Over spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to join 14 fellow college students on a mission trip to Puerto Rico. When I left for the trip, I had no idea what I was getting into. On this trip we worked hard. We worked hard on our building project. We worked hard on our relationships with each other. We worked hard on our relationships with God. We found love in Puerto Rico and we found hurt in Puerto Rico. This trip was nothing short of a blessing and more than once an hour I found myself in awe of God’s work. Our mission was to join the work of God already being done at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Metropolis. Our job was to build a nursery building to allow for the growth of the children’s ministry as the church itself expands.
As I sit here and think about everything God did on this trip, all I want to do is go back and do it all again and again and again. Every moment relived. Not to change a single part of it, but just to go through it all again and possibly appreciate every moment just a little more. When talking about the trip, I have been asked: ‘What was your favorite part?’ and I have no idea what to say. How do you take a week so amazing and boil it down to one favorite moment? I couldn’t even pick ONE favorite moment of every day (I tried). Going on a trip like this, it is impossible to tell you everything, even if I tried, you would miss out on so much. A trip like this is something you have to experience for yourself, and no two trips will ever be the same.
However, I will tell you a few things I learned on my trip….
- You make incredible new friends on trips like this. A few of them I already knew, but most of them I had only met at the meeting we had a month before the trip. Today I can’t imagine not knowing them. We lived in the same room for a week. We spent every minute together and lots of time with Jesus. We grew so close in such a short amount of time and coming back to ‘reality’ I have been missing seeing them every moment of everyday. We shared an incredible experience with each other and that is a bond we will share forever.
- God uses ordinary people. Before leaving I wasn’t sure how God was using me, I really didn’t know if He was at that point. Looking back I see how wrong I was. I very quickly learned that God was using me and still is. On the days where I feel weak and insufficient, I am still being used. God knew I did not believe I was being used and on this trip was when He decided to show me how important I am. I was touching lives of those around me by just being myself, and I did not even know it until later on.
- Spending time with God every morning is important in doing His work. When we take time to worship God every morning, He guides us through His work. Every morning on this trip we spent time together going to God in prayer and worship before we started working. We asked God to bless our work and keep us safe through the day. This step was very important in our success. It is very easy to forget to spend time with God every morning. We often get too busy or too excited to start our day. God wants to spend time with us everyday, He wants to prepare us for the challenges we are going to face and remind us to stay humble when things are going our way.
- We all worship one God. It does not matter what language you speak, when we come together in unity and worship one God there is power in that. There is love in worship. There is strength in partnership. When we would go to the church for worship, there was more than one occasion where a song would be sung that the English and the Spanish version can be sung at the same time, and that was incredible. It was a very humble reminder that it does not matter that we could not understand one another; God can understand each and every one of us. We are worshiping one God that loves each of us the same way, we are all His people and together in unity we are strong.
- Being vulnerable is worth it. On this trip I opened my heart to the people In Puerto Rico and to the people I went with, and I was rewarded for it. I have always found it difficult to be vulnerable. I have always been afraid of being judged or not being liked for who I am. I have found; however, it is so important to be vulnerable, when you are vulnerable people get to know the real you. The face you put on everyday is removed. You learn so much about yourself and others learn so much about you. Being vulnerable allows people to relate to you, it allows you to make real connections with people, and it gives you the opportunity to be who you are.
- Never lose sight of who you are. This goes right along with being vulnerable. It is so important to be yourself. I learned very quickly that it is very easy to get caught up in your daily life and the people around you. During my time in Puerto Rico, I was reminded of who I am. I was reminded of the person I want to be and how great that person is. I often think I am not important and that I could never measure up to those around me. There is always some one better than me. That may be true, but that is just who I am. When you focus on being yourself people like you for who you are and not for the person you pretend to be.
- I need to be open to hear God’s voice. When it comes to being open to God, being vulnerable and being who you are is at the heart of it. It is very easy to say your heart is open to God’s voice, but actually opening your heart gets tricky. I sometimes find it hard to believe that God is talking to me, but He is. He is pursuing my heart more than anyone else. God wants to use us. He wants us to be open to His plan. When you let God in your heart, your life changes. When you listen to His voice speaking to you, you are working with Him and He is working in you.
- I am who I want to be. On the last night of our trip our group got together and we each paired off to spend sometime recapping the trip and identifying where we saw God working in each other. I have a whole list of things that defines the person I want to be, the person I can only hope that I am. Through this process of talking with each person on this trip, I realized I am who I want to be. That was an incredible realization. When I let go of trying and working to have the specific qualities I wanted, I had those qualities with no effort. When I listen to what God is saying to me I am the person I want to be. As I give all I have to Him, He molds me into the person I want to be.
I could go on and on for days telling you about everything that happened. I could tell you all of the stories and I could break every day down to what we ate at each meal (a lot of plantains), but that would just tell you what we did. It would not tell you how this trip changed me or how this trip opened my eyes to things I had overlooked. Telling you what I learned does though. Telling you what I learned tells you about what God did, not about what I did. To me, that is the most important part. I am taking these things with me, they aren’t staying in Puerto Rico.