Over the past two summers of my life, God has given me the opportunity and courage to go on mission trips. My first time was in the summer of 2012 and I went to Nicaragua. At first, hearing about these mission trips scared me. I thought being away from home for two weeks, in a far away place, with a bunch of random people and unknown plans was just frightening. My older sister Maxine who had been on a couple of mission trips before me kept on telling me how much fun these trips were, and how i would really enjoy it. That’s when I would laugh and say, very funny! I don’t see myself ever going. I’m good with just hearing all of your life changing stories and experiences. Well, not very long after I had that in mind, I realized that I did want to have those life changing experiences. And I did want to tell amazing stories of how through God, I would be able to help others come to God. I did want to teach them Bible stories showing them that there is a God up in heaven and he wants every single one of them there. So that’s when i decided i was going to go on Ultimate Workout 22. To help spread the word of God, and do whatever work God had planned for me.
As I was preparing for this trip, I remember people telling me how lucky I was for getting to go and how brave I was since it was so far away and I would be separated from everyone I knew who was going. At that moment I thought, what was I thinking? I’m not lucky for this, I am certainly not brave, it is really far away, why am I doing this? I wasn’t sure how to feel about it anymore. But I had already made the decision to go. I prayed night and day to God asking to help me get through this, and asking if he could please make the two weeks we have to be there seem like the shortest two weeks of my life because i had become so terrified.
The first day of the trip finally arrived, and I cried my eyes out. So many things were going through my mind at the time, and I was still so scared. At least I was traveling with my sister. But I knew we would be separated soon. As we were traveling, all I did was pray. I couldn’t think of anything else to do because I had no idea what was going to happen during this trip. Well after a couple hours of crying and worrying went by, that’s when I thought, maybe this is just all apart of God’s plan. Maybe He has something amazing planned out for you, you just don’t see it yet. What if being apart from Maxine wasn’t going to be such a bad thing. What if these next two weeks will allow you to make new friendships and strengthen your relationship with God? So I decided to change the way I thought of everything and just put all of my trust into God and hope that he would make my experience better than i ever could have imagined.
I can honestly say that those two weeks was the best time of my life. Everything that happened really did seem like God planned it out perfect for me. By the end of the trip I didn’t want to come home.
I had gotten so used to being around people who believed and wanted the same thing I did, its different than being with my school friends. I had gotten used to eating healthier foods and waking up early to get work done. The one thing I found hard to get used to was cold showers. But everything else was just so great I didn’t want that feeling to go away. I felt truly blessed that God gave me this opportunity. I got to help out with VBS and teach the children the importance and many wonderful stories of God. And that was my favorite part because all the kids loved that we were there, and they loved learning about God. I really believe that because of this trip, my relationship with God has gotten stronger. Through this life changing experience, I knew I wanted to go again.
My second trip was this past summer and I went to Ecuador. Now I knew that this trip would be different than the one before, because it was at a different location, and different people were going. But I still prayed to God to help me get through it, and I asked if I could please experience more incredible things and to help me to continue spreading His word to as many people as possible. In Ecuador my site stayed at the local church in Ambato, Ecuador. We had bathrooms but no showers. The showers had to be built with wood and trash bags. On the work site, I mainly helped out with painting. It was an enjoyable time, I’m happy to say that I was apart of making the finished look of the new church. But before the trip started, I prayed to God asking to give me the strength and ability to actually lay block. So one day of work, the paint crew said they only needed a certain amount of people and construction needed more. I saw this as a sign from God for me to go help with laying the blocks to actually say I helped build the church. I am most proud of that day I helped with construction because now I can finally say I was apart of making that church. The church so many people had been praying for and so many people needed. I helped make that happen.
To this day I have no regrets of my decisions to trust in God and go on these mission trips. I am so grateful to my parents and church family because without all of their love and support, I wouldn’t have been able to go. And I wouldn’t know what I know now,Which is to not take what we have for granted. Because we are very privileged to have more than enough in our everyday lives, when some people in different areas of the world struggle to survive with how little they have. Its incredible to see how much they appreciate what we think are little useless things here, but to them means so much.
I also learned to not get caught up with all the troubles and hardships we go through everyday, and to just put it into God’s hands and trust that it will be okay in the end because its not as bad as we may think it is. I learned to value family. Although you live with them, and you see them everyday, anything can happen and its important to always remember that through everything they will be the ones there for you. And also, two weeks of being apart from them can make you realize how much you really love and care about them. I learned to take chances and follow your instincts. Because when you’re doing the work of God and spreading his Holy word, He won’t let anything harm you. He will only help and guide you. All you have to do is believe that God can do incredible things and His way of showing you can be different than you expected.
Written by: Erica Gonzalez (Erica and her sister Maxine is leaving on another mission trip this week)