Friday morning 6:30AM
The picture at the top of the post is of our joint team of folks from Lexington along with the national Peruvian hosts, at breakfast yesterday morning. Tito Savilla, our host pastor, is at the head of the table. We call him The Godfather.
We had a packed day yesterday, the last day of our mission trip, on the fourth straight day of running the medical/eye clinic from 9:00AM until 2:00PM. Then hosting a children’s VBS at the same site. Back to the hotel for dinner. Finally, teturning to the site for an evangelistic service from 8:00-9:00PM. Last night’s service was full–maybe 100 people there, packed onto all the pews, with chairs added at the back. As was the case the previous night, we were happy to see a good many adult men there. Men are rare in Peruvian churches and it’s a healthy sign when they begin attending.
We got back to the hotel about 9:00PM and since it was our last night here, spent the next hour de-briefing our week’s experience. Every one of us has been deeply stirred during our time in this country and it was exciting for me as a pastor to hear the individual testimonies.
Every mission trip is different. Some are devoted to construction. Others have prayer as their focus. Some teams are made up of one gender or another while others are mixed. Some connect more with missionaries on the field while others are tied in to the national believers. Some are specifically evangelistic others are more service oriented. Those who go on mission trips have widely differing experiences–everything from life-changing moments to stretches of boredom and frustration to something in-between. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. Anytime people step out in faith and travel somewhere uncomfortable in the name of Jesus there is a reward. I can personally vouch for that principle because I’ve been on all sorts of trips with all sorts of teams and have run the gamut of personal response; and every one has been a blessing.
Having said that, this trip has been a remarkable success. From beginning to end, all of us have been aware of an unusual sense of God’s presence and provision that started from the very beginning and continued to the concluding moments of the service last night when our national hosts and the church where we were based joined in an outpouring of affection and gratitude that overwhelmed many of our team.
This morning I want to dash off a few thoughts on why this trip was so impactful–for us as well as for those we touched. We leave in a few minutes for the two-hour ride back to Trujillo where we’ll spend the day. We catch a 10:00PM flight for the short hop down to Lima. Our overnight flight to Atlanta departs at 1:00AM, arriving in Atlanta sometime early morning. We’ll then pick up our vehicles and to Lexington. I expect we’ll get home about 3:00PM tomorrow afternoon feeling like the last day of Pompeii.
So here are a few thoughts on what helped make this trip what it was:
1. The trip was clearly defined. It was a medical mission trip that combined basic health care services with eye exams and treatment. Along with that we conducted intentional and aggressive evangelism. That’s a great combination.
2. The national believers and our international liaison were thoroughly prepared. These people know what they’re doing, and every detail was taken down care of we’ll in advance. I blogged earlier about the leadership of our host pastor, Tito Savilla.
3. Our team’s leader did an awesome job of meticulous planning. The nature of our trip was so demanding that a high level of advance work was required.
4. Our team–all men–fit together perfectly. We didn’t really do this on purpose but it worked out that everyone on the team was easy to work with and our unified purpose and mission was a joy to be a part of. I suspect that all of us will remember this week for a long time as one of those moments in life where God worked to bring us into a deeper level of intimacy with him and with one another. A trip like this is a kind of fast-forwarding the process of spiritual maturity.
5. All our mission trips are bathed in prayer but on this trip we did something I’ve never seen before. One member of our team was devoted to prayer. That was his job. He helped with all the other stuff, of course. But his main responsibility was to pray. That added a new dimension to everything we did.
6. Our church rallied behind this trip in an unusual way. I’m blessed to be a part of a congregation with a long and rich heritage of missions support and involvement. They support every mission trip. Still, something happened for this trip I haven’t seen before. The people of our church, along with a few others, donated over $50,000 worth of medicines. It took 13 large trunks for us to carry it all down!
7. A greater strategic vision lay behind this trip. Our heart as a church is to plant new churches in places of need around the world. We’re beginning to see the fruits of that in places like Portland, OR, Istanbul, Turkey and even Brookland, NY. We came here with that same intention. It’s too early to tell if a new church will be planted here, in connection with our ministry, but we’re certainly praying through the possibility.
It’s been a great week but I’m ready to get home and see Pam. Then I’ll be in the pulpit on Sunday, preaching to my folks–my favorite place in the world to be.