Two years ago, during our spring break, we traveled to McAllen, Texas for the first time as part of a mission work trip. At that time we were introduced to Taylor Christian School and Community Center, some wonderful missionaries, and life at the US/Mexico border. We left our mark on the school grounds and McAllen left a permanent mark upon our hearts.
Time passed and we felt directed to schedule another work/ministry trip to McAllen, Texas and invite others along who also felt God directing them to serve outside of their normal day-to-day life. I could and probably should write a separate blog post about how God carefully crafted our team by individually calling others to work with us. We had the privilege of joining together with a family who felt led to give up a beach vacation and a semi-retired widow who had never been on a mission trip. We had a teenager contact me about being part of our team shortly after I prayed that God would either guide someone to go on the trip or guide me to cancel it. We had a Crossing student who is undergoing a life transformation and his teacher who is guiding and encouraging him. And then we had our family – three kids who could not wait to get back to Texas.
Each mission trip is different, even if you return to the same place. On our last trip, we worked so, so hard. Like sore muscles and blistered hands and fall into bed exhausted hard. This trip was not so much about hard, manual labor, but more about the joy of simply serving. Two words became our team’s oft repeated motto: “Alright. Awesome.” We picked up this little phrase from Gabe, a student from The Crossing. Gabe is new to the truths of following Jesus and still wrestling with the words of life that Jesus proclaims. Yet, in true Jesus fashion, Gabe taught us more experienced followers of Christ a lesson of unquestioning obedience and pure joy. And he did it by using those two words anytime he was asked or directed to do anything, even if it was just to move bricks.
So, what was it we did on this trip? So many different things! We were asked to dive right into school life and community ministry and our team did a great job of saying, “Alright!” Some of it was planned and some of it was a welcome gift prepared by God and directed by the Holy Spirit.
Nate knew he would be leading a Spiritual Emphasis Week at the school. This included speaking at 8 chapels; 4 for grades 3-12 and 4 for ages 3-2nd grade. He spoke on a topic that he loves to study and share – God’s creation. I felt like he did a wonderful job teaching the character of God as revealed through the creation account and how we should live our lives accordingly. And even though he is not used to teaching tiny children, God helped him bring the attributes of God alive in a way that even the 3 year olds could grasp ahold of. He also was able to spend some time being in classrooms and then lead a two night teacher in-service on the topic of “Run Hard – Rest Well”.
Mission trips always seem to include some painting and digging and wheelbarrows and this trip was no exception. Our team helped with some landscaping, moved some bricks in preparation for an upcoming project and painted some newly remodeled buildings.
Tuesday nights are a big night at Taylor Christian Community Center and our team was glad to be able to help out with babysitting children while their parents took English classes, lead Bible Club for a few dozen kids, and assist in the Sparrow’s Nest clothing ministry.
Every state mandates that schools keep good health records on their students including record of screenings and immunizations. I was able to do hearing and vision screening for every student and spinal screening for the teenagers. I also checked immunization records and sent letters out to parents notifying them of needed shots.
The school library was ground zero for a big project 2 years ago and this visit a couple team members did some further organizing and sorting of books. It was so much fun to see students and teachers enjoying the open space and shelves of books that are more accessible since our last trip.
A day off from school allowed us the opportunity to cross into Mexico and visit a village where a missionary family disciples and builds homes for lower income residents. We spent the afternoon being with children from the village and peeling back the blinders from our eyes to our own prosperity.
The soccer ministry may have been the activity my boys were most excited about being a part of, and Micah did make a pretty awesome penalty shot during a community game, but every team member was able to participate in the numerous soccer clubs and games that take place at the center throughout the week. We were able to play, lead team devotionals, teach good stretching and be cheerleaders.
Together with these activities, our team also said “Alright!” to cooking, doing dishes, folding laundry, passing out water and a million other little things that were necessary to keep the team functioning, healthy and alive. I’m pretty sure our team Grandma, Gwen, should get full credit for keeping my kids alive and applied with sunscreen while I was busy doing the things I had been asked to accomplish.
The truth we discovered, or relearned, or were reminded of, over and over throughout the week was that simple obedience brings real, deep-down joy. Every “Alright” is followed by an “Awesome” as we understand the privilege of serving. Because every step of obedience is followed by the glorification of the One we obey. We certainly had many “Awesome!” moments during our week in McAllen and in the time since as we continue to hear of the effects of our obedience.
Perhaps the biggest “Awesome!” moment came after one of the moms from our team, Jennifer, sensed the need for the missionary kids to have a place to call their own – a place to hang-out, do homework, read or just be quiet away from the gaze of constant visitors to the center. The timing for her idea didn’t seem to make sense (the night before our last day) and the plans seemed bigger than what could be accomplished in a few short hours, but sensing clear direction she spearheaded a truly awesome project. Several other team members wholeheartedly joined in her effort and together they transformed a dark, dusty office into a bright, fun, hangout they affectionately named the “MK Toolshed”. The project was completed in true HGTV fashion right down to the wire by 8:00 pm on our last night on the field and was revealed to the missionary kids shortly thereafter. It was an “Awesome” exclamation point at the end of our trip and is a testimony to listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit – even if your team leader thinks you are crazy. :) The missionary kids and parents will remember the heart of someone who wanted to serve them long beyond many of the other “planned” assignments.
“Alright. Awesome.” became the theme for our week in McAllen, Texas and has spawned a team t-shirt and many good-natured laughs. But I really want “Alright. Awesome.” to become something that defines my life. In fact, I’m pretty sure God would be pleased if this defined every person’s life who claims to know the transforming nature of Jesus Christ. I believe this sums up the essence of what Jesus did when he came to earth and gave his life for us. He obeyed. He said “Alright,” and then His father in heaven was glorified. That is the “Awesome!” Jesus taught this to his followers and to us when he spoke the words recorded in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.”
Do you see the “Alright. Awesome.” written into the very words of scripture? Is it being woven into the story of your life? I know when I enter eternity and stand before my Father I long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I don’t think I would mind if He would follow with an “Alright. Awesome!”
If you would like to view more pictures of our trip please check out the links below: