What I love about short-term missions is not the work done there, but the people we meet, the stories they share with us and the stories we create together. Stories allow us to share experiences and celebrate the work of Christ in community.
Most recently, I traveled to a village outside of Champerico, Guatemala with Living Water, International to install a well funded by 160,000 recycled water bottles. Each morning we would wake up at 5:30am, travel ninety minutes passing village after village after village to the end of the paved roads, and then kept going to the farthest community established. Not only did we literally go to those in need, we went to the farthest margin. In three days we busted 200 feet deep into God’s earth, found an aqueduct that would feed a water pump for the next 100 years and provide a village of 80 families clean water. Not only did we provide clean water, we also provided education about sanitation, hygiene, and how annoying glitter can be to any culture. That’s just what we did. It was good, there is a difference in this community, but it’s not why I went. I went for Michael. Michael was one of the men of the community, and a leader who spent every day helping us build this well. Michael’s commitment to this project was easily seen on Wednesday as we had to fill the filtration holes that were dug prior to our arrival (which he probably did himself). In the 110 degree heat our team was taking 3 minute rotations shoveling the dirt to fill the hole so no one passed out (a few of us were close) but Michael held onto one of the shovels from 7am till we left at 6pm shoveling constantly. His dedication and heart for his community wasn’t why I went. It was encouraging, but not why I went. The day after Michael broke through four blisters on his hand from shoveling, we arrived after our long and bumpy ride to find him wearing his best clothes and a huge grin. We spent two hours participating in a dedication ceremony as the men made the finishing touches to the well and then everyone moved over to watch us cut the ribbon and watch as the children took turns pumping clean water. I had my back to the children, I couldn’t look away from Michael’s face. There was a simple grin on his face, tears in his eyes, and his blistery hands gripped the Bible he just received as if it was gold. He was witnessing the catalyst change of health for that community, he was experiencing the love of Christ extended through tangible needs met, he was witnessing Christ. Michael’s reaction to his daughter pumping clean water is why I love short-term missions because in that moment, I could not deny Christ’s presence in that man. Nor could the other men around him. We are called to meet the tangible needs of the marginalized and it serves two purposes: their daily health increased drastically, but more importantly, Michael encountered the love of Christ and that deserved to be celebrated.
Psalm 71:15-18 reads, “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
I cannot relate to what Michael experienced that day; I do not know what it’s like to not have access to clean water, let a bunch of foreigners serve my most basic needs, and understand that all of it was done because Christ died on the cross. I don’t understand, but oh how I will celebrate those fifteen seconds where I was able to witness the joy of the Holy Spirit in Michael. I’ve shared this story so that you, too, can celebrate God’s saving acts and worship Him.
What stories should you be sharing so we can celebrate and worship God with you?