by Beth Paz
I recently found in a box of mementos, a little well-worn packet created by my 10-year-old self. It read "Missions Notebook" and in choppy handwritten print, I spelled out the great need:
"There are millions of people all over the world who do not know... that God loved them so much that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for them on the cross."
Somewhere buried in my heart at a young age, I knew I wanted to be part of sharing that great Love internationally! Upon return, Lindsee McDonald said, "It was so important to be reminded that Christ's mission is global." So, what a joy to co-lead our second annual Rooted student team to express the holistic love of God in Sumpongo this summer.
These are the basics of what we did in partnership with Next Step Ministries and their long-term community development organization and local church. We worked hard by building a cement block house and a parking lot for the orphanage, leading Sunday School and playing with kids at an orphanage for kids with HIV/AIDS, engaging group worship with challenging messages and making friends with other church groups from across the states and Canada... But more importantly, it was who we were with, and where we were present. As Katie Hancock said, "I learned a lot about serving by building that house... Giving that little girl the privacy that she needs to grow up as a strong woman is just an amazing thought, and not just a strong woman, a strong woman in God. Being able to be a part of that is heart-changing. It really humbled me... just a "heart-skipping-a-beat" feeling."
All of us were deeply touched by God's love this summer. Kate Vaccaro reflected, "I learned about God's unending love and how it is greater than anything in the universe. It surpasses the love of all the people in the world." Allison Hartsell said, "God really showed us love and his grace through the kids (from the orphanage). Our mason, who helped us on the construction we did, also was incredibly sweet and showed us God's love and patience." We discovered, as is always the case, that God is present all around the world and even as we take a leap of faith to get outside our comfort zone and share God's love, that we ourselves are transformed! Emily Hartsell said it well, "I learned that sacrificing anything for anyone always reaps benefits, as God can use what we give him for greater things."
Abbey Ellis articulated what we all felt by the end of the trip, "This week has been stretching, emotionally and physically." Nevertheless, in that stretch, we discovered more! Cris Rocha experienced an even deeper communion with God, "The most amazing thing that God gave me was his love throughout this week, I was saved and got pulled out of my cave of lies and guilt."
Our response to this gift of serving and learning is heartfelt and lasting. Haley Mozier said, "I was reminded of how much I love to serve people... Even though the work was hard, I felt so joyful the entire time. God reminded me of my heart for people....I'm going to try to love people more fully in my everyday life." In addition, Taylor Samuelian wrote, "One action I am going to take after this amazing trip is working harder in everything I do, but not doing it for myself, but all for the glory of God."
That is our prayer as we return to "regular everyday life" but with renewed faith, hope and love. Thank you so much to our generous and supportive FPC family who helped make this experience possible!