Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sabbatical Diary: Mission Trip

My sabbatical officially began when this mission trip ended, but the trip was the perfect lead-in to a time of personal refreshment.  Although it was physically exhausting, it was so spiritually uplifting, I feel ready for whatever God has in mind for me over these next five weeks.

The week got off to a rather rocky start; several members of our mission team experienced health issues on the first day.  A couple had to drop out, while others were able to soldier on.  I arrived on Monday, the 13th, in mid-afternoon, just in time to join the team for the evening VBS.  Our schedule was as follows:

8:00--Breakfast at Valley Baptist Mission Education Center
9:00--Depart for Edinburg (about 40 minutes away)
10:00-11:45--Lead Vacation Bible School for kids at community center in Edinburg
1:00--Lunch back at VBMEC
4:00--Pray and load up for trip to Donna (about 45 minutes away)
5:30-7:30--VBS at Iglesia Vino Nuevo in Donna
8:30--Supper back at VBMEC

Other members of our team had a completely different schedule; the construction crew had breakfast at 6:00 each morning, and ate lunch at the Donna mission (fed by the church members).  During the course of the week, they built a wheelchair ramp and several other important additions to the church building.  They would arrive back at VBMEC each day around the time we were leaving for Donna.  Tired as they were, some would shower, then join us in Donna for VBS.  While VBS was going on, Stephen and our youth were leading teenagers in sports clinics, with games like soccer, volleyball, and dodgeball.  At Donna, there were also craft classes for ladies.

The Church in Donna has only been around for a year and a half.  It was planted by New Wine Church in Harlingen in the middle of a Colonia.  The poverty near the church is like nothing we see in Houston; the spiritual poverty is equally as palpable.  Pastor Ivan, the administrator at a trucking company. and his wife Ruth lead the church.  On our last night there, we helped the church host a block party, with hot dogs, music and other entertainment, and a message from an evangelist.  Kids received free backpacks full of school supplies.

For me, the highlights were:

  • Mornings at the VBMEC, where I would have my devotions in their small prayer garden, watching the sun come up.
  • Finding out that our VBS at Donna, which was expected to draw 40 kids, actually drew 90-115 kids each night, and far more on Friday.
  • Hearing that, of the ladies who participated in the craft classes, 35 had never been inside a church before.
  • Personally praying with ten 10-11 year olds who accepted Christ as their Savior.  In addition, 12 adults received Christ as Savior at the block party.  That means at least 22 people began following Jesus that week.
  • Betsy, one of the 11-year-olds in Edinburg, who asked me on my last day, "Could you give me a prayer I can use every day?"  I wrote down the Scripture reference for the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and "...but you can tell God whatever is on your mind, any time!"
  • Watching co-workers like Randy Mitchell, Hope McNeil, and Leanne Isenhower, who never seemed to stop moving.  Randy organized the entire trip, and Hope was in charge of VBS in both locations.  Everyone on this trip worked hard, but their efforts were inspiring to me.
  • Seeing people from my church of different age groups get to know one another.  
  • Getting to know people I didn't know well, like the Carillo family.  
  • Laying down in my own bed on Saturday night (sorry, it's the truth)!

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