What I Learned in Mexico

This was originally posted on my church’s blog. You can see the original post here.

Since 2012, I’ve gone each year on the church’s mission trip to the Rio Bravo Children’s Home in Reynosa, Mexico. Before 2012, I’d never even considered going, despite hearing of the trip for years. But given the opportunity, I took it and immediately fell in love with the place and people. As we come back each year and tell our story, there are always lessons that are learned along the way. We always learn new skills, but the spiritual lessons are the most valuable. Here is what I took away.

Faith means taking one step at a time

I’ve heard the story of Ray Hansen, who started Rio Bravo, time and again at this point. I’ve heard it on every trip to the Children’s home, as well as many Sunday mornings when Ray has preached at our church. I’ve even heard it at other events. If I had to guess, I’ve heard the story 20+ times. But every time, it seems to hit me a different way. This particular time, I was struck at the lack of planning that can be done as a missionary. Not only could Ray not tell us what would come five years from now, but he could scarcely tell us what would happen tomorrow.

We see this model played out in Peter walking on water in Matthew 14 as he asks to come join Jesus on the water. I’m sure we can all imagine each step took an immense amount of faith, but when that faith waned, he started sinking. What a powerful picture that is…that Peter is held up by his own faith, one step at a time.

Any plan we set or make for ourselves is full of our earthly desires. Any plan we make has the potential to override the faith we may have to have. I don’t mean to say we should never make plans, but what I do mean to say is that as Christians, we need to be willing to plan less. The way I see it is prepare but walk blindly. We have our own intellectual knowledge and skills that we’ve been given and are expected to use. Those skills should be used to help us prepare and be ready. The phrase “walk blindly” means that we hold our preparation loosely, on the palm of our open hand, ready to release it at the first nudge from our Lord. Blindly can raise up a negative visual, but it should bring to mind Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I can definitely say, I’m not good at this at all. With my job and personality, I like to plan and plan and plan. I like to run scenario after scenario after scenario. And this isn’t necessarily bad, but it has made me very bad at operating without a plan. It has made me bad at operating without knowing my next step. Through the infertility journey I and my wife have walked through, which she has shared about on this blog, I think that’s a lesson the Lord is trying to teach me. I’ve also seen this through my work and other personal experiences. Okay God, I’ve finally got the message to allow you to establish my steps.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Rejoice in the Lord always

”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) 

Such a simple verse, but truly so much depth. As Paul writes this in his final address to the church, he is telling them to rejoice after all the trials he has gone through.

It’s easy to go to a place where we see people less fortunate than us and feel sorry for them. Now, this is definitely not the case at the Children’s home, because we would all be blessed and built up from growing up in that place. But I think before you see it, or even if you see the community around them, it’s easy  to feel pity and wish better for others through our American ignorance. But as I heard Ray’s story and reflected on the children in the home and school, I had a flashback to the pity parties I throw for myself. When I’m stressed or frustrated, I look internally and think Oh, poor me.

The reality is, if Paul can rejoice and exhort others to rejoice in his situation, that means rejoicing in the Lord is our choice. There is no circumstance or situation where we should quit rejoicing. In all situations, we should be able to find joy and the hand of our Savior. No matter the trial or circumstance, we are to look to God and thank Him for all he has done. Since the trip, I’ve made a point to reflect on the things I have to be thankful for, and I think it’s truthfully a never-ending list. But in the day-to-day, it’s easy to take for granted all the things in our lives that have the hand of God on them.

I am so thankful for Rio Bravo and the Hansen family. I’m so thankful for Ed Mira and Mark Stapp, who have both been instrumental to our commitment to this place. And I’m so thankful I took that first opportunity to go. Because without that place, I’d be without the valuable lessons and blessings I’ve received. And I hope to see others receive that blessing for the first time next year!

If you have any questions or concerns, please ask someone who went, because I can assure you, it’s something they’d love to talk about.