Erica Schmitz

In 2016 I felt a call to step out in faith and take part in my first mission trip. However, my call to go on mission was different than the call that many others experience. While some receive a call to journey overseas, mine was to go somewhere closer to home… somewhere right here in the United States. After hearing that Pleasant Valley was looking to build a team to go to New Mexico in August, something about it seemed right. After a lot of prayer, I packed my bags and followed God’s call to Ramah, New Mexico to use what God has gifted me to glorify Him!

Ramah ended up being completely different than I expected. This trip is not what some would consider a “typical” mission trip. In Ramah I found a group of people that just needed people willing to love and care for them.  As a team, we loved the people there through serving them in various ways.

I’ve always had a passion for photography, so my primary responsibility of the trip was to take family portraits. Pictures are something that are readily available to the majority of people, but the people of Ramah have little to no access to this simple luxury. Throughout the week, those who came to take pictures varied between individuals who had never had a picture of themselves before, the younger generation, as well as families. The most impactful part the experience were the looks of genuine thankfulness people displayed when they received their free portraits.

God left me in awe with how He works and how He provides. Even before leaving, I was humbled that so many people were so generous, giving to make our trip happen, as well as taking the time to pray for our team. Surprisingly, being in a place where there was no cellular service was incredibly refreshing and helped me realign and prioritize things in my life.

Family portraits – or even a picture of yourself – is a luxury that we often take for granted. Seeing how the people of Ramah reacted to this simple gift changed my view on the value of a picture.  The happiness and smiles on their faces when they received a captured moment that they could keep forever is something I will never forget.

Shortly after we returned home, we received tragic news that members of a Ramah family were in a tragic accident. Sadly, it was a family that I had taken a picture of during one of our sessions. God works in such mysterious ways. The family they left behind now has a memory that has been captured through work of our missions ministry – something that could not have happened had we not had the courage to answer the call of God to go. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to touch families in such a meaningful way by simply using my God-given talents.

Taking the step of faith to go is the first chapter of the journey. The story that God is writing continues to be written long after we return home.