People ask, “How was your trip?” to which I reply, “Good…(long pause)…intense.” This is the point where most folks smile politely and change the subject to something safer, more comfortable. I can’t necessarily say that I blame them. I’ve been on many mission trips, even been to Peru before. This time I asked God to show me something different. I wanted to gain more than just an appreciation for how blessed I am to live in the USA; more than just the understanding that even though these people are poor, they love God with their whole heart; and most of all, more than just the inner satisfaction of knowing I stepped out of my comfort zone to share the gospel. All of these are indeed valuable lessons, but I specifically asked God to allow me to be part of something that only He could take credit for. And so, this trip became an exercise in faith…a test of whether I really believe what I say I believe.
We worked in two relatively new areas. In Alto Trujillo, a man who’d lived much of his life battling drugs and alcohol before his conversion to Christ, opened his home for us to hold our meetings. His house consisted of two rooms with dirt floors and a patchwork roof. There were 30+ women who attended Bible study in the back room while over 120 children joined us in the front room for VBS. Services were also held there each evening. God asked me, “Do you really believe, like Julio, that everything you have is a gift from Me? Will you allow Me unlimited, unconditional control of all that you have?”
The second place we worked was New Jerusalem. This area was much poorer, not only their living conditions, but also their spiritual conditions. The people were not as receptive to the Gospel as previous groups I’ve worked with. They were more difficult because they were neither as gracious nor grateful for our presence. We saw little return on our investment. In fact, we did not go back to that location for our final evening service due to concern for our safety. It was at this point, I heard God’s voice saying, “I love these people, too. They desperately need Me, too. Don’t dismiss them because their hearts are hardened.” I realized that He was asking me to examine my motives, “Are you spiritually mature enough to do the right thing even when you don’t receive the instant gratification of seeing dozens saved or feel the gratitude of the people you are serving?”
The final, and possibly, most difficult test came our last day in Peru. As we were preparing to go home, Ms. Mola, a precious lady still serving Jesus at age 85, suffered a fatal heart attack. It goes without saying that one does not really think something like this will happen while on a mission trip (especially not a trip on which you’ve brought your twelve year old daughter). For a split second that morning in the hotel room, I was afraid. I had assumed that God’s protection included safe passage for all of us. It frightened me to suddenly come face to face with the reality that His ways are not our ways. It was as if He said, “Do you really trust Me? Do you understand that I do things for My glory that may seem tragic? Can you accept that you will not understand many of those things this side of eternity?”
The verse I claimed for this trip was Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, Lord, walking in the ways of your laws we wait for you. Your name and your renown are the desires of our hearts.” I asked Him to teach me something new and allow me to be a part of something much bigger than myself. I learned that claiming His name and His renown as the desire of my heart is not always convenient, comfortable or even safe; yet there is no place I’d rather be than waiting for Him while walking in the ways of His laws.