On my first mission trip I was fifteen. I didn’t understand why my parents were making me go and I was not happy with them for sending me to Mexico of all places, little did I know that they were starting my life of spreading the gospel. I was scared and absolutely did not want to go. I cried at the airport saying bye to my family and pretty much the whole plane ride over to Mexico. I traveled with three other girls from church, we were all minors heading into something completely foreign to us. We met up with about one hundred and fifty teens just like us and we split up into about six separate groups. Each group had to build their own church and perform VBS and outreach to their communities.
Each mission trip was designed by God to show me different aspects of His world and how in need His people are. Most of all, I have learned how to bring God’s light to places that would of remained dark if teenagers like me hadn’t signed up to go and spread God’s love. In Mexico on the first night we had worship and Steve Case, the Maranatha Ultimate Workout project coordinator, inspired me with some words that opened my heart and mind to missionary work. He said that every year Maranatha prays for God to send the people that He needs there and that by building these churches we are inviting more people into God’s kingdom.
Mexico was such an illuminating spiritual experience, I went the summer of 2010 and 2011. Both times we were located in Chiapas but each one was in a different community. I had never seen so many green mountains since I have lived in Texas my whole life. In the mornings I did construction and then in the afternoons I helped out with VBS. My friends who coordinated VBS were very creative and I was awed by their love and dedication to the children. I was drawn to the children and I did my best to make conversation. They loved to hold hands with us and follow us around. One of their favorite things to do was take pictures with us. We also did outreach and passed out Spanish literature such as Steps to Christ. We wanted to show people that we were there to help. We bought brooms and swept the entire city. It was considered a lowly job, but it got people’s attention. They would come up to us and ask why were here and we would tell them to build a church. It was a moving experience to see how the people were blessed to have us. They had been praying for years for us to come and they were in awe that we left our homes and families to come be here with them for two weeks.
Each mission trip was made possible through my SDA church family. They have supported me with love, finances and through prayer. Living in these counties for a short period of time was definitely a culture shock, I learned to not take the little things like my bed, shower, home, food and clothes for granted. Shoes became important to me because most of the children walk around barefoot. Even though they have less than us, they also have that genuine appreciation for what they do have. They have a simple lifestyle that they gain more from. The children look at us with such amazement when we tell them of God’s wonders. Through Esther they learn that God can always help you do the right thing even though it is hard. Through Noah the children learn that God always keeps His promises. Through Jonah they learn that you can never run away from God and to listen to His directions.
Serving others like this makes me feel like a disciple in a way and meeting up with a large group of teenagers who all have the same goal is phenomenal. It feels as if anything is possible because we are such a large energy force for God. The friendships we make aren’t ordinary friendships, they are friendships that are made through Christ. We become brothers and sisters in Christ and we look forward to all seeing each other in heaven.
God feels closest when I am separated from the stress and demands of everyday life, when I am over there none of that matters and it has taught me how to rely on Jesus when life’s uncertainties arise in everyday life. I choose to not just show the people God in my words, but in my actions as well. The people feel as if they won the lottery when we come, they get really excited and want to spend as much time with us as possible. Some families even make us things to give us in their gratitude for our visit. It is amazing when the people in the community come and help us build the church or they come and watch, they want to be a part of this historical event. No more make shift church for their home, but a permanent home of God where they can worship the One the love. They send us pictures of the church and they are absolutely beautiful. The love of Jesus overpowers and takes control of everyone’s heart, it is freely accepted because it is evident in all parts of life. Being a missionary is influential for both the missionary and the community because it opens up a door to Jesus that is universal.
Written by: Maxine Gonzalez (Maxine and her sister Erica is leaving on another mission trip this week)