Where/How I Saw God in
As some of you know, I was part of the team that our church took to
this last February. Let me just start by saying that I had no
idea where Grenada
was; I’d never heard of it. I learned
that it was an island, in the Carribbean, and that there was some tourism, but
not as much as expected, mainly cruises.
It really was never a question for me of whether I was going or not; I
knew that I wanted to be on the trip, and in the past, I’ve lived the pattern of
“If I want something, I’m going to make it happen.” So, I stayed close to God from the beginning
of the process: I wanted to make sure that it was actually Him and not me who
wanted me on that trip. ..a couple weeks before the trip, Rachel Guillot asked
me if I would be willing to share some of my experience with you all here, at
Women’s Retreat, when I got back. I told
her, “Sure!” and now here I am. Grenada
Firstly, I need to say that I saw God while I was waiting for this trip. This trip was a couple years in the making. I started coming to Emmanuel during my sophomore year at
. During my senior year, I heard about the
church’s trip to Bethany
College . I wasn’t very familiar with the phrase
“missions trip”; granted, I wasn’t very familiar with the church at all. I remember asking Pastor Loren to pray with
me specifically after one service, because I had a strong feeling about wanting
to go on the trip. I was at Chile on a track and
field scholarship, and was very unsure that my schedule would permit the
trip. While I was turning that little
pamphlet over in my hands, the little trifold one they make up every year with
the country and info, I just knew I wanted to go. I saw
that the church was getting ready to send a group to another country to help
people; I was all about helping people! I was a pre-med student at Bethany because I wanted
to be a doctor, to help people. I didn’t know it then, but this was
God speaking part of my purpose to my soul.
I’m fairly early on in my walk with God, and so to be able to go back
and point out this moment in time when pieces of me were falling together, is
pretty cool. I didn’t end up going to Bethany Chile, but I did go to the next year, 2011. Bolivia
When I look back at
, I see
a different Gilda. I see impatience,
frustration, lack of confidence, a weak sense of direction, and a newborn level
of faith and knowledge in God. So I was
a little nervous about Bolivia . I didn’t want history to repeat itself. Grenada
So for this specific trip, God spoke to me so much, so quietly, during the months of preparation. I heard God quieting my soul; telling me to chill out; to sit back and just let myself be led by others. I didn’t always know how to hear the voice of God before, I remember a year ago still thinking “I don’t know what it sounds like when God is speaking to me”. But I actively heard God for the first time in my life, talking to me about this trip, telling me that he had everything in place; like for example, the missions team dinner theatre fundraiser. That started out being a really frustrating thing; we couldn’t get a cast together, schedules were crazy; I tried my best to recruit actors and from what I saw, failed. We had to change to a completely different play than what we were originally going to do…it was a headache, and I got frustrated. But, God kept whispering, “I have it all under control”, and the more I let myself sink into those moments when God was talking to me, and just do my best to do my part in the whole thing, the more it all worked out. The play ended up being a success, and I felt another big piece of the puzzle fall into place.
So once all the fundraisers were done and it was time to go, and everyone was getting all pumped up, I felt this sense of calm; I wasn’t in a hurry about catching planes. I didn’t even check a suitcase! I made a point of packing only a carry-on suitcase, and my one other carry-on item, a tote bag. I heard God telling me, “I will supply everything you need; you don’t need to pack everything you think you do.” My natural personality is one that wants to be in control all the time..I’ve always struggled with uncertainty, and anxiety, and stress, and wanting to know what was next. By placing myself at the feet of Jesus, I’ve learned to trust.
So, I traveled with this new sense of confidence and simplicity; God had put this trip on my heart; he had led me through the preparations for the trip; he had pulled the finances together for me, given me the grace to save whatever money I could to pay my way.
The one thing I do share with people is that I wasn’t sure what my purpose was for this trip; in a sense, I felt a little empty, and almost a little disappointed. For
I had been so excited. I knew I was
going as a translator, on the medical team, that my role was crucial to the
functioning of the team; this time, I was not needed to translate, since the
language in Grenada is English (although, I will say, I picked up their dialect
very quickly, and used it to our advantage while ministering to people). So, as the trip got closer, I was still
wondering, “What is my purpose on this trip?
What am I going to do while I’m down there?” I kept having to fight off the stress and worry and
the spirit of “you don’t have a place” by telling myself that God had it all
worked out. Bolivia
The second we hit the ground in
heart started fluttering what seemed like a million miles a minute. I anticipated the fresh island air, wondered
how humid it would be, what it would feel like.
We had to descend the airplane by stairs and walk across the tarmac to
the gate. I heard Lola cry out a huge,
joyful shout of exuberation behind me, something like “Whoooo-hooo!!!!” We had made it. Grenada
I remember being nervous about the customs officers. But they were really nice! I remember the question, “Mission trip? What’s your mission?” And I said, caught off guard, “Uhh….loving people!” I wasn’t sure how people would respond to a church group, so I thought I was keeping my answer vague. It’s only in afterthought that I realize: God was using this customs officer to reveal to me my purpose for this trip, right here, right at the entrance to the country. Once everyone had their luggage, we got into another line to step outside the airport. I was right behind Pastor Loren, since I didn’t have to wait for luggage. I was there when he met Reverend Jacque, our Grenadian leader. He introduced us, and I knew that this was going to be a big week. I then met Stacey and Reena, Reverend Jacque’s right hand girls, and they were my little sisters instantly. Their smiles lit up the dark, breezy, humid night. They loved it when my hair responded to the humidity and frizzed up to twice its normal size. I was completely captivated.
I felt God in the breeze, saw him in everyone’s faces, heard him in each new greeting. I knew he wanted me here, right now, and I’ve never felt so much more comfortable and at peace in my life. We had a van ride to our village and hotel, which was an hour long. I couldn’t get enough of the sights, the island lights, the people walking through the residential areas, the cars, the breeze; I sat right by the window and remember just gazing up at the stars, feeling like I was a little kid at a carnival or museum, full of wonder, full of awe, for God’s creation and this remote little island he had sent me to.
Something that was on my heart as we began our work was how NICE everyone was. I never heard anyone honk a horn rudely, never saw anyone flip a finger. I didn’t hear anyone cuss, or yell at their neighbor. Complete strangers welcomed us with smiles up to their houses. We handed them tracks, the little books that tell sneaky stories about Jesus, and we told them about our medical clinics that the rest of our teammates were holding. We showed up empty-handed, well almost, except for the occasional balloon animal, and yet they were so eager and wiling to let us up and share some of their time. This is possibly the biggest way I saw God: the people on the island had more time, more space, more opportunity to be open to life’s blessings, big and small, although on the island, small could mean big. Their definitions of big don’t necessarily match our definitions of big. Time, I’ve learned is such a precious commodity, and we get so wrapped up in going a million miles an hour here at home in the states, that just creating, or in our case, having no choice but to sit around and wait for all the relaxed Grenadians to tell us what to do—just creating that time let the Holy Spirit work. This is where I saw God. This is where I felt God. I only feel God when I consciously take a deep breath and listen.
To let the Spirit of God play, I have to be willing to hit “pause” every once in a while. I have to be willing to step back and look. Observe. Look at the blue waters of the ocean in
. Or maybe it was watching the way, the grace
with which our hosts served us our meals.
Every spoonful was not just a hurried morsel to be swallowed and
digested, but a bit of love. A bit of
God. The very love we were there to give
them, they gave right back to us in the simplest of gestures. Grenada
I saw God in his wonderful provision! It can be scary to go to a new country, to trust that a group of strangers you’ve never met is going to be responsible for your basic needs of food and water. It took us a day or two to adjust to the food on the island. But we all made it. Maybe a couple pounds lighter, but we made it. We had everything we needed and more, if only we were willing to step back, look, and say “Thank you, Lord. Now, what is it you want me to do today?”
As a team, we dedicated each day to the Lord and prayed over the work we were doing. I saw God in how we all worked together in our different areas of work. I felt God in the freedom, the letting go, the abandoning of our own ways, our own plans and agendas, and truly letting God govern each day. Personally, I consciously said every day, “Put me where you want me God; I’m here to do your work; put me where you want me.” I saw Pastor Loren and Pastor Andy mix concrete by hand, side by side and what came to mind was, “The greatest among you must be a servant.” Seeing God in each and every individual on the team who was willing to make this their soul’s cry, really gave me peace about the whole trip and about this little piece of my life’s calling. I was willing to make myself a servant. And I heard God telling me, “That is all you need to do.”
I feel like I can’t say enough about the rest. I felt like we were keeping the pace God intended….the first day, some of us were worried, trying to figure out what the schedule was, what we were gonna do that day. Reverend Jacque told some of us to relax; I chimed in with “Yeah, we are on
Island time!” everyone thought that was so funny, but the
awesome harvest that came out of restful productivity!
These times of rest, the open evening times here and there, allowed me to really listen to God and let him heal my heart of any questions or concerns. I didn’t do the same thing every day as far as work goes. We had a medical team, a construction team, an evangelism team, and did some children’s ministry events. I made myself open to wherever there was a need each day. I put aside the frustrations of “I really wanted to be on the construction site today,” or “I don’t feel like walking today,” and I obeyed. I saw Jesus in the way I was able to obey and put myself aside. Maybe my teammates were tired of walking too. Maybe somebody else really wanted to finish sanding down a wall or painting that windowsill they started yesterday. So, fine, I was able to say, “I’ll go elsewhere.” It wasn’t easy, but feeling the Holy Spirit moving in me and telling me to just do it, kinda slapped me in the face a little. So I went.
I walked with Mike Strosnider as part of the evangelism team a lot and learned so much about talking to people about Jesus, asking if they had Jesus in their heart. Complete strangers! We had so many good conversations and great times of prayer with perfect strangers at bus stops, on the side of the road with busses and cars speeding by, in shady corners on the construction site. I didn’t really get to do this in
so I was very thankful for this experience, to learn how to let Jesus manifest
himself in me. bEing in a new country,
with people who are part of a completely different culture, can be so
scary. But all the while, I felt Jesus
saying, “It’s ok” and allowing me to go forth and shine for him. Bolivia
I saw God in the connections he allowed me to make with some of the locals. There was one particular young man who I spent some time talking to on the construction site, and he ended up coming to church for our farewell service! Rev. Jacque sent me some pictures of him attending church a couple weeks later. It was nice to know that God had allowed that connection to happen. I know that it’s only because I made myself open and listened to every word God wanted me to say that I was able to put myself out there and connect with strangers. I saw that they saw God in the way I was able to love. I saw that it was me loving, because He loved us first.
This trip overall has allowed me to see the personal growth I’ve made over the last 2 years….knowing its something you’re supposed to do; committing to go even though I didn’t know all the details, being able to say, “Jesus, you are Lord over my life, and if you want me to go, I’ll go.”
I had gotten into this routine in
: work, church,
doing for others, playing with my cat, work, church. Sometimes in the mundane, I forget to look
for God. This trip challenged me to see
everything as grace, to see God everywhere.
I started taking a class facilitated by Debbie, covering the book, “One
Thousand Gifts”, right before leaving for Salina . One of the first things she says in the video
is “all is grace” and that resonated and has stuck with me ever since. When I got back from the mission trip, I was
able to see Grenada
as my “home mission field.” There’s so
much to do here, so many ways we can go out and make disciples of the nations
here in Salina ,
it’s empowering! Salina
I see God in the way he laid this trip out for me from the beginning; I see him in everything since getting back. I feel God in my relationships with others, the way I want to make more time for the little things that matter, the way I long for that slowed-down, fruitful pace that was in
I feel God in the way that I feel God so much more, every day. How a simple 8-day trip has shuffled and stirred my normal ways to the point where I desire to change something, I desire to have more of a discipline to seek God out and listen. And it is in this quiet time of listening that I get to hear the instructions for my every day little adventures, and perhaps the next big one to come. But these little adventures, these are the ones I don’t want to miss out on; and these are the ones I feel compelled to encourage you to embrace as well. I am drawn to Jesus because He loves me, and when I look around and see the thousands of ways in which he loves me, I feel encouraged. It doesn’t have to be a missions trip across an ocean to make you feel drawn to Jesus. He is right here. And he is waiting.