From the time that I was 9 until I was 13, my family lived down in Laredo, Texas (one of the driest, hottest places in America) and my parents worked for a mission organization that hosted short-term trips into Mexico, Cuba, and El Salvador. I had the amazing privilege of going on more mission trips than I can count and having a complete change in my perspective. Since I could go on for many posts about these experiences, I decided to limit myself to five things that I learned then and on mission trips I've been on since:
1. American culture is not the only culture in the world. After years spent immersed in a culture completely different than mine, I had to learn how not to judge. It's amazing how highly we think of ourselves. Sure, we like to learn about different cultures, but we often think that ours is the best. My mind had to open, and I found that I loved some of the ways that things are done in Mexico, even better than the way we do them here!
2. God is the same on the mission field and off. I would get frustrated every time I returned to normal life after a summer filled with mission trips. Why did God speak to me then, and not now? One realization changed my life, though, and that is that God is never changing. He was the same God there as he is at home. I'm the one that changes! I'm the one that pulls my focus away from the things of him.
3. Hand Sanitizer is the bomb. Yep, I said it - the bomb! I think I have used over 5 gallons of this stuff in my lifetime. Ok, maybe not, but it really helps. There are some super civilized and clean places, but there are some crazy dirty outhouses that you have to squat over and find that little 6 inch hole and hope... And then not only rub your hands, but your ankles and your arms... all over with whatever germ-x you can find.
4. Orphanages need help. I remember one in particular in Nuevo Laredo, MX that was just horrific. There was one little girl that was never adopted or helped, and I think she had some mental issues. She would come sit in your lap and get really close and whisper in your ear: "I love you; do you have any money?" It was just awful. I saw roaches climb in babies' diapers and I saw children with scabs on their heads that showed just one of many diseases available. They need help badly, badly, badly. More than anyone I met there.
5. God is bigger than me. And he's bigger than language barriers, and culture barriers, and my presuppositions. He is the change agent. He may use us on trips, but he is the one who softens hearts and saves his children. I have nothing to offer except willing hands and words and heart, but He is everything and provides all we need, no matter where we come from, or what side of the ministry we are on.
Sharing God's Word all over the world is part of my heartbeat, and I'm thankful to have married a man that feels the same. This will always be part of my life, in a big, big way.