Thursday, May 7, 2015

What comes first?

Have you ever been on a mission trip? I didn’t have the opportunity until I was an adult. I was a volunteer youth counselor, one of those adults who assisted the youth pastor and came alongside the youth during Bible study or camp or retreats or Sunday school. I was just out of college, but our cadre of counselors spanned age, gender, education level, ethnicity, etc. to better allow the youth to find someone with whom they could really connect.

So, I’m in my early 20’s, newly married and new to Texas, working as an administrative assistant when the youth pastor asked if I would be one of the adults on the summer senior high trip to Proyecto Abrigo. And it was such a life-changing experience that I was glad to use all my vacation time for the year on it.

Proyecto Abrigo builds cinder block homes for poor families in Tierra Nueva, Mexico, which is just outside Juarez. And by “home,” it’s more the size of what you and I would consider a small bedroom. But they were significant improvements over cardboard shacks, houses made from old shipping pallets, or living in an old school bus.

While we were there, the program director made sure we went to the restroom before we left the dormitories in the morning, since there was no place to go on the work site except for the community hole at the end of the block. While we worked under the diligent eyes of the maestros, local men who served as the foreman for each house, we were careful not to trip over the daisy-chained electrical cords that supplied what electricity there was from the central pole in town.

But one of the challenges I faced most consistently were the roads, or rather the lack of them. Tierra Nueva was being constructed on top of sand, which had been piled up over an old garbage dump. Yes, it was new earth, but the kind that was given to the poorest of the poor who were willing to stake a claim and build a house there.

Each morning, our mission group caravanned to the work site. I often drove one of the big, white vans. There were established ruts that ran through town after you left the paved road, but they were easy to confuse. And you always had to be on the look out for the odd bus that would come careening around a tight turn. But somehow, it all worked out.

I was reminded of this experience when a pair in the Krum church, a mother and son, went to serve for a week as a part of a medical mission in Haiti. Seeing the mother this past Sunday, which was the first time since she returned, although I have been moved to tears by her Facebook posts of pictures and reflections, I asked her how the trip was.

“It was amazing.” She talked about the children’s lives that had been changed because these medical professionals were willing to take time out of their own busy practices to give their skills and training away. She noted that while they probably all had distinctive and precise ways they operated at home, they were able to come together as a team, making do and making it work for the sake of the community they were serving.

And then she said something that has stuck with me that spoke to me at a deeper level; she said, “I think it’s because none of it was ‘mine’ there. It was all ‘ours’ whether it was the medical supplies or the roads. The driving was crazy, but there were no accidents because we were all in it together, trying to get from one place to another.”

Can you imagine it, brothers and sisters? A world where we’re not so stuck on what is “mine,” but instead we work together? We all succumb to the temptation at times to put “me and mine” first.

But Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing…Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:22-23, 31).

When we seek the kingdom first, by serving others, whether they share our faith or not, everything else falls into place in our lives. May you find your God-given way to serve!

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