NOVEMBER 16, 2014
I had spent the night frantically packing and unpacking, trying to get just the right combination of costumes, performing clothes, medical supplies, food, and yes ...cute clothes, to make up our allotted 50 lb. limit before leaving for our three week mission trip to China. The two months working up to our trip had been stressful with traveling, rehearsing, and dealing with family issues. I was so looking forward to FINALLY getting on the plane and focusing on our task at hand—though I frankly wondered if I had the strength and spiritual fortitude to lead.
When we got to the airport we discovered my suitcase was missing. It had been left behind on the sidewalk when the van was loaded; and then stolen before we could return to retrieve it. From that moment on, it seemed like instead of leaving the stress behind—the battle had just begun. But strangely, I felt an unexplainable peace. Our newest group member, Rachel, had an optimistic faith that God would return the suitcase, but I knew, from past experience, that I had to be O.K. if it never showed up*—that it didn’t change who God was, or His care for me. I put one foot in front of the other and stepped on the plane, just doing the "next thing." With a three hour layover in Detroit, I was able to contact doctors and a relative who lived there to duplicate missing medications. The rest I would have to deal with when we reached China.
Well, the craziness just continued as we dealt with train ticket mix-ups, debilitating flu, torrential rains soaking our belongings, frantic searches to replace lost costumes, extra-long work days etc. (Did you know they don't sell size 9 shoes in China?) But even in the midst of the chaos, as we approached each challenge, God provided a way for His word to go forth and His love to permeate both our hearts and the hearts of those we ministered to. Watching Him work in spite of us was amazing!
So what did I learn? I learned, as I have throughout my 25 year FOG history, that it's not about us. That God will use broken, imperfect vessels when we make ourselves available. And while I feel the work God calls me to do is important, often God is also doing a work inside me. When I face each challenging circumstance and choose to be thankful—looking for His hand and allowing Him to teach me—thankfulness begets thankfulness and joy fills my heart.
On each mission trip we've taken, there seems to be one song during worship times that becomes a theme of the trip for me. On this trip it was the song Oceans by Hillsong. We were at a retreat for foreign women working in China; and as we sang: "grace abounds in deepest waters ... Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior," my heart swelled with the reality of His presence, and the privilege of encouraging these women who had given up all to serve others.
So this Thanksgiving, I thank God for life, whatever it brings, and for His presence and provision in both the good and the bad.