On January 10, 2017 -- approximately 535 days ago -- I sent an e-mail to Servants, Inc asking about their Summer 2018 mission opportunities in Guatemala. That was Day One. Since then, it's been over 500 days of planning, meetings, prayers, fundraisers, phone calls, e-mails, prayers, writing, panicking, frustration, laughter, joy, prayers, failures, successes, miscommunication, prayers, excitement, worry, peace, prayers, study, team-building, confusion, growth, clarity, and anticipation. Oh -- and prayers, of course.
Now we are 7 days away. And it still feels like 535 days wasn't quite long enough to fully prepare for what's coming in one week.
Something I value as a youth minister is raw, vulnerable, honest sharing. I think getting to know someone's real thoughts and heart is the quickest way to develop a stronger relationship with them. Sharing and writing your own honest personal reflections is the quickest way to better understand yourself, as well.
So here's some raw, vulnerable, honest thought for you: I'M NOT READY!!!
Well, in many ways I am ready I guess. I'm not packed yet, but that's a simple fix. Our group is all paid for and we all have our necessary travel documents and info prepared. We have our schedules and a plan and all the information we need for our stay in Guatemala. We have transportation to and from the airport planned. We have an AWESOME team name for our group (SQUADemala -- No, I cannot take credit for coming up with that -- Thanks, Cody Sherry!) Depending on what mood you catch me in and what time of day, I would probably tell you we are MORE than ready.
But THIS IS GUATEMALA. This is an international trip where I'm responsible for 13 other teens and adults. This is a trip I've been working on for 535 DAYS. What if I didn't do enough? What if it turns out I'm NOT prepared at all? What if we miss a flight? What if a monkey steals our passports when we're there? What if we get sick or homesick? What if we don't pack enough? What if someone somehow falls out of the plane? What if we don't have the spiritual experience I'm praying for? What if I did something wrong? What if, what if, what if?
But for every "what if" -- Christ reminds me of some things...
He calls us all to service. I fully believe He calls us all to international service even. And because it is His will and His plan and His heart, every single "what if" that falls from our mouths like rain should immediately evaporate. "What if" says it's Collin's plan, Collin's idea, Collin's pride, Collin's success. But Jesus says to me, "nope, that's all Mine. Why worry? Look at the birds and flowers; I have a plan for them and they flourish and serve their purpose! Why would I not provide that for Cross Culture Youth Ministries in Guatemala?"
I've been reminded by God through so many different people that He will come through for us, because that's simply what He does. I did my part in saying yes 535 days ago -- Servants, Inc did their job in saying yes to us soon after that, 12 others from our team did their part in saying yes since then, and now I must let Him do His job in working in hearts and minds and responding to our "yes". His work is transformation. He provides the strength. He provides the spiritual experience. He provides the plans, the comfort, the peace, and the joy. All He asks for from us is our continued, "yes, Lord!"
There are moments I feel that 535 days has been waaaaaayyyy too many. I'm tired. I'm ready to burst. I'm ready to stop the prep work and just be there. Then there are moments where I feel 535 days have not been NEAR enough for what's in store.
But I hope and pray to be ready for that next day when I am asked to say, "yes" -- that I will embrace it and answer it in a way that tells God, "I am accepting your plan and excited to follow it." I hope everyone on our team is willing to continue saying "yes" as well. They already have! God will honor that, and He will provide SQUADemala with a crazy, spiritual, joyful, beautiful trip.
I will continue to plan, prep, and pray for 7 more days. On day 542, we will leave from First UMC in Chambersburg, drive down to Dulles, fly to El Salvador, and then to Guatemala City. On day 551, we will return. We will reflect and share and process those 9 quick days probably for the rest of our lives, but we will do so heavily for at least 14 more days. Then it'll be over. All those days beforehand preparing for a brief 9 days -- it almost seems silly. But it all has a purpose, and it will serve as a landmark in our journeys. We'll then go back to our routines for hundreds and thousands of days. Work. School. Family. But hopefully those days will look different to all of us because of our initial "yes" for this trip. Hopefully we're a little more willing to take that step of faith when God calls us again. Hopefully that next "yes" will be a willing leap into the start of our next journey -- and we'll experience our next Day One with less "what ifs" and much more joy and anticipation.
Bring on day 542.
Our next post will be from Ben Patterson on Thursday, July 5.