“....they get ruined for anything else.” My friend, Joe, who happens to be the senior pastor at our church, said these words yesterday as he was speaking about people who are called to be missionaries. He was talking about how after they have an overseas experience nothing is ever the same again.
As I sat and listened, I so deeply identified with his statement that I could have stood up in the middle of class and shouted,
“YES! Thats me!! That happened to ME and I’m WRECKED over it!!”
I didn’t shout or yell, though. I just sat there. All folded up and cozy in my chair, emphatically nodding my head to such truthful words.
My first mission experience was my junior year of high school. I was sort of a late add-on. A group of my friends went to a different church than I did and their youth group was going, and somehow I got invited. I had no time to raise the money, but I still sheepishly asked my mom if she thought it was possible. Money was always a rough topic with both my parents since the divorce, so I really was bracing for a straight “No.” Instead she said she would see if her and my step-dad could swing it, and she would also call my dad about it. All I could do was pray, but if I can be honest, I didn’t expect either parent to come up with the money.
I will never forget the morning my dad dropped the check off. I was in my zero period weight class which was located, at the time, in the cinderblock windowless building behind the high school. I heard my dad’s truck and then saw the door open. I walked over to meet him and he simply held out a folded check. “I know your sister had this same opportunity around your age, and I think it would only be fair for you to have the chance, also.” I hugged him, thanked him, and walked back inside. But my stomach was doing somersaults, as sheer elation overwhelmed my being.
The trip took place over Spring Break that year, and we drove to Baja Mexico over the course of two days. The group of students was probably 15 or so, three of them being some of my best girlfriends. We were going to work with a pastor and his family whom the church already had relationship with. I honestly didn’t know much of what to expect beforehand. I knew only a few words in Spanish, and definitely was not even remotely comfortable with trying to conversate in the language, let alone tell people about Jesus. I also wasn’t comfortable in a ‘vacation Bible school’ setting, nor did I play an instrument. I could kick a soccer ball, I could work hard and I could make jewelry out of hemp twine and beads.
But those three things took me miles.
During that providential week we prayed. We laughed. We mixed cement by hand, with shovels. We dug ditches. We painted the church. We ate authentic food, including raw oysters. We celebrated the pastor’s son’s birthday. We sang, off key, in a language we didn’t know or understand. We ran near the seashore. We played with kids. We simply loved on people who, by the grace of God, through His Son’s blood, are family.
And it was powerful. In my life, it was supernaturally powerful.
The trip home and the first few days back were a mosaic of emotions. I cried. I laughed with my friends. I had trouble eating because I felt guilty for having so much. I sat on the floor in my room and wept because I had met families of eight who lived in a house the same size.
But God had began a work. In March of 2003, I unknowingly gave my Creator permission and space to redirect the trajectory of my life, and He did so in a mighty way. Since then, no other pursuit in life has satisfied that deep longing. The few times I've been overseas since are the only moments I can look back on and honestly say my soul was finally satiated.
I became ruined for anything else.