overwhelming.
However, even though we are nervous, we are also excited. We get to meet new people, attempt to communicate when we don’t speak the language, try new foods, see beautiful landscapes we may only see once in our lives, and spread the love of Christ in the process.
I’m personally excited to share this experience with my daughter. The last mission trip really changed my perspective on life and I know it will do the same for her.
Affecting me in a deep and profound way were the two home visits we made in Quito, Ecuador.
One was the home of a disabled couple. We discovered this couple must maneuver a wheelchair and walker up a damaged walk, climb a few stairs, and navigate some tight corners just to reach their front door. Once inside their 2 room apartment, we found it furnished with only a couple of plastic lawn chairs. A clothesline was strung across the living area with clothes drying above the concrete floor. They had very little food in their tiny kitchen with tiny refrigerator. Apparently any refrigerator is a luxury in Quito so they were blessed by someone who donated it to them.
The 2nd home we visited belonged to a mom of 5 kids, one who has cerebral palsy. There was a steep staircase from the street leading down to their apartment. The 2 room apartment with a concrete floor was sparsely furnished similar to the 1st one. The other room held two beds that all six shared.
The kitchen, big enough for only 1 person to stand in, had no refrigerator or stove. The bathroom was outside and was shared with the woman upstairs. When one of the kids needed to use the bathroom, the mom was forced to lock everyone else in the apartment while she took the one outside to use the facilities. And to top off everything, the mom had to carry her child and her wheelchair up the steep staircase whenever she needed to leave the house.
The missionary who arranged the tour explained the dad abandoned this family and left them to fend for themselves. The mom had recently been fired from her job because she was caught stealing food from her work’s kitchen. The little money she made could not feed her children, so in utter desperation she resorted to stealing the food her children needed. This explained the meager food in the house.
I suddenly felt the need to escape this woman’s apartment. Choking back sobs, I ached to be alone.
The shame I felt was overwhelming. Just a few days before leaving for the trip, I had complained about our carpet and countertops. The stress of getting ready for the trip made me snap at the kids and my husband.
The appalling need in front of me was making me come to terms with the overly blessed life I was taking for granted. Even more distressing was their joy in contrast to mine. By their standards, I had it all and yet lacked joy. By my standards, they had nothing but had unmistakable joy.
My longing for more rather than being content with what I had was stealing my joy. When my family didn’t meet my expectations, they were subjected to anger and frustration. In comparison to the Ecuadorians, the love for their family superseded all other needs. Somewhere between the altar, the delivery room, and now, I had allowed that joy to turn to stress.
I came home a different person. My family comes first (after my relationship with God). Time with them is protected as much as possible. All requests for time already spoken for on my calendar receives the same response, “I already have something on the calendar for that time.” I have found this garners more forgiveness than the unwillingness to sacrifice time with family. And since I use it regularly, nobody knows when my time is filled with obligations or family.
And when the “I wants” threaten, I turn off Pinterest and pull out photos from these home visits.
I can’t wait to see how God uses the experiences on this upcoming trip to change my daughter.
We may be nervous at the unknowns. But we are also eager to get there and do what God has asked of us. To learn the lessons He has for us. To experience the culture and scenery. And hopefully make a lasting impact on the people we serve all while God is at work changing us to become more like Christ. It’s going to be an amazing trip!
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson