This past March I went on my first international mission trip with the PV High School Ministry and it was an exciting and humbling experience. We originally flew from Kansas City to Atlanta, Georgia, and then we flew to Quito, Ecuador late that night. We stayed overnight at a hostel before flying to Manta, Ecuador the next morning, but things did NOT go as planned. Our flight out of Quito ended up having a 7 hour delay. Yes, 7 hours. We all woke up at 5am expecting to leave at 7:15. Nope. We left at 2:30.
Ecuador was definitely a culture shock. First, we couldn’t flush toilet paper the whole time we were there, which was often hard to remember. And many times, the toilet paper was outside the stalls to prevent people from stealing!
While in Manta, we put on a youth camp at Bible Baptist Church of Manta, where we got to connect with lots of kids our age. We played games with them, had deep spiritual discussions and sermons, worshipped together, as well as just hung out. After three days of the youth camp, we went to the beach with the Ecuadorian youth. We swam, hung out in the ocean, climbed up a mountain to a lighthouse, and then went to perform the Freedom Drama at a local village. We had 16 people raise their hand to accept Jesus that night, and it was AWESOME!
For the second half of the week, the Ecuadorian youth group went with us to a smaller church to put on a vacation bible school for younger children. We taught these children worship songs, did crafts with them, and played soccer. The Bible Baptist Church of Manta holds an after school program for underprivileged children called Bonsai. At Bonsaithey offer tutoring, Bible teaching, games, food, crafts, and English classes. The kids in the Bonsai program have had hard lives. Some had parents in jail, and others had parents who had abandoned them. Many had mothers who were prostitutes, and some had no mattress to sleep on at night. Despite these terrible circumstances, these kids were SO full of joy. It was incredible.
At both Bonsai and the VBS, we offered family photos to anyone who was interested. Everyone jumped at the opportunity! Many of them had never seen a DSLR camera and many did not have pictures of themselves that they owned. Seeing the smiles on their faces after handing them their photos was humbling and heartbreaking.
We also performed the Freedom Drama at a children’s home. We had two younger girls raise their hands to accept Jesus that night. The children’s home is a safe place for children with no parents or those who are in a dangerous situation. At the home I met two girls, ages 14 and 18, who were both pregnant and almost ready to have their babies. There was a little boy who had a cancer that was rapidly spreading. There was also a group of siblings whose father had killed their mother right in front of them, and made one of the siblings help. This home is an incredible place. The leaders pray with the kids, teach them to take care of their babies, and even teach the girls how to make jewelry instead of turning to other sources of income.
Being at the home was utterly incredible to me. These children had gone through things you wouldn’t imagine, yet the smiles on their faces were real and their laughter was genuine. It was incredible to me that though our cultures spoke two completely different languages, it did not matter, because love has no language barrier. In fact, the love of Jesus has no barriers at all. Relationships are more important than our busy schedules. No sin can reach a point of no redemption. So my prayer is that we all remember these things and apply them to our daily lives, own hometowns, anywhere we may go, or to anyone we may meet. You may not know just by looking, but we are all broken and we all need to feel loved and love like Jesus.
You do not have to go overseas to go on a mission trip. This seems so cliche but it is so true. Your school is a mission field. Your workplace is a mission field. Your neighborhood, your favorite store at the mall, the best restaurant in town, the place or people you have been told are dangerous…everywhere you go is a mission field. Everyone you know needs the love of Jesus. Go and make disciples of all nations!