I was really blessed with the opportunity to go on this Guadalajara mission trip for the first time. I wanted to go on this mission trip because I received so many personal and spiritual benefits from going on the Egypt-and-Turkey mission trip last September and figured I’d experience something similar in Guadalajara. Recently, I’ve been graced with the desires to do all I can to please God, to grow in my relationship with Him, to be more like Him, and to forsake the things of this world. I’m not sure there’s a better way to grow in these desires than mission trips, so I was mostly excited and ready to sign up once the announcement for this Guadalajara mission trip was made.
Although I’m not sure I received a huge paradigm shift like I did from my Egypt and Turkey experience, which finally helped it click for me how I should make the Great Commission my absolute top priority in life, this Guadalajara mission trip was great, and through the experience, I think God has been moving in my life in some slow but significant ways. Honestly, I’m still processing how I’ve benefited from it personally and spiritually, but I’ll share some of what I’ve processed so far.
Firstly, I became a lot closer to the brothers that I went with on this mission trip: Brandon, Jeff, and Steven. I love Brandon and Jeff. Steven.. Eh.. He tried to get on my nerves a lot. At one point, as he was annoying the heck out of me, he asked me, “Don’t you miss your shepherd Jason?” And I realized I really did miss Jason, and throughout the trip I kept thinking about how great it would have been if Jason was there. So thank you Jason for being a great shepherd, and I’m sorry to Egypt HC. Just kidding.. Kind of.. But in all seriousness, I loved our team and appreciated all the hilarious times and the loving brotherhood and synergy we developed. Thank you for encouraging me, for translating for me so I could communicate with missionary Chu, for giving me context into the situations of the churches and villages from prior years, and for leading me well.
Next, I think I’m seeing my heart for praise grow. I had the opportunity to lead praise on occasion for our morning devotionals, and I am feeling more and more how it just helps get my heart postured more correctly than without it. I felt myself wanting to sing praises to God with others. The occasions that we did were great, and when we did not get to sing praises, I felt we could be missing out on a beautiful and important experience. I feel like whenever we just put Christian music on in the background, that would put my heart into a different state. I try to listen to Christian music whenever I remember to now, and I am slowly starting to look forward to singing praises more, especially with those of different backgrounds because it’s just awesome to experience how we worship the same God despite living very different lives.
I also feel like I am more able to overcome spiritual battles and general conflicts and difficulties through prayer. The first day of the trip was rough for me mentally and spiritually for reasons that aren’t that important to get into, but I really tried hard to pray that night that God would deliver me through that rough period and from Satan’s attacks, and the day after was much better. There were also some other rough periods like when we visited the village Guanacaxtle where I felt bad in my lack of ability to minister and serve the kids we met due to my lack of Spanish and due to being a bit awkward in general, and I was tasked to pray for the village in front of everyone and I felt like my prayers were not enough. But I tried really hard to pray that I would not feel useless or down on myself, which I think helped. We also ran into a situation where we were almost unable to deliver 2-3 months’ supply of corn for 60 families, but thankfully the corn was able to be delivered due to missionary Chu’s negotiation skills and the desperate prayers of our mission team and ANF. Satan definitely works hard to make us stumble whenever we go on mission trips and just in general, but I think I’m at least slightly building the muscle to lean on God during those times and trust that things will turn out OK.
I am starting to feel more compassion and understanding for the world and its struggles through the poverty we saw. We visited the house of the pastor of the village Guanacaxtle, Pastor Constantin, with his son who was like 4-6 years old, and the house was basically a shack with some tents. It was very run-down and bare-bones with no air-conditioning, and it gets hot in that area so I couldn’t really imagine living there for months – much less years – at a time. We visited 5 other villages, and I don’t know if any of them had air-conditioning, there were some with wells that were dried up and full of bugs, the toilets were pretty nasty, there were people with paralysis and other obvious physical ailments that didn’t have much access to medicine nor treatment, and the villagers had to oftentimes walk hours in order to just get the essentials like food or water or go to church. Although I was initially not really emotionally moved by the poverty, I think experiencing that at least partially helped me to better understand their situation and the privilege I have. It makes me more grateful for how we have more access to the gospel and church due to having transportation and not having to focus on survival as much, and how we and our families do not have to deal with as much physical suffering because we can go to the hospital and get medicine much more easily when we’re sick.
I now have a better understanding of the vast amount of opportunities to save the lost and serve others. Missionary Chu helped me see how many things we can do to help save the lost and serve developing Christian communities when I heard of how he reached some of these villages 20 years ago by just walking wherever in order to find them, when I saw some of the church buildings he contributed to building and some of the churches he helped establish by training the locals and checking up on them often, and when we witnessed his solutions or plans for other problems like lack of water, food, and general self-sustainability. And although I initially felt like we didn’t really do much to serve because honestly it seemed like missionary Chu could have taken care of everything we did on his own, my team members helped me see how we served missionary Chu by giving him company and an opportunity to do things with family that he wouldn’t normally do like eat at nicer restaurants. And although we did not physically do that much to deliver food, we gave the villagers hope that there are more people out there that care for them. So even though some of these things might seem small, they are still ways to help advance the kingdom of God, and now I feel like I will be able to see those opportunities more readily in the future.
Ok, I know this is a bit long, but I have two more points, and I think they’re the most significant from this mission trip, so bear with me.
Through the trip, I am growing towards a better understanding of God’s love and getting a greater desire and ability to spread that love to others. I thankfully had the opportunity to talk to missionary Chu one night in a more intimate setting, and in talking about his testimony, he talked a lot about God’s love and how he was and is so strongly moved by it. As he was talking about how much God loves each and every one of us so deeply, he seemed so happy, joyful, and amazed to the point where he was tearing up. I can’t do that conversation justice, so hopefully you all will be able to talk to him about it yourselves, but this conversation helped me understand God’s love better for me and has been helping me to feel more moved and comforted by it. He also mentioned how the love of God moves him to love others and helps him to love those that are difficult to love. He said that even though some people that he ministers to can be very difficult for him to love for a variety of reasons, it’s possible for him to love them because of how God loves and wants him so deeply, even though he is so dirty and unworthy in comparison to God. I felt a conviction that this would help lead me to being more loving and patient towards VIPs and others that may be harder to love. However, I failed pretty quickly at this, in a very ironic situation where as I was about to fly back to Dallas, someone called me, and when I saw it was my VIP I was like “ugh” because honestly I’ve been feeling like I’m pretty much exclusively giving to him and not really receiving much in return. I realized later how ironic that situation was, that right after a mission trip – where our main goal is to work on saving the lost – and in which I had a really meaningful conversation about loving others due to the love we receive from God, I was immediately having trouble being loving towards my VIP. So God may be slowly moving me to be more loving and to reflect His love to others.
Finally, my heart might be opening towards missions more. During the same conversation about God’s love, missionary Chu asked me if I wanted to become a missionary. I said something like, “I think I’m open to it, but one of my main concerns is that I wouldn’t be good at it.” Like who am I to think that I might be called to live as a missionary when I’m so weak and flawed in so many ways? What could I do? Missionary Chu’s response was, “What matters isn’t whether you do well or not, what matters is that you do it to the end. God doesn’t care about your results; he loves you so much no matter what.” So although I’m still not sure if I’m called to long-term missions or even more short-term missions, I am much more open to the idea of giving up my life for God in those ways.
To summarize, I was definitely blessed to go on this mission trip, and I think God is working in me slowly but surely. Please pray for missionary Chu as he goes through difficulties with his ministry, for the people of Mexico and Guadalajara to be strong in their faith and in their desire to spread the gospel as they face many obstacles, and for the brothers that went on this mission trip (Brandon, Jeff, Steven, and me) to live differently after what we experienced rather than simply going back to wherever and whomever we were before.
There are too many people to thank and for too many reasons, so I’ll just say thank you ANF, thank you God, and I love you all.