Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Hardest Part is Coming Home

Coming back from Peru never gets easier. The first few hours I was home, I was just happy to see my family. But then I started to feel that familiar pit in my stomach, that familiar ache in my heart.

What was it? Sadness that such an incredible experience had come to an end? A longing for Carmencita and Sagrada Familia? Missing my team members, who I had grown so close to? Feeling completely useless and out of my element now that I'm not spending every day tangibly showing the love of God?

All of the above. But I am trying to allow God to lead my heart and patch it up this time. Last year, I dwelled on the past for far too long. And that showed in my grades in school, my interactions with my family, and even my relationships with friends. I let Peru define who I was, which was a good thing, but I forgot to hold onto the good parts of myself from before.

I am trying to go to God with my broken heart that screams that I wasn't ready to leave. I wasn't ready to come back to "reality". That He wasn't finished with me there. That I could have spent months more at Sagrada Familia. That I want to wake up every morning surrounded by people who are just as passionate about God's work as I am.

My heart is aching right now. But I know that God has me here in the United States for a reason. That His work here is just as important as His work in Peru.

While I truly, truly enjoyed the entire trip, every activity we participated in, these are a few of the highlights.

Maybe some of you remember Cesár, the little boy with cerebral palsy I met last year? Well, I saw him again! Words cannot express how much joy that boy brought to me. You might also remember that he was in a wheelchair last year, and this year he was walking! God truly is performing miracles in that boy's life. I got to meet his mom and his little sister, and his mom said they got the box of goodies and the children's Bible I sent him! Oh, how I love that boy!

The single most incredible day of the trip, and one of the best days of my life was Worthday at Sagrada Familia! Seeing something that we'd been planning and working toward for months come to life was just indescribable. But the best part of that day was, by far, seeing Carmencita.

When we went to the baby house early in the morning, they were sending the kids down the stairs one by one as they got their baths. I knew Carmencita would be last because she can't walk down the stairs by herself. But I waited. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because she's so often last in that place, I wanted her to be first for something.

It was worth the wait when she came down the stairs. I looked into her eyes and said her name and her face lit up! She jumped into my arms and held on tight, grabbing onto my hair, my clothes, anything, and saying "Mi amiga! Mi amiga!" over and over again. Oh, how I love that girl. I got to spend more time with her than ever before this time. Although, saying goodbye never gets easier. She was sobbing so hard I think she almost threw up, grabbing onto me with a death grip so that she was nearly dragging behind me. She even bit me a few times she was so upset. I miss her like crazy already.

Another highlight was meeting a little boy named Davíd. He was the son of the woman we shadowed for a day, who was a single mom. This three-year-old boy goes to work in the market selling trinkets every day with his mom. After we were done shadowing, we took "our Peruvians" back to the church for a lunch and ceremony. The majority of the three-hour ceremony, I was in the back with Davíd, playing with bubbles and playdoh. That little boy was so sweet! I loved him so much.

All in all, it was an incredible trip. By far, my favorite of the year. It made me want to pursue staying at Sagrada Familia next summer even more. If you could keep me and my team in your prayers now more than ever, it would be greatly appreciated. Coming back is the hardest part of the mission trip. It's hard for us to move on.

Dios te bendiga!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Preparing for Peru

As I prepare to leave for Peru, once more, on Saturday, many different thoughts and topics race through my mind.

First and foremost is the magnificence of my God. A God who, despite all reasoning and all statistics, provided $1600 in 4 days, putting me $700 over the required $1920 to go to Peru. Why do I worry when God always provides? You'd think after so much time, I'd have learned to trust Him.

Following my period of anxiety about not getting enough finances and Worthday not going right, I've finally  acquired a sense of peace. While I still dread getting sick or not getting to see Hectór and Carmencita or even not connecting with people on the team, I have this peace in me. I'm going back to Peru. I have to trust that no matter what happens, God is going to transform me.

My familiar enemy jealousy returns now, as well. As we near the outcome of literally months of hard work and preparation for Worthday, I can't help but be jealous when others get most of the credit for what has been accomplished. Because I'm not a very vocal person, people don't see me as a leader of Worthday, or as the one in charge. And, while, in some ways that's a blessing, it can also be very frustrating to see other team members get the credit for Worthday, when I have also helped craft it. It has taken much prayer and self-control to try and make myself be happy for others when I hear people praising what they've done with Worthday. I hope that in time, this will become second nature to me, and that God will teach me to be more like Him in this way.

In fact, God used a comment at tonight's final Peru meeting to shift my attention and conviction from others and onto myself.

We were sharing with each other what we were looking forward to most about having each other on the Peru trip. I struggled with jealousy as other team members got comments about Worthday. About how they had been such a brilliant leader and headed it up. About how their drive and passion were inspiring. Brimming with jealousy, the comment aimed at me slowly shifted my thoughts. They mentioned about how they couldn't wait to see me with "my babies". To watch me love them with a contagious love.

And I stopped. And thought about it. Why had I done Worthday? What had Worthday started out as?

Love. It all started with me falling in love with a little girl named Carmencita in an orphanage in Peru. And I just couldn't let her go. I hadn't started Worthday because I wanted people to think I was so awesome. Because I wanted all the attention. I started Worthday because I loved Carmencita. Because I wanted all the other kids at that orphanage to be loved the way I loved Carmencita.

What should it matter if I don't get all the credit? If I don't get any of the credit? If just one of those precious orphans understands how much we love them and how much God loves them, it will be worth it. It would be worth having absolutely no credit. No attention.

So I've decided instead of focusing on the faults of others for not noticing what I've done for Worthday, I need to abandon my selfish thoughts and focus on what needs to be fixed inside of me. I need to focus on preparing my heart to love my team, the people of Peru, the rest of the orphans, and all the other people we encounter with the love I've shown Carmencita.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trust is a Command

It cost $1100 to go to Peru over Spring Break. It took $3500 to get to China. $1940 more to go to Peru in two weeks.

That's a collective $6540 on mission trips in one year.

Thanks to the power of my God and the generosity of many friends, family members, and people that I've never even met, I have had almost no trouble getting the money needed to do this.

But it's down to the last. I have approximately $1100 of the needed $1500 to go to Peru. Our money is due on Friday. All of it.

My parents say that they will loan the money if they have it then, but there is no guarantee that they will have $400 to lend me at the end of the week.

As I sit and think about the possibility of not going to Peru, I am devastated. Would my church take me off the team if I couldn't pay for it? As fear and anger go hand in hand, I felt anger bubbling up inside of me. How could they say I couldn't go? I started Worthday. I've been planning it for months! And to not see the fruit of my labor? And there I find the root of the problem.

I am afraid of not seeing what I have worked so hard for. Of not doing what I've been looking forward to for nearly a year. And, most of all, of not seeing my precious, precious Carmencita.

But, no. I'm not at the root quite yet. It is not enough to simply accept being afraid. You have to understand that fear is a sin. Fear is not trusting God to provide for your needs.

When confronted with this uncomfortable truth, I squirmed. I trusted God. Didn't I?


Not when I thought about it. I am in a constant state of fear. Worried about speaking at Worthday. Worried that it won't go the way I envisioned it. Worried that I won't get to see Carmencita. Worried that I won't get to see Hectór. Worried that I'll get sick.

All of those fears, all of those anxieties, were thoughts that I was choosing to think. And in choosing to think those thoughts, I was disobeying a direct command of God. Do not fear.

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
                  - Matthew 6:26

What a dishonor to God, to my Father. Even after He died for me, I refuse to trust Him.

I've realized that trust is not a special possession or an inherent tendency. It is a command. We are told that if we are truly followers of God, we have to trust Him. We have to let go of fear.

So it is with great difficulty and much trepidation, that I let go of my fears about Peru. About getting the money to go to Peru.

I serve a great God. A God who is capable of parting seas and bringing the dead to life. A God who is far more capable than I of getting $400 in five days.

Our God is greater. Our God is stronger. God you are higher than any other. Our God is Healer, awesome in power - Our God, our God. And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Won't Rest

I will say that I had been considering staying in Peru next summer before, but for some reason it's never been as strong as it is now.

I learned a few weeks ago that there is a possibility that I could not only work with the Sagrada Familia orphanage, but even that I could live at the Sagrada Familia orphanage while I was in Peru.

Immediately, I want to jump up and scream, "Yes!" Living at an orphanage has been my dream for years. And to stay at Sagrada Familia? The orphanage I fell in love with last year? The one that I simply can't forget? To see Carmencita every day? It's like a dream come true!

But then I feel like a semi truck has run into me as I get slammed with all the practicalities. Would anyone go with me? Would I be allowed to stay there without another person I knew, especially an adult, an American? What if something happened to me at the orphanage? Who would I contact? What if I starved? Those kids don't always get enough to eat, and I'm not gonna be the loser who sits in an empty room eating granola bars while there are 900 orphans around me starving. What if I can't get purified water? Will I get a parasite? And if I do get a parasite, how am I getting to a hospital? Will I have internet access to be able to contact my parents?

So many questions race through my head, but they stop at one image. Carmencita. Every day. I'd get to spend every day loving on and playing with 900 orphans.

Maybe it's just me dreaming. Maybe this isn't what I'm meant for. Maybe I have a ridiculously romantic idea about what it's like to live at an orphanage. In fact, I'm sure I do.

But I can't let it rest. There's this urge in my heart saying, "This is it. This is what you need to do."

And honestly, the only reason I wouldn't do it is because I'm too afraid. And I certainly don't want to let fear run my life.

I am thinking about it and praying about it and digging into God's word trying to find some answers. But maybe, just maybe, I'll find myself in Peru next summer. Maybe that's why it just won't rest.