One of the things I’ve started doing is carrying in a suitcase. Unzipping it, I tell the students, I’m here on this mission trip and look what I’ve brought!
I pull out a sign that says The Truth. I’m bringing the truth down here because they don't have it.
I then take out a sign that says The Right Way. I’m American, and so I’m going to share the right way to do things.
And look who I’ve brought? I take out my final sign – Jesus.
I tape the three of them up, and ask the group what they think. Is this true? Did you pack up Jesus and bring Him down here?
I then tell them that long before any of us showed up, Jesus was here at work. Turn to the person next to you and say, Jesús estaba aquí.
And, Jesus is here with us right now. Turn to the person next to you and say, Jesús esta aquí.
And, when we all leave and go home, Jesus will continue to be here. Tell the person next to you, Jesús estará aquí.
It’s important for them to hear this, although somewhat uncomfortable. After all, they’ve taken two weeks out of their lives, raised funds, boarded a plane, brought donations and Spanish Bibles… What do you mean they aren’t bringing Jesus? What’s the purpose if not to carry Him here?
I try to challenge the students to look for where God is already at work. To prepare them to go out into the communities to encounter Jesus. To share what they know of Him, but to be open to hear from people who live and talk and look different from themselves. It’s not the wise and powerful coming and bestowing onto the ignorant and weak. Instead, it is all of us, broken and needing a Savior, who can grow together.
I share this with them because it’s a lesson I’m still learning myself.
When I came to the DR I had so many ideas and plans and thought I was coming to share out of my strengths and skills and experiences. Even though in my head I knew better, I have to admit I had the arrogant notion that I was somehow bringing Jesus – or at least, a truer version of Him than what was here.
What I have learned, is that Jesus – in all His truth, power and love – was in El Callejon, and all of this beautiful island, long before I showed up. It was never up to me to unzip my suitcase, unpack Him, shake the wrinkles out, and then carry Jesus into the community.
Instead, He has been the one to meet me. To invite me to be stretched, to grow in my understanding of who He is.
As I prepare to leave this place, I think of all the things I haven’t accomplished, all the ‘unfinished business’ hanging out there – in my ministry, in my relationships, in myself. It’s easy to feel discouraged at the ways I haven’t met expectations of others and of myself.
But, Jesus will continue to be here, will continue to love this place, will continue to see His will done. That is both humbling and comforting. Humbling to realize that my part was truly only a part, and a small one, at that. Comforting to know that since I didn’t bring Him down here, my leaving won’t take Him away.
When I talk with the students, I always share words from Prince Caspian, where Lucy says, But Aslan, you’re bigger! No child, he replies, I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.
The God I worship seems so much bigger than He did when I showed up three years ago with all my notions. I praise Him for His loving patience as I 'unlearned' so much! As I have grown, He has met me, again and again, always encouraging me to stretch even more.
That is my prayer for those who come here to minister. That is my prayer for the dear friends and family I will soon be leaving. And, that is my prayer for you, too. That you will choose to grow in Him, and that as you do, you will find Him bigger. That no matter where you are, you will find Jesus is already there, ready and willing to meet you. We don't carry Him, but oh, how He carries us! To God alone be the glory!!