When you choose to open up your heart towards others, you never know what kinds of people you will meet. You are sure to meet people from all walks of life and all different backgrounds. From the translators, the hosts, the kids and random people you come into contact with along the way, each one has a story to tell. When I signed up for my first GE trip several years ago, I thought I was signing up to love the kids of Ecuador and share Jesus with them, but God had other plans for me that year.
Sometimes in life we are in ruts, and we may not call them ruts because we are content in the place that we are. That is exactly where I was… I was content. I had a job. I had a relationship with Jesus. I had everything I wanted and needed. Life was good. But something in my life was missing.
Prior to going on this trip, I started reading a book titled Danger Surrender. I had no idea how much this book was going to rock my world, and if I had known that, I probably wouldn’t have started reading it. However, as I was reading this book, I was drawn into the story of the author and how she was called to love a group of people to whom she had no connection.
My first trip started back in 2015, and I found myself going through the motions of loving kids and making sure they had a great time. I, too, was having a great time, and we went through our first week of the trip in Quito. Then came the second week of the trip. We went to the town of Otavalo, and this small town would become one of my favorites. I loved the view from our hotel where I could look across the valley and see the mountain. On a clear day you would see the snow on top. I loved the people, quiet in nature but full of life. Many of the kids have long, thick, black hair, and you can tell that they value their heritage.
While in Otavalo, we would work with the local church in the morning and then, because it was a small town, we were open to ideas of what to do in the afternoons. Some people in the local church had a connection to a local orphanage, where the majority of the kids had AIDs. Our team leaders, being open to this idea, decided to take part of the team that year to go and check it out.
I will always remember walking to its doors. Nobody knew what to expect. I will always remember the smell of the place. It was different, almost like an acrid, stale smell. The kids did whatever they wanted, and they had open sores that could have turned us away in disgust. When we tried to tell a story, the kids were all over the place, and they wouldn’t sit still. I suppose they were just being kids. However, the story didn’t seem to catch their attention, and who knows what kind of eternity these kids were going to enter.
That day we spent about three hours playing with them, telling stories, and doing a craft. I didn’t realize what that time with those kids would teach me. It was because I spent time with these kids that something happened to me. I was broken. My heart was broken for these kids and that there was so little I could do for them. The experience has always stayed with me. I have cried, asked God questions, and had to learn how to process what I was feeling.
For me, the trip became more than just telling Bible stories and playing games. I needed to go on this journey to learned how to be vulnerable again. This trip showed me that it was ok to love, to establish connections with people, even if I may never see them again. I also needed to surrender my plans for my life and give them to God each day. Something was happening inside of me, and I was able to see that this world was bigger than just me.
It is so easy to get into a rut and miss out on what the best thing is for us. You never know what God could have in store for you if you’re willing to take a chance and try something new. Had I not taken a trip, I would have missed out on knowing what it was like to become vulnerable again and to dive deeper in my relationship with God.
What is holding you back from experiencing something more? Is it fear of the unknown? Is it worry about how you’ll fit in or adjust to a new culture? Does the idea of being uncomfortable make you uncomfortable?
Whatever is holding you back, let it go. I promise you will never regret taking a chance and allowing God to use you in spite of your fears, your worries, or comforts. Even though it was a hard journey of learning how to understand what I had experienced, I have never regretted it for a moment. My walk with Christ is deeper and my outlook on life is more hopeful and joyful because of the decision I made to get out of my rut.
Ecuador is one of my favorite places, and it was a place that I experienced something more.
You could, too.
Philip grew up on a small family farm in North Central Florida. When he was 15, his parents took him on his first mission trip to Brazil, and his eyes were opened to a much larger world than his small town. Since then, he has been able to travel all over the world and has loved every minute of it. Currently, Philip serves as a Lead Pastor at Rivertown Community Church. In the spring of 2018, he met his wife, Jordan, who changed his life. She shares the same passion for people that he does and loves to travel the world. They decided to share this journey, and he can’t wait to begin traveling with her.