Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
Ever since I was called to be an Elder at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda,
MD in 1994, I have tried to live a "Christ Like" life. It is a challenging call and journey,
but with God's help, I attempt the goal daily. My favorite scripture is Matthew 7: 7-11
"Ask, Search, Knock". In my teaching, in my Christian Education Ministry, and in my
family life's journey; the scripture has helped me tremendously.
The surprise and joy came when God answered my prayers and supported me when my
husband and I were sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. I didn't expect God to be with me
all the time, especially when having fun. In the 28 years of sailing we were in 2 very bad
storms. In 1 storm at night the rain was coming down sideways because the wind was
blowing so hard. During the storm, I was grateful for God's presence - the surprise was
feeling the Holy Spirit inside the boat. Needless to say, I was glad I remembered the
lessons from the sailing classes we took and we "weathered the storm."
Gracious God thank you for your presence in our lives no matter where we find
ourselves. Help us to ask, search and knock for the joy this Advent Season. Help
us to know your will for our lives. God we are most grateful for the birth of your
son, Jesus. Amen.
What have I learned about myself so far? Well to my surprise I've learned a lot of things this past few months. This mission trip means a lot to me, to many of my peers, and most definitely to the wonderful people in Chajul.
I've learned that I am very nervous about this trip: I think I am nervous because this is my first time out of the US. I will not have my mother or grandparents by my side, and this will feel awkward at first, but I know I am going on this trip with amazing people. I have also learned how curious I am about entering a new culture. I hope we can bring something meaningful to Guatemala, but also discover what we will receive in return.
Last year’s trip
to Guatemala was pretty eye opening. As any of the other members of
last year’s trip will tell you, being completely immersed in a
different culture really changes your perspective. A big question
that I’ve been asked is why I want to go back this year. The answer
is pretty simple really—I have to.
I don’t mean, “I
have to” like I’m being forced back. I want to go back; I just
have extra responsibility now. As one of the returning members of
this trip, I am called to help the first timers adjust to the
Guatemalan culture. A big issue with international trips, especially
in a less developed country, is culture shock.
People often get
very uncomfortable around new and different things, especially when
they are completely surrounded by it non-stop. Last year, we all
experienced culture shock in different ways. The newcomers among us
weren’t truly prepared for the language barrier, the driving
differences, the diet etc. Now knowing all of this, I can better help
the others prepare for such changes.
I also have to go
back to finish the job we started last year. When we left, we had
painted their church interior, but their student center was little
more than a frame with dirt floors, exposed wires and rebar sticking
out of the roof. There will always be more to do and more ways to
serve. We will find new and interesting ways to use our time on this
trip, and I will be eager to help with every scenario that comes.
Overall, there are
some things that I am not looking forward to. I won’t like having
to communicate through someone else. I won’t like the inability to
wear shorts even when it’s hot outside and I especially won’t
like eating chicken and black beans for a straight week…again. I am
willing to overlook these things in order to return to Guatemala
eager to serve and help others. I really didn’t have a choice
whether I was returning to Guatemala or not, but sometimes that’s a
I grew up in the Presbyterian Church. Most people know that.
What you might not know is that I also spent my most formative spiritual years (17 – 22) attending charismatic, conservative, evangelical youth groups and churches. You also might not know that the small, solo pastor, Presbyterian Church I grew up in was part of a local Inter-Ministerial Alliance. This Inter-Ministerial Alliance (to my knowledge) consisted of our Presbyterian Church, as well as 8-12 local Black Missionary Baptist Churches. During Holy Week, each church part of the IMA would get together every single night at a host church to hear a sermon given by a guest church on one of the last seven words of Christ. My family’s close family friends, the Stells, were members of one of these BMBCs, so oftentimes, the kids would end up going just so that we could see the Stell kids (who were homeschooled in contrast to me and my siblings attending public school). As my Presbyterian Church was the biggest, we would host the Maundy Thursday service, and the sanctuary would be as packed as it was on Easter morning. These Holy Week services started out as a time to see the Stells when I was in junior high, but as I grew older, it became something more, something I needed to attend every Holy Week because the worship was so vastly different, and yet there was something about it that was so achingly familiar.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that having spent so many formative years in churches that are unashamed of shouting, “Amen!” and “Come on Preacher!” in the middle of sermons, of uplifted hands to the heavens during worship, of nodding and many murmurings of “Yes Lord” during prayers, that I find myself so at home in Guatemala and worship at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Chajul (yes, that’s it’s official name, so there should be some clues already there as to worship in the church name!). Kids are running around in the aisles and chatting with each other (and the Americans they’re so attached to). Worship songs bring everyone in the congregation to tears (and one song can last 25 minutes). And when you pray, everyone starts speaking all at once, moaning, weeping, and wailing. It reminds me of those years growing up, of the Holy Week Services and of the various evangelical churches and youth groups I attended during the end of high school and throughout college.
I left the Presbyterian Church because there was an element of spirituality and energy that my soul found in evangelical churches, but I chose to return home to my Presbyterian roots when I realized the spiritual highs were nowhere near as sustaining as Reformed theology and the Presbyterian’s clinging to of the never-ending grace of God, and deep held conviction of our calling to serve others. My spirituality continues to move and adapt, has been refined and honed in over the years, but the reason why I need—not want, need—to return to Guatemala, is because this is a place where my past and present collide, where I’m able to preach and help lead worship, but also where it is as easy as breathing to lift my voice in prayer with the saints around me, and to weep at the sheer beauty of the love and grace of God that spans from Williamsburg, to Guatemala City, to Chajul, and to the ends of the earth.
This post was written by one of our Adult Leaders, Lauren:
Mission work provides an opportunity to reconnect with God. Being placed in a foreign environment to assist those who we will often have a language barrier with, requires a certain reliance on God. I am excited for this reconnection as well as doing mission work in a leadership context.
I have done mission work at several points throughout my life, but never as a leader. I already love the kids on our team and am thrilled to be a part of their experience. I am excited to teach and I am also open to what I know they will end up teaching me. I’m looking forward to building lasting relationships with the students, as well as the leadership team. We have a great group of people and I want to get to know them on a deeper level. I can already tell that they have a wide variety of interesting perspectives. I am ready to lead and be led by the Spirit.
In addition to these facets of the trip, I am also quite excited about experiencing a new culture. I love travel and the way that it widens horizons. I am open to all that the local people have to share and I can’t wait to learn more about Guatemala. In my opinion, mission work can be one of the best ways to learn about a new environment and culture. Through working with local people to complete tasks, we will learn more about their ways of life and their values. I am even excited to try the new types of food we will be exposed to.
My mind is open and I am ready to be led by God to do this work. I am excited for the relationships and learning experiences that will come out of this opportunity. There is so much to be gained when traveling to a new place to serve God.