Pastor Michael TenHaken:
Well, since I dodged Julie’s request to write a blog entry on the last night, I thought I would take a chance to do one now as a sort of summary and recap. When you get back from a trip like this one of questions you get asked a lot is, “So, did you have a good trip?” or some variation of that. It’s a difficult question to answer and a simple yes or no just won’t do. Yes – it was good. We all arrived there and back safe; we were blessed with a great in-country team who planned all of the finest details with precision and professionalism – from transportation, to meals, to lodging, to security, to distilled water for the 3-CPAP machines that accompanied us! Our time in the communities was meaningful and beneficial (for them and for us) due in large part to their careful planning and coordination. We heard stories about how God is using people to do amazing things for and with some very marginalized and oppressed people. All of us have come back with a story or two that will stick with us for which we can say, “Praise the Lord!” The list of ways that our trip was good could go on and on.
But also, no…it wasn’t good. We did so little and the needs are so great. The economic, social, and political injustice that so many of our brothers and sisters live under is heart-breaking. The lack of opportunity for teenagers and young adults to find education and employment is frustrating to see. The lack of strong adult Christian leadership in the communities is troubling. We see the same people leading the charge year after year….and they are getting older. Who will lead next? The struggle for churches in the communities to get along with each other, pool resources, and work together is frustrating. All of us have come back with a story or two that will stick with us for which we can say, “How long, O Lord?” The list of ways that our trip wasn’t good could go on and on.
So, we do what we can and trust the Lord to use it for His purposes, knowing that there is always more to do and even more that we can’t do. What was accomplished this week was both great and small. We saw beautiful things and tragic things. We heard of God’s amazing grace and of the devil’s still powerful grip. We tasted joy and smelled suffering.
So, did we have a good trip? No. Yes. It was terrible and it was wonderful. Just like the cross of Jesus Christ and the empty tomb that followed it. Death conquered by life. Despair in this life and hope for the next. Darkness overcome by light. And it is because of both of those realities that we keep going back to be light in the darkness and salt in a spoiling world. Next time, you should join us!