My Mission Trip to Camalu

This is a throwback post that happened the week of 3/18/2016-3/27/2016

I’m just throwing this out there because I need stuff on my blog.

These are a few of my experiences last spring break!!

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I spent around 3 hours on Wednesday morning shadowing Dr. Jason in the medical clinic. I rubbed iodine on people’s knees as he injected triamcinolone acetate into their joints to help with their arthritis. I felt so honored to pray for every single patient with him, and hear the words “Dios le bendiga” (God bless you) when they left our clinic. The amount of needs in our makeshift clinic saddened me, and I felt a pang in my heart every time our patients flinched at the needle. One by one I would go outside, call in a patient, and watch Dr. Jason lean in close to them, look them in the eye, and treat them with incredible love, dignity, and respect. If I ever become a doctor, I’d treat my patients like that. I thought. I met a man who was blind and many people with pain all over their bodies. Then, I met a patient with severe pain in her ankle. Well, I sure remember what it was like to have pain in my ankle every time I tried to walk. It really sucked. I was excited to help her and see her walk better.

“She gave consent for us to inject her ankle,” Dr. Jason told me, preparing the needle.

“Okay! Same drill right?” I replied.

“Well, actually ankle injections are a lot harder to do. It’s not only harder to find the right spot, but since we’re injecting the joint directly it is going to hurt a lot more,” he said. A wave of fear swept over my body.

He marked the spot in her ankle with his pen, and then I slipped on my gloves, tore open the package with an iodine stick, and drew a large circle around his mark. After doing this twice, I changed my gloves and pulled my chair closer to her, and I watched Dr. Jason draw the medicine into the thick needle. He sat down in front of her.

“Should I hold her ankle?” I asked.

“Yes that would be great,” he replied.

He asked her if she was ready. When she nodded, I held her leg with both hands at 180 degrees. He stuck the needle in. I looked at her face. She cringed at first. Then I looked at the needle, then her face, then the needle. She started screaming. I took a deep breath. She repeated a phrase in Spanish over and over again and then grabbed my right arm tightly. I wanted to hold her, but I had to hold her ankle. I wanted to make the pain stop, but I knew that this injection would be truly better for her in the future. So I didn’t let go. At last he took the needle out and she jolted up in pain for the last time. We sat there breathing heavily for a few minutes.

“Lo siento,” Dr. Jason said. I gently lowered her foot to the ground and clasped her hands in mine. So God, this is what it’s like. I thought. This is exactly what it’s like to have to inflict pain on people you love for the better. It hurts. And although I had heard similar analogies of God’s love before, I finally understood the amount of pain God feels when he sees me going through something I do not understand. And here I was, knowing that when the medicine kicks it will be easier for her to walk. And although seeing the tears in her eyes melted my heart, I wasn’t going to cry for I knew everything would be okay.

His daughter, Alyssa, cleaned up all the leftover iodine and put a bandaid over the tiny dot. “Should we pray for her?” I asked after a few minutes of silence.

“They prayed for her before we did this,” he replied. I nodded.

I gently slipped her shoes back on her feet. I gave her a hug and helped her walk outside.

“Gracias,” she told me, smiling, still holding my hands.

“De nada,” I replied, smiling back. I let go.

When I came back in, Dr. Jason was throwing away all of the trash on the table.

“You ready for another patient, or do you need a moment?” I asked.

“No, I’m good. You can grab another one.” I smiled, nodded, and went back outside to pull another file.

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I headed back to base camp after lunch. It was Wednesday, which meant tonight I was not only sharing my testimony, but there would be a worship service during teen outreach, Mexicans and Americans combined. I walked into the main room and saw Paul, our worship leader, and Garrett.

“You will make me so happy if you let me sing with you guys,” I said emphatically.

“You’re doing it too! Sweet!” Paul gave me a high five. We followed him to the front of the room to start practicing.

“So we’re going to be doing 12 songs. Nobody can sing that many all at once, so I’m going to do the 6 in Spanish while you guys to the 6 in English.”

“Cool!” I said. We began picking songs. We went through an entire stack of worship music, experimenting with the tunes, and tossing out all the ones we didn’t know super well out until we were left with 7: Hosanna, One Thing Remains, Satisfy, Forever, Jesus Paid it All, Good good Father, and Forever Reign.

“Hosanna is kind of hard to sing,” I said.

“Yeah that’s the one I’m least inclined to do,” Paul said, nodding.

“Me too,” Garrett concurred.

“Then we’re done! We have 6!” I laid them all out on the floor.

Just as we started practicing, our friend Capri came and joined us singing. After the first song, Paul asked, “You wanna sing with us tonight too?”

“Well, I wasn’t planning on it, but I guess now I am! Sure!” She replied.

We all sang together, our voices complimenting each other. Paul sang all the leads, and the rest of us sang different harmonies. Then Paul went to take a break, and we practiced on our own.

Melissa, my cabin leader, came over to us. “You guys sound great but you sound like you’re yelling! Tone it down a bit.” She said. “Do you guys want help? I have a minor in vocal performance.”

“Sure!” I said.

“Alright, what are you guys working on?” Garrett sang the chorus of “Forever Reign.”

“We’re trying to figure out who is singing which harmony,” I said.

“How about you sing the lower one,” She said to Capri, and then demonstrated it, “and you sing the higher harmony!” She said to me. She sang the higher one with me until I got it down, and when we sang together it sounded even better than it did before.

“That was great!” Garrett said. We moved on to “Forever” by Kari Jobe.

The moon and stars they wept, the morning sun was dead…” Capri sang until we got to the chorus.

“Nobody can sing that high,” I said.

“Yeah you can!” Melissa said. I tried.

“Ahh, I can’t,” I moaned.

“Watch. Keep your mouth more U-shaped. Never smile while singing, smile with your eyes,” she explained. I tried again, awkwardly curving my mouth into a vertical oval. Capri and Melissa laughed.

“You don’t have to do it like that,” Capri said. “But hey, that already sounds so much better!”

And that was the first time anyone had ever taught me how to sing.

~

“Shall we pray before we start?” Paul asked us. Me, Capri, Garrett, Paul, our drummer, and Joel, our translator, got into a circle on the stage and we prayed.

“God, we love you and we pray our worship would bring everyone together and most of all honor you. Amen.”

“Amen!” We all said. We took our places. Garrett took the middle, Capri took the left, and I was standing on Garrett’s right. And we sang our hearts out. Paul sang one Spanish song and then we sang one English one, alternating back and forth so we wouldn’t lose our voices.

After the 6th song, it was skit time.

The skit consisted of a guy sitting in the middle wearing a white shirt and plates full of different colored paint all around him. One by one each person would splatter paint on him over and over again. Paul played the guitar in the background, escalating the music as they started to walk faster and faster and splatter more and more paint on him. Then there was a break in the music, and all the people walking around the middle guy stopped. Another guy wearing a white shirt came up to the guy in the middle and took some of the paint off his shirt, and put it on himself. Then, the Jesus figure gave the guy in the middle a clean white shirt, which he put over his paint stained one. Silence gripped the audience for 5 whole seconds before everyone applauded.

It was testimony time.

My friend Mia went first as I sat in the back of the stage with my fellow worship leaders, chugging water to ease my dry throat. She did a really great job.

And then it was my turn.

I walked up to the front. There were at least 100 people in the audience, Mexican and American combined.

“Hola, me llamo Lea,” I said, looking at Joel. He nodded at me. “And I accepted Christ when I was 5.”

He translated each line.

“I grew up in a Christian home. I loved God, I loved to worship, and life was simple and easy.”

“This all changed when I was 10 years old. I got a letter in the mail saying that I had been accepted into a very prestigious middle school. I had never faced hardship in my life, but that was when I failed my first test.”

“I shook it off at first. But then I started to fail, and fail, and fail. I started to wonder what was wrong with me, and it took a huge toll on my confidence. By the time I was in 8th grade, my confidence was so low. I felt worthless. I couldn’t measure up to the standards of this world.”

“So I went on a journey to find what I loved to do! I tried to base my self-worth off of dance and figure skating, which worked for a little while, but in the end, they both left me empty.”

“One day I came to church crying and a leader took me up into her arms. She shared a verse with me I’ll never forget.”

“Psalm 139:14, ‘I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.'”

“That was the first time I realized my self-worth came from God.”

“Since then, God has blessed me with so many talents, and I use them all for his glory rather than to make me happy. I do everything I do for God, because I know it puts a smile on his face. I want God to use every single piece of me for his kingdom,”

“Because Jesus is my everything.” I smile at Joel, and then sit back down. When the applause settled down, Lysle preached a sermon about the cross. He then invited people to come up front and pray on their knees and asked us to pray over the Mexicans.

Since the first 2 songs Paul sang were in Spanish, the three of us when down into the audience to pray for people. I put a hand a friend I had made, Antonio, and I prayed.

We all had gotten lost in the worship. Someone had their hand on me, but after the second song in Spanish, Garrett nudged me to get back up there and sing. And as we sang, “You’re a good good father,” I noticed that everyone below us had their hands on each other. Many people were crying on their knees. There was this huge line of people with their arms over each other’s shoulders as they sang loud, swaying back and forth, eyes closed, hands lifted.

Surrendered.

I felt the absence of fear as I lifted my own hands. I felt an unexplainable presence around me. God was here. God was here in this place.

The service came to an end and Joel made a joke in Spanish about the 3 of us becoming famous. They chanted for another song, which Paul did for them. And that was it.

“That was awesome!” I stated.

“It sure was.” Paul gave us all hugs. To have had God use me as a part in making that service happened felt insane.

When I went outside, A Mexican approached me and started talking to me in Spanish.

“Sierra! Help!” I said, not understanding a word. She comes over and listens.

“He says that if you were to live in Mexico, you would be famous. You would have a big stage all for yourself.” I nod as he keeps talking.

“He’s just going on and on about you becoming famous,” she tells me. I smile.

“Aww. Gracias,” I tell him.

That night, during our cabin talks, Melissa asked, “What do you guys think of when you hear the words, ‘true love’?”

“I think about how true love is the absence of fear.”

“What does that look like?” She asked.

“I don’t know,” I said thinking, “Well maybe like today. When everyone is loving each other, there isn’t any fear. God was definitely in that church tonight, and that’s why we were all so unashamed and unafraid of worshipping vulnerably.”

“Hmm.”

True love is the absence of fear, I thought. Maybe that is why the words, “Do not fear,” are mentioned in the bible 365 times. It’s not a joke. God loves us, so we have nothing to fear.

IMG_4687

After Worship Service

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My cabin slowly awoke at 6:30 a.m on Thursday, our last day in Mexico. I walked across our camp to the bathroom where I washed my hands and put my contacts in and then headed back to my cabin to get ready for the day.

“Hey, guys! Guess what?” I said.

“What?” Emma asked.

“It’s our last day in Mexico. And… we’re not sick!” I exclaimed.

“YAY!” they replied in unison.

I walked into the main room to check my schedule. I would be going on another prayer walk in the morning. I had gone on one Monday where we walked from house to house and invited the people to our clinics and asked them if they needed prayer for anything.  That time, we had a Spanish speaker with us who did all of the talking making the entire thing pointless. Since I had no important role, Amy and I played a game called “who can count the most stray dogs in Mexico.” I counted 17. She counted 10.   Disappointment flooded my head as I wished I could’ve spent another day in the medical clinic.

But although I felt that going on another prayer walk would be a waste of my time, I decided to just go with the flow. I knew that although I didn’t want to go, I was probably scheduled to go again for a reason.

We arrived at the teen outreach site and got into our groups. I was with my friends Tommy, Carmen, and Jonah. Burt was our translator, and we were with the same Spanish speaker I went with last time (I forgot her name).

But she didn’t end up doing most of the talking.

The first house we went to ended up being super awkward. I went on the whole speel about salvation only to find out that the lady was already a Christian. She told me I was cute. After that, we decided that we should ask them if they knew Jesus first before going on a rant again.

“Tommy you should talk next,” I said.

“Yeah, let’s just have Tommy talk, then Lea talk, and go, Tommy, Lea, Tommy, Lea,” My group said.

“No!” Tommy exclaimed.

“We should all talk. I’ll introduce.” I said.

“Then I can talk about how sin separates us from God,” Tommy added.

“I’ll ask them if they need us to pray for anything,” Carmen joined in.

“And I can ask them if they have or would like a bible!” Jonah said.

We then met a lady wearing a brace on her back. We introduced ourselves, and then she told us her story.

“She was run over by a car a while back,” Burt translated. “Although she’s in pain, she says she feels so lucky to be alive.”

I asked her if she knew Jesus.

“She says that the only reason why she was able to get through everything was because of him. She had to learn to trust him with everything afterward. She says that he’s the reason why she is alive today.”

Silence.

“You’re faith really inspires us,” I told her.

“Sometimes bad things happen for a good reason,” Tommy said. We all nodded. After Burt translated, a look of satisfaction emerged on her face.

We prayed for her back, her family, and for her to continue growing in her faith.

Encouraged, the 6 of us continued to make our way up the hill. We found a woman standing outside a tiny shack, and we introduced ourselves.

“She’s inviting us to go inside,” Burt tells us. The condition of her house shocked me. It was dark everywhere. It looked like a rusty cube with kitchen supplies spread out all around. There were no windows and the living space was confined. I wondered where she slept at night.

She began to tell us her story.

“All of her kids have moved out and she lives by herself most of the time. She lives this way because that’s how God wants her to live. She has some health problems but she couldn’t go to our clinics because the park is too far for her to walk to.”

We prayed for her.  She started crying.

“She’s just so happy that people would come and visit her,” Burt told us. We hugged her goodbye and continued up the hill. A wave of humility rushed over me.

At the top of the hill, we met another woman who was making tortillas. She invited us in her kitchen, and we all split one. Our Spanish speaker talked to her for a bit, then motioned to me. I had introduced myself to so many strangers today that I didn’t think I’d ever be afraid of introducing myself to anyone again.

“We have been sent by God from the United States to tell people about Jesus.” I started. When Burt finished, I asked, “Have you ever heard of him or accepted him before?” She shook her head.

“She hasn’t because she lives isolated from everybody else. She doesn’t really talk with people and lives mostly on her own,” Burt told us. I immediately exchanged glances with Tommy, who looked at Carmen, who looked at Jonah. Finally. Someone on this hill who hasn’t accepted Christ yet. A rush of excitement filled me.

“So there is a problem in humanity. God is perfect, and we are not, which separates us from having eternal life with him,” I said.

“It’s sin that separates us from God,” Tommy said.

“But the good news is that a long time ago God sent his only son, Jesus, to die on the cross for all of our sins. This way, anyone who believes in him can have eternal life.” I paused. “Would you like to believe in him today?”

“Si.”

“All you have to do to accept this gift is pray a simple prayer. Would you like to pray that prayer with us?”

“Si,” she said, smiling.

We all read the acceptance prayer in Spanish on the back of the track together. She repeated after Burt every single line.

And she was saved.

“She says that was beautiful,” Burt told us.

When we left her house, her neighbor was standing outside. He had an extremely nice house. We complimented him on it, and he told us about how he built the entire thing himself, how he had a pond with turtles that ran away, and that his kids were all in college at the University of Baja. Afterward, I introduced ourselves. He had already accepted Christ.

Then, an idea crossed my mind.

“Can you do us a favor?” I asked him, making eye contact with Burt.

“Si,” he replied.

“Your neighbor over there just accepted Christ, and it’s difficult to be a Christian, especially a new one without any fellowship. Could you maybe come alongside her and help her out?” I asked. Burt translated my request. He pointed in the direction of the lady’s house asking if it was her, and we all nodded. He agreed to our request.

“Gracias,” I said, relieved.

“De nada,” He said, and continued on talking in Spanish.

“He says that it’s a beautiful thing what we’re doing, sharing the love of Jesus Christ,” Burt told us. We prayed for him.

“Dios le bendiga!” we all said in unison, as we said goodbye.

Tommy and Jonah raced down the hill.

“I hope they fall,” Carmen joked as we caught up with them, laughing.

It never occurred to me that I would lead someone to Christ, someday. I guess God wanted me here on this prayer walk after all.

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Me and Amy after our first prayer walk and our game of counting the amount of stray dogs in Mexico.

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It’s been awhile since all of this has happened to me. And that is just a piece of what happened. Looking back, I had so much trouble deciding whether I wanted to go on that trip. I had to step completely out of my comfort zone, away from the church I knew so well, and embark on a brand new journey with completely new people.

My parents didn’t pay a cent for my trip. God provided through the many amazing people in my life, and that shows me that everything happened the way it was supposed to. And that God used me in ways I could never imagine because I was willing to step out of my comfort zone for him.

This was just a start of my journey. The truth is, every day we are on a mission trip. And if crazy things happen on mission trips, and we treat every day like a mission trip, crazy things can happen all the time.

That’s what I want this blog to be about. I want this blog to document the crazy things that happen to me. Hope you guys stick around for the ride!

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