How I do condense 9 amazing days into something short enough to keep your attention??? Sometimes I write on my blog as a means of journaling and having something to reflect back on later in life. For this trip, I journaled in my actual journal each day while I was gone. Let me try to capture a few things that I learned about myself, about God, about missions in general and about life in a foreign country:
There is no doubt that I like to know what's going on and what the schedule will be. It wasn't so much a control issue. Our last afternoon was spent in Mexico City. I knew the shops closed at 6pm and was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get off the bus. After 6pm, I had no clue what was next. I'd heard that the Pastor had a surprise for us. Later, after walking, travelling by subway, then by bus, and then walking a long while more, I asked where we were going. It was closing in on 8pm and we hadn't eaten; my feet were tired and my belly was hungry. From the time we left the shops until the time we arrived at our suprise meal place (they thought we wanted American food our last day... how sweet), there was no communication about what was going on. I enjoyed the adventure but would have done so well if I knew up front that we were meeting after 8pm for supper with the Pastor.
Having a schedule helps keep me sane but so does quiet time with God. This is a constant struggle of mine as I wear many hats. I typically get 3 decent quiet times each week (when Ryan leaves to work out in the morning) and then some sporadic prayer and quiet time in between. Prioritizing time with God was awesome and I realized how much I'm missing... how much I'm cheating myself. Reading through 1 Thessalonians was a perfect fit for the week and I'm treasuring that still.
I continued to learn that I need to constantly check my attitude and also need to constantly be thinking about how I'm portraying Christ. Both of these came as reminders from Isaac when he'd playfully tell me that I needed Jesus or that I need to change my attitude.
He will use whatever means necessary to bring glory to His name. Even if its through a fun skit that has no biblical meaning. Our translator tied it back to God's love some how.
God wants us to pray for our leaders. That seems so far removed for me. Sure I know who our president is and what he looks like but I don't know him. I've never walked in his shoes or sat in his chair. One evening during our trip we were taken to the state political offices where we were taken right inside. No metal detectors, no police guards. Just people working hard at what they do. We were taken to the Senator's cabinet room where they meet to make the laws that affect their state. And while there, I took time to specifically pray for the man whose seat I was occupying. It was so personal and such an honor to do so. After our speaker, our group gathered together and did the same thing. They believe in praying for their leaders - the ones who can have big and quick impacts on their community.
God gives us love and discipline when needed. When I was struggling with my thoughts and attitude on multiple occassions, God gave me the perfect passage each time. Some of those times it fit right into where I was reading in first Thess and one time it was out of proverbs where I happened to turn. But none of those times did I have to dig and search for something fitting, God brought it right up to the surface.
I thought I knew the exact definition of missions. Turns out that I'm wrong about a lot of things, including this. Because of my past experiences, I thought missions meant construction work and VBS. Interestingly enough, I've done at least one missions trip that wasn't related to either of those. Still, I had my preconceived ideas. Missions can in fact be used to encourage the believers and support them. Not knowing the details of our trip until right before we left, I prayed and prayed that God would use me to encourage the believers who are serving there. I think that did happen (in addition to the VBS). I was able to get to know and encourage the youth and a few of the adults. It was so great one day to just sit and massage our translators shoulders. She loved it. Another evening, I massaged the Pastor's wife's shoulders. She loved it.
Missions looks differently to different people. I would have loved to participated at an orphanage with the children, and to enter into more people's lives. I'm prayerfully considering how God would have me involved in Huixquilucan missions in the future - will it be through veterinarian work and Ryan, through conservation, through children... we'll see.
[life in a foreign country]
Culture shock is to be expected. It wasn't shocking to me but that may be because I've been in those environments before. What I didn't realize was that reverse culture shock would affect me for days after returning home. I loved being in a foreign country, having to depend on God when my Spanish failed and there wasn't a translator nearby. I loved seeing how others lived, the meals they ate, the games they played, etc. What I loved most about the times I just got to hang out was playing soccer. No words needed but relationships and trust was being built. Those high school boys and girls who really didn't have anything to do with me early in the week were my little buddies by the end. I also realized the importance of patience when translating and learned first hand how understanding the differences in language can be embarrassing and funny. In the spanish language there is no "th" sound. When Isaac commented about my teeth and left the "H" off the end, he had no clue the impact of his choice of words. You can imagine. I thought it was hilarious and gently let him know to use the spanish word for teeth in the future.
When you stay in a town with a firework factory, its good to know that. Its also good to know that the loud noises in the morning are not gunfire - they are fireworks. At 5am. I still don't understand why, but that's how it was every single day.
Toilet seats are a guarantee in every American bathroom that I've been in. Not so much in Mexico. At the Pastor's house I was surprised to see no seat and only used that bathroom one time to squat and pee. It was way to much work on my lazy legs. I determined it must be a guy only bathroom. Several days later when I inquired about the toilet seat issue, Isaac explained that a bathroom for women only has no need for a toilet seat since they don't stand to urinate and get it dirty. If a guy is using the bathroom, there is a toilet seat so that it can be lifted and then put back down when a woman needs to sit. Who knew. All week I sat on a skinny rimmed seatless toilet!
To say that I had a great time is an understatement. I loved the entire experience. I loved that 12 of us girls could share a bathroom and manage. I loved that at least half of us were having monthly issues yet there were no arguments. I loved that the people were so friendly. I love that the Pastor and his family became like my own family. I don't love that I miss it so much but I love that God gave me a love for a people and a place that I thought I was only going out of obedience and not expecting to like it.
Did I mention that Sunday night we're presenting to the community about our trip? The eldest son of the Mexican Pastor, Israel (and his wife Paola), are living just 2 hours from us. They're coming up to meet us and listen to our presentation. I'm so stinkin' excited to meet them and to share with our community. Join us Sunday night at 630 at the FBC in Elgin if you want to hear about the others' stories and see some amazing pictures (a photographer was on our team). Enough for now... maybe more later.