I have a friend from my Up with People touring days that is in Guatemala right now. He posted on Facebook last night about the small village in which he was visiting and doing service work. He said it sounded as if every church were giving a rock concert with Christian music...they are all in full swing with preparations for Holy Week. And let me tell you...it is the highlight of the year there.
While I was reading his post about Guatemala I found myself immediately transported to being back to Guatemala myself and remembering my very first mission trip to the small village of San Juan Cotzal. My heart swelled with fond memories only to be followed by tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. The Holy Spirit led me to lifting that village, and several others that I've lived in, in prayer and laying their names at the foot of the Cross.
If you know me, there is a "God Story" about how in the world I ever ended up in Guatemala in the first place. It could be due in part to the fact that on my third, and final trip, to Bolivia (the one where I had my appendix taken out, the same trip where the team was robbed at gun point, and the SAME trip when there was an earthquake) my father told me "that you had better get one last good look because you are never going back!" I haven't been to Bolivia since. Guatemala became my new "home away from home!" And how I love it! Let me share a story with you that I wrote several years ago after that first mission trip that I went on while in seminary in Kansas City.
(If you like my stories, be sure to click on the link here (and my next post) to read about a contest that I'm entering to win a scholarship to a She Speaks Conference with Proverbs 31 Ministries.)
Where Have You Seen the Face of God?
I think I sang, or whistled, or hummed a song everyday while we were in Guatemala. Everyday except for one!
I wasn't one of the original team members to go on this trip. At the last minute, one of the team members had to cancel the day before the team left. That same snowy day, my youth group was leaving for our "2000 Ways to Sing God's Praise" weekend retreat. But after talking with sponsors about the 4 inches of snow, rain, and sleet on the roads, we (and God) decided I had better cancel the retreat.
So I called the senior pastor to let her know about this change of plans. Her response was, "Okay. That's fine. Do you want to go to Guatemala?" I was standing in my kitchen with my jaw on the floor, my heart in my throat, and my brain racing like crazy. I was wondering what it was that I was about to do but knowing well within my spirit the answer. Even thought I am almost 30, I called my parents to tell them that I was leaving for Guatemala in the morning at 4:00am! I ran around that Friday in the snow going to Target, trying to take care of missing classes in seminary, and trying to reorganize my life from going on a simple weekend retreat with the youth to now going on a ten day mission trip to Guatemala...all in less than 18 hours!
I knew about this mission trip for the past 6 months I've been working at this church and I never once planned on going to Guatemala. Which is interesting because I speak Spanish, used to live in Bolivia, and I love Latin America. But this trip never seemed like an option. I had planned on a weekend retreat with the youth and I had planned on being in classes in seminary. Going on this trip just didn't seem like it would work out...according to MY plans. Of course I am quickly reminded of the passage in Jeremiah 29:11, "for surely I know that plans I have for you, they are not to harm you, but to give you a future with hope."
I left with the mission team Saturday morning for Guatemala. On Sunday, while on our 6 hour bumpy bus ride down a a narrow, twisty-turny road to San Juan Cotzal, I had a conversation with God. Not about the road especially, but I just began to wonder why this trip? Why now? What does this mean for my ministry?
Monday night we had a "song fest" after our devotion and sang for a couple of hours. I went to bed Monday night with a song in my heart and Spirit in my soul. The next day was Tuesday, and as I woke up, I remember very distinctly that God told me NOT to sing, hum, or even whistle that day. Which is a very hard thing for me to do. But God has really placed silence upon my heart that morning. God wanted me to be still and to listen (Psalm 46:10).
I was so quiet that everyone thought I was sick or that there was something wrong because I wasn't singing or laughing. But I knew that I had to be quiet so God could tell me something. I was standing in the concrete block window of the church we were building, standing on two pieces of plywood board gingerly laid across two columns of cement blocks for support, I paused for a moment. As I looked out across the beautiful landscape of lush, green mountains, I saw the face of God in the people of the village below. The beauty was overwhelming to me and the simple way of life was humbling. They way the women carry water buckets on their heads, the way the children play with sticks, and the way the men carry firewood tied up in bundles on their backs were ways they showed me the face of God.
It was in that very moment that God spoke to me in my silence. In my heart I heard God say, "This is your calling." In the full sun of the day, with a cool breeze on my face, I stood in the grace of God in that window in that humble church. I felt completely renewed in my calling for ministry, which seems to have been forgotten in the activities of daily living, work, and seminary. It was as if God sent me to Guatemala to get me away from my busy life just long enough for me to remember that God calls each one of us to be still and to listen.
I stood in the church window while tears dripped off my face and landed onto the cement I was trying so diligently to make smooth. Through the faces of my Guatemalan brothers and sisters, God simply and quietly used my mission trip to Guatemala to gently remind me to be still and to listen. Yes, I saw the face of God there. God renewed my heart, my spirit, my soul, and my mind..."be still and know that I am God."
Where will you see the face of God today?