When I learned about the possibility of doing overseas missions this Summer, I was ecstatic about the prospect but concerned because I knew I could never afford such trips. Then I learned about the generosity of my Hoover church family and their willingness to help send us. Because of their help, I have been extremely blessed this summer to attend not one, but two overseas mission trips. I hope they know that their giving has not been in vain.
In Tanzania, we were able to take over 1,500 pounds of supplies, including food, clothing, toys, and Bibles. We conducted countless Bible studies and had a total of sixteen baptisms. I met three amazing families who have given up all of their luxuries in America and moved to a third world country to spread the gospel. I watched and learned from members of my church family who have been to Tanzania several times. They taught me how to effectively study with someone, despite cultural barriers and even language barriers. They maintained joy and positive attitudes, even through unfortunate circumstances, passport issues, lost luggage, and illness. I watched as people who were afraid of flying boarded a plane because they placed the needs of others above their own fear. I watched them give their own money, their own clothes, and their own food to other people that they didn’t even know. I watched as people who live on the other side of the world greeted them like family, with a very apparent mutual love for one another. And when telling about their love for the people there, tears formed in their eyes. All in all, they inspired me.
Less than two weeks after returning from Tanzania, I began the trek to Guyana with another group from Hoover. I watched as they kept a sense of joy even when arriving to the airport at 4:00am. They continually return, year after year, to trudge through blazing heat and pouring rain in order to spread the good news. They left behind newly born children and newlywed spouses to walk the streets of a country that needed them. When the temperatures are soaring and the van rides are long, they laugh. When thunder and lightning interrupt the journey, they laugh. They enter houses that most would not, and when studying God’s word is interrupted by multitudes of mice scurrying through the couches, over the floor and across their skin, they still continue to laugh. When the flights are delayed, planes are missed, and we wearily sleep on an airport floor, they laugh. They pour their hearts into the work even when rejected and give strangers in a foreign country a true glimpse of the love of Jesus. All in all, they encourage me.
Even as we are working in Guyana, the work of the church does not cease at home. The day prior to our departure, I stopped by the church building and saw numerous people preparing for Vacation Bible School. They were freely giving of their time, talents and effort when they undoubtedly had numerous other options for activities or for rest. And they were doing so with cheerfulness. The food pantry continued to open, providing free food and necessities for members of our community. Members will continue to attend service at the AHEPA apartment complex, providing services for people who would otherwise have none. There will be wedding showers, youth devotionals, camping and adequate opportunities for fellowship. Members of the church will continue to bless the community in ways that they will never publicize. They will donate to the Ronald McDonald House, serve food at the battered women’s shelter, visit the shut-ins, feed the hungry, and so much more.
This has been a summer full of blessings, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve others and spread the gospel overseas. I believe I have found an area where I am able to fully utilize my talents and it would not be possible to do so without the incredible generosity of others. The Bible often talks about church members having different talents from one another. When everyone utilizes those different talents, it is like a fine-tuned machine.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” -I Peter 4:10
I’m so thankful for those who teach the young children’s classes every week because that is not my gift. I’m thankful for those who lead singing and for those who are true encouragers, like Barnabas, because those are not my gifts. I’m thankful for those who are able to fund overseas missions because that is not my gift. But I love to teach and to walk the streets of a foreign land, telling the good news, even more than I thought possible.
For those of you who were able to use your gifts to aid in mine, I am deeply indebted and forever changed. Whether you prayed for us, encouraged us, donated supplies, or funded our trip, I hope you know that you played a key role in so many parts of our mission. You helped us to spread the good news, you provided food and clothing to those in need, you went to the Father on our behalf to ensure a productive and safe journey, and you allowed us the blessing of being the messengers.
Sitting in a church service in Tanzania, I looked at those around me and was struck by a realization that I always knew but had never meant more to me. As I looked down the row and realized that three of us had our Bibles open, and every Bible was in a different language, I was awestruck at the power of the gospel and the verity of verses like Psalms 96:3:
“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!”
In a world where hatred and sadness continually fill our news stations and our computer screens, I am so blessed to be a part of a church family that spreads the news of love and grace with all generosity. In closing I leave you with a verse that has recently resonated with me and that I believe describes our mission teams and our church with all earnestness.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
Mungu ni pendo. God is love.