10 years ago I had the privilege to serve and train with Youth With a Mission in Tyler, Texas. I was going through their five month Discipleship Training School, and after completing the 3 month lecture phase our class of 110 were asked to pray for a week about several outreach options where we would be put into different teams to serve for 6-8 weeks.
The options: China, Venezuela, Mexico, Bangladesh, India, US, (there may have been others but I can’t recall them now). I immediately wanted to write down INDIA and circle, underline and highlight it but I thought I would spend the next week as asked, to pray and ask the Lord where He may have me go. This was an awkward thing for me then … what did “hearing from God” sound like? What should I be listening for, and how was I supposed to know that it was God and not me?
Needless to say I prayed, and prayed, and sat still and waited to hear …. It was NOT an audible voice although my heart had changed .. I was open to going to Venezuela. I am fluent in Spanish and thought maybe I would be much better used if I went BUT I REALLY felt like India was on my heart for a reason.
The next week I turned in my paper with only 2 things written down: 1. Venezuela 2. India
Five days later after our staff had received our requests, and prayed through them they announced the teams. My name was called out when announcing the Venezuela team. BUMMED is not even close to what I felt but still trusting that another opportunity would come up in the future to go to India. What I have not mentioned about the Venezuela outreach is that it was a team that would be backpacking in the jungles of Venezuela, sharing Christ with tribes, sleeping in hammocks, showering and drinking from the same river, and the other portion would be spent staying at a local church and encouraging local pastors and churches. For those that don’t know me this was a HUGE STRETCH.
We started to train every morning at 2am (it may have been 5am but it felt WAY earlier) for our backpacking adventure… The excitement wasn’t growing.
January of 2001 was the month we arrived in Venezuela. It was hot, humid and the people were warm, loving and welcoming. All 9 of us lived in ONE room with ONE bathroom for the first 3 weeks and then we made our way to the mountains. At first glance I thought “there is NO WAY I am ever going to carry my 30 pound bag up that mountain” and lucky for me donkeys came to my rescue!
We started to hike, and hike, and hike with our faithful donkeys by our side carrying our heavy bags and after what it seemed like hours we arrived to the tribe we were visiting. They greeted us with this yummy warm,corn, fermented drink… and that’s when I knew I had ARRIVED! The next couple days we had the incredible experience of sharing the gospel with the surrounding villagers, and helping in whatever we could. We showered in the river, filtered our water in the river, fished with machetes,dug holes to bury our #2 needs, dodged poop being flung at us by monkeys (you know all that normal jungle stuff).
We were in the jungle for a much shorter time period than we thought, which was fine by all of us. Venezuela was the second missions trip I had ever been on, and the first 6 week trip in another country… it taught me to rely on the Lord for strength, and trust in His leading and faithfulness. It was the start of opening the eyes of my heart to the world around me, and the end of an “ordinary life”. For that Venezuela I thank you from the bottom of my heart.