Every year a short-term missions team from our home church leaves the frozen tundra of Minnesota in January to arrive in the oppressive tropical heat of Honduras for a few weeks. But it isn't the extreme 100-degree temperature difference that draws Friendship Church to Honduras year after year. Well, that's not the main reason anyway. It's a desire to obediently serve in a new setting that pushes them out of their comfort zones and stretches their faith as they experience the world from a different perspective.
Their sweaty and dirty work in the workshop building new school desks and the adorable craft projects they planned for the village VBS were certainly a blessing to our Honduran brothers and sisters. But what this team probably didn't realize is that, for us, their biggest ministry was to the people from their own backyard―us!
Here are 8 ways a team from our home church blessed us this month:
1. Chocolate and BBQ sauce
And an electric blanket, new games, Twizzlers, cozy slippers and more chocolate. More than just thoughtful gifts, these little touches of home are luxurious reminders that we are not alone here. There is a community of friends and family that love and care about us.
When it becomes routine, you no longer appreciate the early morning wake-up call of the howler monkeys, the enormity of the trees or the magnificent beauty of the mountains. We forget the absurdity of the "Honduran rules" of Uno and the sly smiles of the kids that first taught us how to play. And drinking Pepsi from a plastic bag is no longer awkward and messy. The excitement and newness of everything wears off over time. Hanging out with this team helped us remember that we get to live in a really cool place!
Well for a ministry named Friendship Church, this is a no-brainer. But starting a new ministry in a new place can be lonely. We craved real relationship with no language or cultural barrier and this team full of old friends and new took us in and comforted our spirits. We played together, worked together and even cried a little together.
4. News from Home
Yes, we have Facebook and e-mail and even a Skype call now and then with friends back home. But we rarely get the chance to chat about the new restaurant in town, the new pastor's preaching style or the plans to remodel the sanctuary. What seemed too mundane or insignificant for an e-mail was suddenly of the utmost importance to hearts thirsty for simplicity, familiarity and connection to "home".
What a joy it is not to have to think about grammar! How glorious it is to use idioms and cultural references! And how wonderful not to question if you're really being understood! I don't think we always realize how much more complicated our communication process really is when we're constantly thinking and speaking in another language. It was like a refreshing, cool drink of water to be able to share our thoughts without the tension of considering every word and its proper tense or how it might be interpreted in a different cultural context.
6. A Team Serving Together
Steve got to build things and I got to plan things. We do these activities every day in our ministry. But it's rare that we get to share the experience with others. Steve got his hands dirty and felt the joy of completing a project alongside others with the same desire to get things done. And I got to talk through ideas and plans for the future ministry with people who could offer advice, give suggestions and encourage me. It was good to feel like a part of something bigger than our own little contributions.
We were able to share our hearts and ministry with the people who helped send us here. And seeing them capture the dreams and even participate in them a little, encouraged us and gave us hope. God has used this team to confirm our path forward and renew our spirits for the work ahead.
This team gave us the freedom to just be ourselves―Steve's punny jokes and my terrible sense of direction included. We were able to just relax and be honest about how God is working in us. And you know what? All of our fears, frustrations and faults didn't keep our friends from embracing us and our ministry.