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give, go, lead… learn

give, go, lead… learn

Years ago if you had told me I would go on a mission trip to Peru I would have laughed. If you had told me I would lead a youth mission trip to Peru I would have likely fallen over in disbelief. But often God has plans for us that are outside of our expectations. Years ago, before becoming a Christian, I saw mission trips as little more than adventurous vacations to help the less fortunate. But after becoming a Christian the reasoning behind mission trips became clearer, and in the back of my mind I thought that one day maybe I would go to Kenya or Ethiopia and use my running ability as a connection point to share the Gospel. God had a slightly different plan and time line in mind:

In 2003 my wife, Clare, heard Polly Ricks talk about her work with Scripture Union and Peruvian street boys. Polly basically outlined the trip and what the team hoped to accomplish while in Peru. Clare and I decided to support Polly both prayerfully and financially that year….not knowing that God was cracking open a door to my heart and these kids.

A few years later, Clare was teaching a cycling class that Polly was attending. After class they struck up a conversation that could have only been inspired by the Lord. Clare shared that I had a vague interest in foreign missions and Polly noted that she needed some additional adult leadership on the youth mission trip to Peru. We planned a dinner to talk about the trip, and it is apparent that God clearly wanted me to move from being a giver to “goer.”

God gave me a heart for the boys in Peru, and this year my son Ben felt called to join me on the trip. Polly, who had been leading the youth mission trips for years, decided to take a break from the leadership/coordinator role, and God led me through the door that He had been steadily opening and this year I stepped into Polly’s very big shoes and become the trip leader. It was probably a good thing that I didn’t know everything involved in the job and; therefore, I was willing to jump in with both feet. It was also a good thing that I didn’t feel overly qualified for the task because that kept me from relying on myself and forced me to rest and trust in the Lord. Fortunately, God made available the experience of Polly, the support of my family, and a gift set that would probably be most politely described as “detail oriented.”

So on June 2nd when Southwood’s youth team left for Peru I began my third Peru mission trip in a new role. In the Houston airport Jake Patton asked each member how we were looking for God to work in us over the course of the trip. My answer was to be able to turn things over to God and trust in Him. Because even though this was my first experience as trip leader I knew enough to realize that without God in whatever we did we were going to be ineffective. We had already seen Satan toying with our team in the weeks and days before we left. But God had been good and after a couple flights and a very long bus ride our team arrived at the Kusi center outside of Yungay. As the days passed, I quickly felt more at ease and less stressed. I was still counting every team member every time we gathered to make sure we were all there, and I often referred to my notes to double check that everything was getting done. But there wasn’t anxiety in the details… I was learning to lean on the real leader of our trip and rest in God’s faithfulness.

One thing that has amazed me on each mission trip I have been on is the lessons that the team learns along the way, and this trip was no different. Peru is a beautiful country. Like any country it has areas that will never be on any postcard, but we were blessed that each morning when we emerged from our rooms we could look up and see Peru’s highest peak, the Huascaran, covered in pure, white snow against a blue sky. Along the side of the center ran a crystal clear creek, fed by glacial melt water from far up the mountain. These images stood in stark contrast to the lives of the boys at the center. These boys have seen some of the worst the world has to offer. Boys, as young as 6, who have been abandoned by their families who could not, or would not, take care of them. Boys who have lived not knowing where their next meal would come from, subjected to all manner of physical and mental abuse, shunned by society. But while the past of these boys is ugly and dark, their futures are bright – as uplifting as the views surrounding their home. God has brought these boys along a path that only He could have directed. And by showing us the contrast of the beauty of His Creation with the harshness of the boys prior lives we see His greatness. We see Him put hope in places with none. We see that He is limitless. We take joy in knowing that while He doesn’t need us, He does use us in the process of redeeming His Creation. We realize there is nothing He cannot do—and we learn to trust Him more and more with our lives. We got to experience the childlike faith of the boys while we played soccer, shared a meal with them, or just sat and talked. We saw boys who at one time were covered in the dirt of the street now beaming in smiles. Their tears of pain replaced with laughter.

What began years ago with a simple donation to support the mission trip of a sister in Christ resulted in my becoming a trip leader. But over the course of the trip I realized I was less a leader and more a learner when it came to living out God’s plan. Just as each day found us at the foot of the Huascaran, each day found us at the foot of the cross. Letting our Savior lead and learning what it means to surrender.

Southwood Peru Youth Mission Team
Dave Purinton
Jake Patton
Polly Ricks
Denise Scrip
Josh Cook
Philip Denton
Abby Gandy
Lillie Hahnemann
Mary Katherine Honeycutt
Michael Kline
Kellyn Mahesh
Jamie Martin
Wilson Moores
Ben Purinton
Sam Wilson
Anne Wood