This is a continuation of a series I’ve been doing on my relationships and experiences doing missions in Belize. To read more about these experiences, click here.
I met Jessica and Ingrid in November 2010, on my first visit to Belize. On Sunday morning, the first full day we were in Belize, I sat alone on the front row of the tabernacle waiting for worship to begin and wondering what in the world I was getting myself into. I felt excited about ministry, but very out of my element and more than a little anxious about what was ahead of me.
The bus with all of the kids arrived, and my quiet reverie was interrupted by excited squeals and joyous laughter. As I turned around, I saw about a hundred of the most beautiful faces I had ever seen. Among them, right behind me, were Jessica and Ingrid.
They giggled and smiled and pointed at my name tag and nudged each other, whispering something excitedly to each other. Then Ingrid, on the right, piped up: “Her name is Jessica, TOO!”
And there, it seems, our bond was sealed.
They never left my side that first day, and from then on if our mission team was worshiping or gathering for any reason alongside our Belizean sister church, Ingrid and Jessica were at my side.
Last April, when I returned, little Carla was added to our little crowd, and three became four as we moved in tandem everywhere we went.
They snatch my camera up every time I see them, snapping unflattering pictures of me and themselves and anyone else in range of the camera’s eye. They scribble notes to me in my journals and Bible. They fiddle with my wedding band and ask questions about my family at home. They hang on my arms, around my neck, at my side. “Jess-e-ca! Jess-e-ca!” they call as I walk into church…onto the bus…into a room. These girls, whom the world has forgotten, have a way of making this ordinary mama from Georgia feel completely like a rock star.
I send them many of the pictures they take, and I take them little odds and ends when I go. Really, though, I don’t feel like I do much to hold up my end of our friendship. Until this past trip, I didn’t know for sure how old any of them were or what their favorite colors were. I didn’t know what they liked to do or what their favorite subjects were in school. You see, I’m not that comfortable around kids. Really. I’m not. I never have been. Today, I am comfortable around my own child…but not usually so much around anyone else’s children. It’s not my calling, nor is it something I have a lot of experience with. When I get around kids of most any age, I struggle to keep up my end of the conversation. I don’t know what to talk about and feel strangely self conscious as I try to interact with them. And so it has always been with Ingrid, Carla, and Jessica.
What has impressed me about those girls, though, is that while I don’t know a lot about them…nor they about me…that doesn’t matter to them. All they know is that I love them. I love them enough to come back again and again to pour out love on them. That’s all they know, and that seems to be all they need to know.
I love them, and they love me back with a love that is so pure and genuine and unassuming that I have to question my perception of love altogether. I have never done anything to earn their love. They feel my love for them, though, and somehow – somehow – that seems to be enough.
And so, in response to anyone’s concerns that they are ill-equipped for mission work, I say this: You need not BE equipped. If you can love, you can do missions.
I fully realize that not everyone is called to do international missions. My own husband has never been, though his support for me in my calling to go has been far more than I ever could have asked for. The important thing, to me, is that if someone IS called, that they are obedient to that call. I could go on and on about that…but that’s another post entirely.
What I want to emphasize is that if you want to do missions (or feel called to missions, whether you are particularly excited about it or not), you have something to give. All you need to be willing to offer is yourself. If you offer what you have – all of yourself, without reservation or hesitation or fear – you will do what you are being asked to do. Of all the needs you’ll see with your eyes, it is sometimes the needs you can’t see that are yours to meet. There is the need for love. Acceptance. Care. The need to be validated as a person and to know that someone sees you. Yes, the physical needs for shelter and food and clothing are pressing and important, and any work we can do on a mission experience to address those needs is warranted and necessary. I don’t in any way want to downplay the need for mission teams who will do those things. They are critical. Needed. Urgent. However, that is not all that there is to it. I also don’t want in any way to make it sound like missions is all about going just to receive a blessing. Yes, if you do go, you will receive hundredfold anything that you manage to pour out into the lives of the people you meet. The point, though, is not receiving a blessing, but being a blessing.
My point is simply this: If you can love, you can do missions.
It’s pretty simple, but sometimes that’s all that’s required.