Category Archives: Updates

A Life Changing Trip

Gaby1

  “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

 

Destiny3The day we arrived in Honduras we went to the city dump to share the gospel and serve food. I could never have imagined how harsh these living conditions were. Men, women, and even children spent their days in the hot weather with no food or water, scavenging for plastic to exchange for a small amount of money. And many of those people called the dump home. It was a sight I never imagined. The way their faces lit up when we drove up with food and water will never leave my mind.

During Bible school at the neighborhood of San Juan, my group was greeted with hundreds of hugs from these children who didn’t even know who we were. Hearing some of the stories about these children broke my heart. These kids are growing up in horrendous living conditions and have very little, but they acted like they had everything in the world. All I saw were smiles and pure joy from these kids when I was there. They showed me that happiness is not materialistic. I was shown love like it’s all these kids knew how to do. I received hug after hug and it felt amazing.

On the last day of Bible school, we passed out a juice box and a cookie to all of the children for snack. There was this one little boy in the back of class who didn’t touch his.  I asked him why he wasn’t eating and he replied, “Voy a llevarlo a casa a mi hermana”.  (I am bringing it home for my sister.) That was very sad for me to hear because this second grader was willing to give up his food so his little sister could eat when he got home.

Gaby3  We also did a lice clinic one of the days. There were almost 400 kids who were there to get deloused. I never thought I would be removing lice from kids heads before. But they were so thankful which made this experience worth it. Braiding the girl’s hair and painting their nails made them so happy, afterwards they were running around and showing everyone their new hairstyles.

One of the most impactful days for me was when we brought the Tubs of Love to the homes of the families of San Juan. Within the tubs, there was enough food for a family of 5-6 for a month, and they also received a bible with the tub.  When I walked into a home that had rusted tin sheets as walls and only two rooms, I saw two of the children I met at Bible school. I honestly had to hold back tears when I saw them sitting on the dirt floor of that house. Those two were some of the happiest children I’ve seen in my life. I never imagined what their home life looked like.

Gaby2

Overall, I had an amazing trip and I wish I could thank every one of the children I encountered during the week. I just want them to know that they have impacted my life tremendously. I also want to thank the Point of Impact staff for being like a family away from home. I left a piece of my heart in Honduras but I returned to Minnesota with many new friends and memories that will last a lifetime This was such an amazing experience and I will be returning in the future.

 

Gabby, POI Mission Trip Participant, Summer 2017

I’m a Coward… Now what?

Mekel Harris, Ph.D., Author

 

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 …

Mekel1

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 …

Mekel2Mekel3

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.

Loving Others

Destiny1

“Some call it mission work. It can also be called loving others.” -Destiny Holmes

 

The Mission

Mission. A Latin word that means “to send.” But, little did I know that the Lord was sending me to a place to which my heart would soon long to return. Each one of my team members prepared for a week of serving & sharing the gospel. While we may have thought we were being sent to the impoverished and in need, spiritually they are rich. Without hesitation, they will serve you, even if it’s the last bit of rice. This uncovers the true Gospel. Not only were our distractions and the pressures of American life left behind us, but this left us open and vulnerable to the crazy love of God.

God’s Children

Matthew 28:19

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

Destiny2

Here, Jesus tells us to gather others amongst Him & build His nation. On this trip, I not only saw Jesus through the children, but His love for them flowed through their words. “What makes you happy?” The responses of what Jesus had done and given to these, who knew nothing but the name, would blow a stranger’s mind. Because, despite what darkness was presented to them in life, they knew of a light beyond the shadows of doubt. Interacting with these kids would make you want to know him more.

Pure joy on their faces, love flowing out of them, with arms wide open the children showered you and made every encounter feel as though it was once in a lifetime. In that moment, POI had felt like home. I had found heaven on earth & there was absolutely no turning back.

I would be belittling the seriousness of my trip if I were to say that it had been easy. There are stories behind each and every child. There is hurt, fear, and shame there and it shows in their actions. Learning how to care for them in those situations has strengthened me and prepared me for what I hope to be a lifetime of teaching. When a child is incapable of being still and is acting out, placing them into your lap with your arms wrapped around them is like an antidote. It seems simple, but the care you place onto them brings assurance that they are loved and protected. You can feel their heart rate slow down as you hold them. Seeing this need is truly amazing and eye opening.

 

The Dump

Natalie Standiford states, “Even if you know what’s coming, you’re never prepared for how it feels.”

Destiny3

Well Ms. Standiford, you have never been more on point. Physically I was prepared but when it was time to open the car door and live in the moment, I was unresponsive. My heart was stripped, my eyes were hoping they were being deceived, and I had no posture for the situation. There was no pretending that what was before me didn’t rush through my body. In that compact time I felt I had experienced every emotion. Hurt because I couldn’t do much to help. Sadness because kids were present. Loneliness because I didn’t know how to explain these feelings. Fear because I wasn’t sure of what tomorrow brought. Anger because I wanted to scream. I wanted to tell God that I was upset with him. Shame because I was getting back in the car and heading back to my needs and wants. Guilt because my facial expressions showed these emotions. Yet under this all I was also glad for the chance we did have to feed them and share the Gospel.

 

Taking The Tubs Home

1 Timothy 4:13

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

You know, there are some things in this world that you cannot truly understand until you have visibly seen them. One of these was seeing the locals’ living conditions. Yet, this verse brought ease as we delivered buckets of basic necessities to them because it tells of what we are to do as Christians. We must wait and ensure that others may come to know him, even when it is challenging, because it gives us assurance that greater is coming. This part of my story I deeply cherish. It is difficult to fully express what I felt there.

 

The People

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.

Destiny4

A week with the trip team and the POI staff turns into a lifetime together.  On the last day together, tears flooded the room as we felt each other’s absences approaching. One of our team members said, “It is not that we have to go. It is that tomorrow we cannot help.” And here it punched me as the room grew quieter and tears came stronger. She was right! We were all choked up because we saw the need. We saw the difference we were making. We saw how it changed the kids. We saw how it changed the community. We saw how it brought hope. Most importantly, we saw that it made us grow closer as Christians who were going through life together.

This trip would not have been complete if it wasn’t for the people. I heard that the best things in life are not things at all but the people who make you feel loved and cared for. I now have a family in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and they are my best things in life.