Tecate Mexico will always have a special place in my heart. Although I didn’t know this at the time, this trip would birth a deep love for mission work in me and would be the first of many mission trips to come.
I was almost finished with college and on my summer break. My plans consisted of spending the summer with my family in Florida but God was pressing on my heart that He had something more. I’ll never forget sitting on the beach praying “Lord, I want to serve you with my time. Will you show me how?”
Literally the next day, my brother told me that the mission trip to Mexico he was leaving for next week had an extra spot for a translator that had just opened up. I was minoring in Spanish at the time so his youth pastor, Joey Potter, thought I would be a good fit. This was the first time in my life that a prayer was answered so clearly and so quickly and although I was nervous about going, there was no denying God was talking.
On the way to the airport, I remember feeling really stretched. That’s the only word for it. The idea of staying in Florida was safe and comfortable and TEMPTING. But to hear from God in such an obvious way, I knew I couldn’t ignore Him. Looking out the window I began to pray for courage. On the radio came this song that said “I will walk through the valley if you want me to.” Peace overwhelmed me. Although the feeling of being out of my comfort zone was not gone, a quiet peace accompanied it and gave me the courage to get on the plane. I’ll never forget that feeling and often refer back to it now when making big decisions. When the Lord calls you to something, you often feel stretched and uncomfortable (so you will depend on Him!), but you also feel an incredible peace and strength you know is not your own.
Meeting up with the team and driving over that Mexican border I felt more alive than I had ever felt in my life. We built a home (I helped with the roof and drywall!) and put on a Vacation Bible School for some children in the village. The days were long and I had never been so tired or dirty but I’d also never been so happy. The relationships that were formed on that trip were cemented for a lifetime. To this day, I cannot help but smile thinking of the people I had the privilege of spending that week with. One of my favorite things was how each day, we were encouraged to have a quiet time with the Lord before going out. On one such morning, I had found a rock with the words “Dios es Bueno” spray painted on it. I took a picture to remind myself not only of the trip, but of this truth: God is good!
When I returned home, I realized I would forever look at things differently. My life would become one with a focus on missional living because Tecate showed me there is no greater joy than serving others in the name of Christ. My travels would take me to Europe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Kibera and Pipleline slums in Kenya (twice), El Salvador and then a long term mission where I would work with my husband in Immokalee, Florida. We served a community that was made up of 90% immigrants and crop workers with food, clothing and English classes. On the way home one day how he told me he had never been happier. I knew the feeling well. He would die a year later suddenly of a heart defect. I was pregnant at the time. It was one of the most difficult times of my life but one of the things that got me through that tragedy was continuing to serve. I got involved with girls rescued out of human trafficking and continued trips to Immokalee with my young son where I met weekly with a youth group. Why? Because once you have experienced being the hands and feet of Jesus to love and serve others, you know there is no other way you can possibly spend your days. I’ll be forever grateful to God for using Joey to open my eyes to that truth. And as we speak, I look over on my wall and see the picture of that rock in a frame on my wall reminding me that Dios, is indeed, Bueno.