I’m a “crockpot Christian,” if you will.
I grew up in a small rural Iowa town, in a Christian home, with Christian parents.
I put on the 3-piece suit every Sunday and went to Sunday school and then worship service.
As I got older, I went to Wednesday night Confirmation class, was an acolyte and an usher, and went through “public questioning” and was confirmed.
In high school and college, I went through a little bit of a lull in my Christian journey.
It wasn’t until my wife and I (and our boys) spent a few years at different churches in the Midwest that I started to re-explore faith.
When we moved back to the Des Moines area, I said to my wife, “I used to go to this little church on Ashworth [Hope]. It was really great except the Pastor was a Bears fan.” (Sorry Pastor Mike!)
So, we visited again. And, although Hope was no longer “small,” just like so many Hope Stories go, we found a home.
Michelle and I continued to grow in our faith walk through getting involved in numerous ways at Hope – through Alpha (both taking the course and then leading), joining a small group, serving for Ignition, leading PowerLife and volunteering in various other ways.
We loved it all! But, something about my spiritual life still didn’t seem complete. I hadn’t found my calling…
So, we stepped back and re-evaluated. We talked and prayed about it. We waited for God to speak.
Just when I was getting pretty comfortable (ie: lazy), I asked Michelle, “What about a mission trip?” Without hesitation she said, “I think that would be amazing!”
Soon thereafter, Pastor Pat preached about a new mission – Mission Ghana.
I said to myself, “Ok, I’m interested!”
Pastor Pat explained, “We’re going to help them with computers and technology.”
Wow! That was my job at the time.
He went on, “We’re going to help them learn how to farm.”
I was raised on a farm!
“If you’re interested, please get in touch with us.”
So, I did.
And, you’d think the story would end with me going to Ghana.
We ended up joining a mission trip headed to Juarez, Mexico, to serve God by helping the “poorest of the poor” who lived in a reclaimed dump, bringing God’s hope and light to living conditions unseen in our part of the world.
And, yet again, it felt like home.
There, our team brought improvement to the community.
We built a house in five days, even without knowing what we were doing.
We brought a load of donated shoes and distributed them. Children, without shoes of their own, scattered around us, trying on multiple pairs – even those those who couldn’t be helped remained gracious.
During the week, our group bonded with one another, and also with the community, most of whom are non-English speaking.
One boy, Martin (pronounced Mar-teen), tagged along with me for the week, and even though he didn’t speak English, we communicated effectively.
One of our most memorable interactions was when he constructed a small battery pack with a wire and played a practical joke, lining up a circle of people and sending around a small jolt. At the end of the week, Martin sent his brother to present me with the contraption—a gift he wanted me to have (a meaningful gesture from a boy who had nothing). I found an interpreter to explain that I couldn’t accept the gift, but thanked and hugged him, fighting back my own tears.
It was incredibly hard to leave.
In a preparation meeting for our first of many trips to Juarez, our leader explained that we would get more from the people of Juarez than we could ever give to them.
This was something I had a hard time both believing and understanding at the time.
But, I can now tell you – without a doubt – the people of Juarez gave me more than I could have ever given them.
They changed my thinking. They changed my view of the world. They changed my heart.
The experience rocked my perception of faith and changed my life. I’ll never be the same again. I thank God for transforming me through loving and happy people that live in a place where they have close to nothing.
I’d have to check the stamps on my passport to remember how many mission trips I’ve been on. Every time I’ve come home better than when I left.
Every. Single. Time.
I’ve had the privilege to serve, and serve alongside some truly amazing people. I’ve seen some of the poorest people, hugged them, helped them, cried with them, laughed with them, sang praises with them and learned from them.
Juarez, El Paso, Jamaica, South Africa, Des Moines… the list is growing and growing.
Imagine, a young farm boy in rural Iowa, sitting with his brothers and parents in a small church and singing his Father’s favorite hymn:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made
To me, as a young boy in that church pew, the world was pretty small. Today, it is big. Who knows where I’ll be called to serve God next?
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Traveling the globe and doing mission work may not be everyone’s calling, but I believe it’s what God has called me to do.
Indeed, how GREAT thou art!
Interested in getting involved with Missions at Hope? Here’s a few ways you can learn more:
- Visit the Mission’s page on our website.
- Stop by the Mission Fair this upcoming Monday (June 24) at 6:00 pm, where you can hear from both local and global mission partners. 2014 Mission Trips will also be announced!
- Join the monthly Missions e-newsletter.
- Email the Missions team.