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Dan's Thoughts on our mission trip to Mexico (first posted August 2005)

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news." Isaiah 52:7 (NKJV)

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me." Mark 9:37 (NIV)

It was amazing. It moved me, and I could see it moving the people around me. I'm different now, somehow. What am I talking about? Our trip to Tecate, Mexico, to minister to the kids and staff of the Sparrows' Gate Children's Center. We spent 6 days serving some 20-25 kids, ages one-and-a-half to 12, who come early in the morning from poor, often broken homes, get breakfast and lunch, play, have Christian teaching and activities, and go home about dinner time.

The Sunday after we got back home, there was a computer at church showing a slide show of the trip. A friend saw me and said, "You got a lot done while you were there!" I thought about that, and realized it was God who got a lot done. I could tell, because not everything that got done stayed behind in Mexico. God also worked in the hearts of our group that went and came back, and in the hearts of those who prayed for us.

It's been on my heart for several years to go on a short-term mission trip with our family. We didn't have an opportunity until now, but that seems like God's timing, because the kids are old enough now to participate and understand.

The first example I saw of God's hand in this...when Gaye and I first broached the idea to the kids, they resisted it. Anne, for example, was upset that she would miss the fireworks on the 4th of July.

We took a step back and spent about a month praying about it. We became increasingly convinced it was the right thing to do, so after a month of saying nothing to the kids, we mentioned it again. God had worked on their hearts, because this time the reaction was "O.K., when do we go, I want to help the kids there, can I start packing?"

Some other aspects where God amazed me:

  • It amazed me to see our family working together, serving the children, loving them, and united in the same purpose. We didn't have to deal with quarreling--we each had things to do, and we each did them, and Gaye and I didn't need to take time out to correct or discipline bad behavior. Anne, especially, was very independent in finding areas where she could help--painting, cleaning, and working with the young kids.

  • It amazed me how quickly we formed relationships with the kids. The first day, they were a little shy and reserved around us when they arrived. The second day, when they arrived in the morning, I saw some of the young boys run to one of our Spanish-speaking men and give him big hugs. I remember thinking, "o.k., I understand...they know him, he's helping with their Vacation Bible School, he speaks their language...but I've been digging trenches, painting, doing weed-eating...so it's o.k. if they don't hug me." Well, all I did with them that day was say hi ("Ola") and play some soccer and frisbee. The next morning, guess what? I got some big hugs too. They could tell we were there to love on them, and they wasted no time returning that love.

  • By the way, I heard several people mention the "language barrier"...well, there wasn't a language barrier. Oh, I didn't speak their language (no hablo espanol), but it wasn't a barrier. Little Estefania, for example, once she had your attention, would talk at you non-stop. She loved playing with me, even though I never did know what she was talking about. Another example was Oscar...I kicked soccer balls with him for at least half an hour one day, and another day played frisbee for awhile. He never said a word, but then, who needs to talk when you're playing soccer?

  • It amazed me how much we wanted to stay when our time was up. Of course, it was hard to leave all the great kids to whom we had become attached. In addition, though, I had the strong feeling that we had just gotten started, and it wasn't time to be done yet. I talked with another man in our group, and we both felt like we could easily stay another week. Being in that place gave me a greater sense of what some of the needs are in this world, and of what's really important.

It was a first-ever event for all of us--Dan, Gaye, Anne, & Allen--and we were blessed. Everyone in the family wants to go back, to get involved in missions work again. It changed us.

And, you know, no one ever again mentioned the fireworks...

God got a lot done.

"I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I; send me!"" Isaiah 6:8 (NKJV)