Reflecting on Guatemala: One missions team's experiencecomment (0)
September 8, 2011
By Chris Mills
EDITOR'S NOTE — Chris Mills led a five-member missions team to Guatemala Aug. 20–27 as part of the partnership Alabama Baptists have with Guatemalan Baptists. The team worked with Patmos Baptist Church in Genova, Guatemala. This was not his first missions experience, but it was for half the team. Chris, an associate in communications services for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and a member of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, shares about the experience as well as how he has been changed. The other teams members also share highlights from the trip.
Seven hours before our plane was to leave Montgomery, I was on the phone with my mom. She was in tears, as my stepdad’s grandmother was breathing her last breath. This was to be my mom’s first missions trip, and I couldn’t have been more excited. She was finally excited about the trip after being concerned over all the details the last few months. And now, she was torn as to whether she should be there for her husband or go to Guatemala. After prayer and counsel, she decided she would stay. I was discouraged but determined not to let this stop what God had planned for our team. It didn’t.
The remaining six of us set out for Genova, Guatemala. The team was made up of three first-timers — one of my best friends, a ministry assistant in my office and a retired Air Force colonel — two more experienced folks (who also happen to be close friends of mine) and me.
Seeing the first-timers, Kin Gibson, Charleen Hobbs and Ben Hulsey, step out of their comfort zone was a highlight for all of us veterans. Seeing the more experienced ones, Tanner Ethridge and Viki Brant, not only come alongside and encourage the first-timers but also get right back into their element of loving the people was a highlight for me. God stretched us all as we traveled four hours to Genova on rough roads (even for a seasoned traveler), endured very hot days and visited with many who live in extreme poverty. Even in the midst of the challenges, unity was evident.
“Boldness” was a key word for us. The verse we had been praying for our team was Acts 28:31: “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV). We asked God to fill us with boldness like Paul’s. Each team member shared his or her faith during the trip, and all of us walked away with a sense of boldness and comfort in sharing our faith that we never had before. Many team members overcame public speaking anxiety as each shared his or her testimony and some even had the opportunity to preach in special church services held throughout the week.
We also saw God use us to reconnect folks to the church. Two families rededicated their lives to the Lord and acted on that recommitment by joining us for a church service that evening. We visited many whom we saw God at work in. One woman shared with us that she was living in adultery, while another man was a former witch doctor. Wendy, a young woman who worked in a party supply store filled with piñatas, made a profession of faith. I had the privilege of praying with her. We assured her that there was a bigger party going on in heaven at the celebration of her salvation than there could ever be on earth — despite all the supplies in her shop!
Larry and Sarah Plyler, Southern Baptist representatives who spearhead Operation GO (Gospel Outreach) in Guatemala, were our contacts on the field. Any Alabama Baptist who has had the privilege of serving alongside the Plylers can attest to the fact they keep you laughing and encourage you with their heart for missions. Their knowledge of the people and passion for the lost and church growth challenged us in both our sharing with and praying for the people. They were an indispensable asset to the success and great experience we had.
God has blessed me with many opportunities to share His love with people all over the world. As you seek God’s direction, it doesn’t matter who the people are; He will break your heart for all nations. As a young minister, I’ve often thought this or that is the next step in my ministry. This missions trip was yet another affirmation that the next step is simply the next step of obedience. God’s heart is for all nations. Our heart, as we seek Him, will be for all people. God broke my heart for the people of Guatemala. He broke every team member’s heart for the people of Guatemala. My prayer and challenge to myself, my teammates and you is that we not neglect the fact that God is at work in our lives. May we be found faithful to His work in our lives. He revealed Himself in a special way to us in a little village about 25 miles from the Guatemala/Mexico border. He can do the same thing here.
Many times when I come back from a missions trip, I eventually go back to the same old routine. May that not be the case. May we be bold. May we be obedient to His desire for our lives — for His glory alone.