So it’s been an interesting week thus far. I’m on the heels of a recent trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where I served children and families in need alongside others from my church, as part of a group missions trip.
Since returning to the United States, several people have asked, “Was the experience fun?,” and my response has been an unenthusiastic, “No, not really.”
Don’t get me wrong!
Of course, I enjoyed some fun moments, interacting with beautiful kindergartners and sixth grade students at a community outreach program.
Here’s one photo that captures the joy I experienced with “my little ones” on one of our last days in Honduras …
There I am, smack dab in the middle of 14 joy-filled Honduran babies who will forever be etched in my spirit. And believe me … we celebrated many fun moments, playing Telephone, Duck-Duck-Goose, and Jesus Jenga throughout the week!
Yet, “fun” doesn’t fully capture my sentiment about the trip at all. Four days later, I am still wrestling to offer a thoughtful and accurate description of my time in Tegucigalpa.
Yesterday, a friend called me brave for making the trek to Honduras. “Brave?” I thought. For what?
When I asked my friend to clarify his use of the term, he deferred to the courage involved in traveling outside of one’s comfort zone. In particular, he described the bravery needed to offer support to others in a third-world country.
Honestly, his response baffled me to some degree. On the one hand, I know that it takes cojones (“balls,” for you non-Spanish-speaking folks) to enter a foreign land and attempt to integrate within a short period of time. At the same time, I wouldn’t describe service to those we perceive as less fortunate than ourselves as brave, regardless of the setting.
I would describe it as necessary. A fulfillment of God’s command. Christ-like.
To frame deference to others as “brave” cheapens our charge to embody God’s great commission. And frankly, it makes our submission about us, thereby minimizing the beauty of it all.
Here’s what comes to my mind when I think of bravery …
Both of these are photos that I captured at a municipal dump site in Tegucigalpa. Our missions team traveled there to serve food and water, as well as share the gospel, with hungry souls. Not only is it a dumping ground for trash, but it is also a place of residence for over 1,000 Hondurans. Amidst the garbage, foul stench in the air, looming and determined flies, and swarming vultures, people call this home.
“Brave” is waking up each day to boldly confront the reality of your poverty.
“Brave” is gazing into your children’s eyes, knowing that what you have to offer is utterly insufficient to meet their needs.
“Brave” is making outward eye contact with a well-meaning servant when you are riddled with inner shame.
“Brave” is reaching out to offer food given to you to those who served you in the first place.
Oh, I encountered bravery in Honduras, indeed! I encountered it, however, in places that I would not have anticipated.
I certainly didn’t experience it when I looked in the mirror each morning and night!
There, much to my surprise at first, I came face-to-face with the fact that I’m a coward.
- cow·ard (noun): a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.
A common thread I discovered among the people in Tegucigalpa was endurance in the face of challenging circumstances.
I realized that what I’ve considered stamina in the face of stressful life situations pales in comparison to what those who reside in the municipal dump face on a daily basis. I realized that the beautiful kindergarten faces I peered into, while honest, do not convey the full story of the children’s lives. I realized that bravery in life resides not in the doing, but in the enduring.
Traveling to Honduras helped me not only identify my cowardly ways, but also ask God the question: “Now, what?”
I see that it’s not enough to simply travel to another country and serve, as well intentioned as it may be. The real work begins after you return home and are forced to confront yourself in the mirror.
Will you do and endure those things that are unpleasant? Will you acknowledge your cowardice in the short-term, yet make bravery your goal for the long haul?
My short answers: yes and yes.
I have no idea how I will materialize doing and enduring now that I am back in the United States. Each day since returning home, I have prayed that the Lord will illuminate my next steps and make clear my charge to fulfill His great commission.
So, I leave you with more questions than answers this time, my friend. I pray that you, too, ask and respond to the hard questions, as well as wait patiently for the Father’s reply.
Do. Endure. Submit. Be brave.