Five months ago I announced my participation in our church’s upcoming mission trip to Peru. Two weeks ago I told the pastors and leaders of the trip that I am not going and that I wanted to give my money to other team members. Now, as people from the team and church members hear the news, they are confused and shocked – with such good reason. I have never passed up an opportunity to go somewhere new and I had an effective fundraising plan. I was right on track and had no doubts that God would provide the rest of the funds I needed for the trip. He has always been faithful and He continues to be faithful in providing me not just with money but with ways to earn money (like tutoring and YouthWorks). So if all of that is true, why am I not going to Peru?
Being an American in a mostly Dominican church can be tricky. Being a part of a missional church in a foreign country can be tricky. It’s very easy to sit back and relax feeling like your job is done. “I moved to another country. I surrendered to missions. Check that off the list.” Of course if moving to another country is our idea of missions-well-done we obviously have some learning to do.
So I never want to feel content or complacent. I want to serve and give and sacrifice and learn and stretch here in this country and in this city and never forget that we are all missionaries working together for the sake of the Kingdom. I don’t want to set myself apart from my church family because I wasn’t born here and Americans send me money every month. But in the same way that racism isn’t erased by “not seeing color,” the reality of who I am isn’t erased simply because I moved. I am no better or worse than my Dominican brothers and sisters, but we are different. I am clearly American. I have had different experiences and opportunities because I am American.
Up to this point I have been on eleven week long mission trips. Almost half of them were international. I have also participated in three YouthWorks summers, which are basically back to back week long mission trips. If we add all of that up I have spent 23 weeks participating in short term missions. Most of the members of IBEM going to Peru in August haven’t been on one short term mission trip, let alone enough trips to accumulate 23 weeks of short term mission trip experience.
Right after God asked me not to go to Peru Pastor Miguel preached about Jesus being tempted in the desert. Actually, immediately after God asked me not to go to Peru Pastor Miguel led us in a song that went something like this – I want to be more like you, God. Saturate me with your Spirit. Show me how to be more like You. I want to be like You. And the whole time God was saying, “I sacrificed everything. You want to be more like me? Sacrifice.” But after that song, and maybe another song, Pastor Miguel preached about Jesus being tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus had been fasting for 40 days in the desert and satan was trying to get Him to sin. For some reason satan, like the rest of us, forgot that Jesus is God and God knows everything and doesn’t need us.
He (satan) told Jesus (who was hungry after 40 days without food) that if He were really God, He would turn a rock into bread. Pastor Miguel pointed out that first of all, satan doesn’t really know his stuff. If Jesus wants bread, He speaks bread into existence. Because Jesus is the same God that spoke the whole freaking galaxy into existence. So, thanks for the prop satan but this isn’t Transfiguration class. No props needed here. Second of all, of course Jesus could’ve turned the rock into bread. He totally could’ve done that and it would’ve been a miracle and it would’ve been understandable because He was very hungry and it would’ve made Jesus no less God and satan no more in charge.
But Jesus doesn’t turn the rock into bread. He doesn’t even make bread out of nothing. Instead of speaking bread into existence He speaks the Words of God His Father. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” Jesus said, “Nothing is as important as the Word of God.” Nothing was more important to Jesus than listening to the Word of God and, it goes without saying, obeying it. Pastor Miguel said that yes, Jesus turning a rock into bread would’ve brought bought glory. But how much more glory did He get through Jesus’ obedience?
When I signed up to go to Peru I signed up with this attitude: if it ever comes down to me or someone else, I’m giving up my spot. I knew that it might be slightly easier for me to raise the money as a single person. Almost everyone else on the trip is married and most have children and while spouses and children are wonderful, they can make things like raising over $1000 a bit trickier. So from the get go I wanted to have an others-first attitude. If I raise all my money, I told myself, and someone else doesn’t, I’ll back out. It has not come to that. Everyone still has time to raise money and there are fundraisers and trips and Excel spreadsheets in the works to get that money raised.
Two weeks ago I was sitting in church looking at the slide that reports the Peru trip’s funds situation to the church every Sunday. I was nodding my head, thinking about how much I had to give that week and the next week and how chill I was about paying for the trip. Then, out of nowhere, God said, “Don’t go to Peru.”
Have you ever heard the voice of God? Not audibly but so, so clearly? I’m learning to recognize His voice more but on this occasion it was unmistakable. He said, “Don’t go to Peru. Give your money away. You’ve had your turn to go. Now it’s your turn to stay.”
And I cried. Because I love mission trips! And I was really excited about going to Peru and getting to know the other team members and to serve alongside them.
Then I sang. And God reminded me that if I want to be more like Him, the first step is sacrifice.
Then I listened to a sermon about obedience and giving God glory.
By the end of the church service I was sure and I was at peace.
This was not my idea. This was not my decision. My only decision was to obey or disobey. God knew from the very beginning that I was not going to Peru. God knew from the very beginning exactly how He was going to and continues to provide the funds for the people that He absolutely wants on a plane in August. This is one of the ways He is providing.
So here’s the thing. I’m not going to Peru. And I’m bummed but at peace. I am also buying bread every week (proceeds go to the trip!), giving money to the team, and praying for the team. I encourage you to do the same! Don’t forget about our easy peasy GoFundMe page! I also encourage you to listen for God’s voice, attune your heart to His Spirit, and always act in obedience. Sometimes it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but the God who spoke galaxies into existence knows a bit more about things than I do and it always feel good to give Him control. I am not going to Peru, but I am at peace.