Two weeks ago I was in Tijuana serving alongside nineteen other twenty-something-year-olds. And to be honest, it wrecked me.
Back in the Fall I was asked by my church to accompany our Spring Break missions team to Tijuana as the videographer. I’m lucky to have a few friends on staff who know my heart for Latin America and were pushing for me to go on this trip specifically, but because I was going to do a “job” (or at least in my head that’s what I thought), I didn’t think much about it until we arrived.
We stayed in Mexico for five days (a nice balance since it was a total of five days driving across the country there and back) to serve the team at Centro Shalom. I knew no one on my team — with the exception of acquaintances I had formed through mutual friends — and to be honest, my heart was postured pretty poorly going in. I believed that my week would be spent in the background glorifying a mission without playing a real role in the work itself. I was wrong.
Here are things that I am reflecting on after spending a week on mission in Tijuana.
I am so prideful.
The first time I spent real time on mission in Latin America I was fifteen. I spent eleven days in Quito, Ecuador on a team with my grandparents, my cousin, and my childhood friend and her mom. We worked at an orphanage and it was the first time in my life that I really genuinely heard the voice of the Lord in my life. I knew the second I stepped off the plane: this was home. These were my people. And then the same thing happened again when I spent Thanksgiving in the Dominican Republic my senior year of high school. And again when I spent Christmas in Nogales, Mexico.
Somehow I kept ending up in Spanish-speaking countries. I was in love. Each time I set my foot down in any of those places I immediately felt at rest, full, called. And then the Lord threw a curveball when he sent me to live in Myanmar for two and a half months after my freshman year of college. There I really got a taste for what it means to dedicate your whole life to serving others, and also saw my passion for children’s ministry thriving. And without knowing it, the seeds of pride began flourishing.
“I’m so holy.”
“I’m so called.”
“I’m so good at x,y,z.”
My heart beats for the nations, but pride can get in the way of that. To an extent, I think I’ve started to build my identity in my desire to be sent to the nations. This Tijuana trip the Lord laid me flat. For the first time I wasn’t the star of the show. I was a supporter, an exhorter, a sister who was able to watch her family thriving while simultaneously being rebuked hard by my Father. Because I’d developed a “been-there-done-that” attitude my heart was poisoned. I think more as a defense mechanism than anything. If you are defensive and prideful then people can’t see the insecurities or the fear underneath. Both of which I have a surplus of.
I took the words of Micah 6:8, the very verse the Lord first used to call me to the nations, for granted.
“What does the Lord require of you, O mortal, but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
I am desperate for the Lord.
This year has been interesting because after spending a summer abroad I feel like I’ve been constantly trying to play catch up. I am behind in class, behind in work, just… behind. In addition to praying through some garbage from the summer, I’ve switched majors, switched churches (better stated, I’ve come home after a year away), and switched jobs. I feel like I’m drowning.
What I have realized in all of that is how absolutely desperate for the Lord I am. During the Christmas season I had a lot of time with just the Lord and myself, and I kept hearing him calling me into a season of exposure. Laying myself bare. I hate having my sin on display, I hate having my failings as a human out for the world to see, and I feel like thats exactly the place the Lord wants me. And it feels like being skinned and having salt rubbed into the rawness. Like I am genuinely being given new flesh. And its a hell of a procedure.
Through that I have had one massive temptation: fix it all on my own and pretend everything is fine.
This is where a lot of my pride in serving the nations comes from; because while I can feel at home anywhere in the world, this can also be a defense mechanism to shelter myself from the fatal blows that come from owning up to the garbage in my heart. If I play the role of the good Christian, going abroad to serve the Lord and not to party, then it props my ego up until no one asks questions about the actual state of my heart.
Since I was fifteen I have heard the Lord saying that I need to give up at least two years of my life to foreign missions (I want to write more about this at length at a later date), and I have spent six years running from it. Trying to figure it out on my own — for financial security, for academic and career security, for personal security — if I could plan it on my own then I could have full control and still sell myself as obedient.
This Christmas my wickedness in even believing any of it was ever in my hands to begin with was painfully yanked out of my grasp. As I move closer to graduation in the Fall, I am working toward my two year term (or longer?) on mission. It is here that I recognize my desperation. It is a thirst for the comfort of someone bigger than myself telling me that it is okay, an itch to see my passions lived out, and a desire to serve the Lord because of his faithfulness in my life. I think about it every day. I am moving closer to graduation and my life has two separate trajectories: pursue academia and the language that I love or be obedient to the urgency of the gospel and give up my pride, my plans, and my future to serve a God who is bigger than my security.
Tijuana reminded me that the Lord has created me uniquely to love and serve those who are not like me. Being there reminded me that I look to the Lord to sustain me, I look to the Lord to be my comfort, my rock, my place of quiet retreat — and I feel that intimacy through being a part of a family.
My team in Tijuana was a blessing in every sense of the word. I have never had the privilege of serving with a team that is so cohesive and dedicated to the mission and every day was a joy. I was inspired by each member’s zeal to make His name known, commitment to community, and brotherly love. I prayed that the Lord would give me a verse to meditate on going in and found myself reciting Romans 12:10 to myself all week.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, and honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
I am desperate for the Lord because on my own I am weak.
The mission doesn’t end when we are in America.
To be honest, this is what I struggle the most with. I love learning new languages, new cultures, new ways of life; but when it comes to sharing the gospel with my neighbor it is the hardest thing in the whole world.
Being a part of the English and Critical Culture, Gender, & Race Studies departments at my school is the best decision I have made, but it also often feels like the hardest places to talk about Jesus. So many people have been hurt by people that tote the name of Jesus but don’t live out his commandments, and so many of them seek solace in these classrooms. I have sat through so many classes where God is put on blast, where Christianity is called irresponsible and ignorant, where Christians are made the culprit of a litany of issues in modern society. And what’s harder is that, to be fair, I can see where these people are coming from. Historically, people who abide by the bible haven’t always made people feel great about themselves. This applies to believers and non-believers alike.
However, in coming back from a mission trip its even hard to talk about why you went at all. People are really excited to hear about you helping people and mobilizing communities out of poverty, but once the name of Jesus comes up the spark of curiosity flickers out. They’re not interested in what they are sure is legalism. And who can blame them?
In America I am not being pushed out of my comfort zone every day, and because of that I am not being pushed to share the gospel every day. And I don’t. Spending time with my Tijuana team and on mission in Tijuana reignited my heart for evangelism through love ethics, and convicted me of my lack of boldness in the U.S. Because at the end of the day, it is not my job to convert anyone — it never has been — it is my job to live a life that proclaims the gospel and faithfully believe that the Lord is at work in the hearts of those around me. It is not my job to lie dormant either, it is my responsibility as someone who believes that Jesus Christ was exactly who he said he was and serves a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever to respond to the urgency of the gospel. And that doesn’t always mean foreign missions.
So we will press on as a family on mission.
Until next time, wonder on. xoxo