My team and I are back from the New Tribes Mission training center in Chihuahua, Mexico. This was my first mission trip and is sure not to be the last! It’s incredible how God will use and teach someone if they will dedicate even two weeks to Him. It makes me wonder how much of my normal life do I dedicate entirely to God.
This mission trip was 100% God invested! It’s hard to escape Him when He is EVERYWHERE and can do ANYTHING. God showed this to us the very first day when two of our team members had to take a different flight because the airlines had overbooked …
Luckily we had a four hour lay-over which would give them time to catch up. But then their plane was late, which would cause them to get in right as our second flight was leaving. But God knew what He was doing.
Right in the middle of a group prayer for the situation, our second flight was delayed which gave them just enough time to catch up. I don’t think that airport has ever heard such a loud, happy reaction to a delayed flight!
Once in Mexico, we spent eight days working at the center by helping them with construction on the new staff and student housing, plus some other odd jobs. God blessed our work and protected us – even when I had a near fatal foot misplacement …
As I slipped off of the twelve-foot scaffold during some of our inside work, God had already made me just a long enough fellow to be able to grab onto the edge of the open loft on the other side of the room which allowed me to stop myself parallel to the ground.
With one arm on the loft and one foot still on the scaffold, I was a 6’ 2” dangling bridge over a cement foundation covered with parts and pieces of other scaffolds, building supplies, tools and other sharp objects. How He managed to give my female partner enough strength to hold up our side of the twelve-foot drywall board that we were putting on a 45-degree angled ceiling, I’ll never understand.
Or how I had enough strength and reflexes to push myself back up in “God speed” in time to help her out before causing a change reaction for all of us on the scaffold. But I will never forget her timid voice as she held the dry wall and realized she was alone, but couldn’t see what was happening to me behind her. “Shane? … Shane? … Shane!”
God also showed me that there are no boundaries to how He can use someone. On four different days we went to a brickyard community where some of Mexico’s poorest try to scratch out a living making bricks. God used an odd tool (me) to do a job I didn’t think I could do. I don’t know a lick of Spanish and to me that was a barrier to how God could use me when it came to people. But I didn’t know that God provides a universal language that everyone understands, especially children. It’s called love.
The original plan was that we would work with a ministry that repairs the people’s houses, which are nothing more than scrap boards. We were also going to repair the church roof which had been damaged in a golf-ball-size hail storm. But when we got there it was raining and you can’t repair roofs in the rain. As we waited for the rain to stop, I noticed two boys just standing watching us.
Feeling stupid just standing there with nothing to do, I went up to them and said “Hola!” (which is one of the few Spanish words that I do know!) And we just started playing… in the rain! It was one of the funest times I have ever had! God used my goofiness, tickling, chasing, and wheel barrow rides to bring fun and happiness to some kids in a rather depressing place. I will never forget how God used me to minister just by being a mirror of Christ’s love. That experience taught me not to limit myself or others when it comes to Gods ability to use someone for His work.
About half of us got into playing with the kids and as we played the number of kids grew. The rain eventually stopped, and fortunately there were enough workers for us to be able to stay with the kids while the others started on the roofs. When it was time to go, I didn’t want to leave! Never before had I felt so full of love for kids I didn’t even know. And each time we went to the brickyard the same thing repeated itself. We showed up and were able to love on some kids that greatly needed it. But God wasn’t done.
On the last day we were there, as I was playing with the boys, I noticed two girls standing to the side watching all the other kids play with us. These girls had a skin bacteria problem that caused their skin to dry, crack, and bleed. They were very self conscious about it because it was contagious to others. But when I saw them I just knew God wanted me to go reach out to them.
For me, playing with the boys had been a challenge in itself because of the language barrier. But at least we had one thing in common – we were all boys. Now I felt God telling me to go to these girls who I have absolutely no common ground with. But God was about to show me that I can relate to anyone because of love.
Everything inside me was telling me to just continue playing with the boys, but God was definitely telling me something else. So against my flesh, I went up to the girls and asked their names. They were very shy, and I could barely hear them.
To try and break the ice, I started calling them by the wrong names on purpose in a joking manner. They would then try to correct me and I would mess them up again. After a while, they started to open up and I did some little magic finger tricks for them.
From seeing the others girls in our group play the patty cake game with the other little Spanish girls, I knew that they would probably like that too. So using body language, I asked if they wanted to play. But they didn’t want to. I thought it was just because they were still a little shy so I tried to convince them. After a short while one of the girls started to cry and then I understood that they didn’t want to touch me because they could pass on the disease.
So, here I am trying to play with girls whose language I don’t know, who are shy about a skin disease, and now I had made one of them cry. I could hear my flesh telling me that this wasn’t worth it and that I was totally out of my league. But then I got an idea to try and play Frisbee with them.
I picked one up and threw it to them but the girls were too shy to throw it back. So I went and picked it up right in front of their feet and backed up and threw it again. I did this a few times, and they must have felt sorry for me having to keep coming to pick it up, so they began to throw it back. And then they relaxed and we all started having a lot of fun. God had broken the barrier.
After a while the van showed up to take us away. I didn’t want to go, but I had to. And since it was our last time to be there, this would be our good-byes. I confused their names one last time which brought a smile to their faces. I told them “Adios mi amigas” and held out my arms for a hug.
Both girls stood there hesitant because of their disease. But I wasn’t going to let anything prevent me from hugging them good-bye, so I snatched one of them up. Never before have I received such a strong hug from such small arms. The other girl wanted to make a game out of it so I had to chase her around but once I caught her, I received another memorable hug. To see their faces afterwards didn’t just make my day, it made my life.
Through this whole experience in Mexico, I believe God is preparing me for full-time ministry. Seeing firsthand how God can do anything anywhere has strengthened my faith for the future. As far as I am concerned, the sky is the limit as to how God can use me after seeing what He did at the brickyard. I feel more equipped and more confident to step into the battle zone and tackle head on whatever life or Satan throws my way.
A good friend introduced me to a saying that goes “Zeal without ambition is like a fire without light”. God sent me to Mexico to learn just what that means. This past year I have grown like I never have before. Through youth group, friends, church, Bible class, and personal Bible study and prayer, God has been teaching me almost more than I can handle. And through it all, He has set to flame a passion for full-time ministry. My zeal was to do God’s work, but my problem was putting a limit as to what work I could do.
But going to Mexico dissolved those boundaries. I knew less Spanish than anyone else in my group, knew nothing of their culture, and thought I was just going to do some construction work. Little did I know that God had much bigger in plans for me. Now my zeal not only has ambition, but it isn’t limited anymore. My ambition is for God to use me in whatever way He sees fit. My ambition is to jump into the war at every opportunity that God brings, no matter how it looks to my earthly eyes. My fire now has light!