by Troy Wallace, Walla Walla Theology Student
Before I came on the NPUC Mission Trip to Guatemala, I had never really done anything specifically evangelistic, especially a reaping meeting. Honestly, I was a little cynical when it came to “traditional” evangelism. But I thought this would be a great experience to get outside of America and see how God is working in other places. When we all arrived, we got the royal treatment, something I did not expect. The Guatemala Mission welcomed us with a big ceremony to show their support and gratitude for our being in Guatemala. Every pastor was enthusiastic to see that they had preachers to help with the campaigns. It’s incredible to see the level of dedication that some of these pastors have. Some are pastoring more than 12 churches at a time, equipping the saints in each church to run on its own. This was so refreshing to see, and I’m convinced it’s more Biblical then our pastor-centered churches in America. As we were paired up with our translators, I met mine. Ginardo is a humble man, only three years into the faith. His English wasn’t great, but I know God used him to reach others despite the hiccups in some of the messages. A couple of lessons I learned working with Ginardo:
- Experience isn’t necessary to do God’s work
- The Holy Spirit is doing things so far beyond our ability
- How people respond to spiritual things is not indicative of the effect of the preaching.
- Sometimes the people changed the most through the preaching are the preacher and the translator.
- The bond you build with your translator is special
I was surprised at how kind and generous everyone in Guatemala is. As we deployed to our churches to preach, families would welcome us into their homes and feed us. What is moving in these experiences is often the families are very poor and have little to give. One of the stories I heard from a new friend and pastor, Abner, was the kindness of one of his hosts. They fed him a full and equal plate of food as the father of the house he visited. As he finished up his delicious meal he noticed that the father had only eaten one quarter of his plate. He overheard the father silently call to his kids to finish the plate, because that was all the food they had. This type of generosity is uncommon and heart-melting. The people here really know what it means to be family. Yes there is brokenness, but the community is tight, especially within the churches. People actually love each other and share with one another.This trip also brought me to a new level of humility. We all had these printed sermons to preach from, which is nice because the thoughts and themes are all laid out. But much of the sermons are the same across all of our campaigns. I’m really not preaching “my sermon,” something that I’ve thought was inauthentic. But authenticity is another masked word for selfishness in preaching. Yes you want to reveal the real you, but the sermon is not really about you, it’s about God. I saw that as we worked through these sermons. It became less and less about me, and more about God. Each night a small bit of the “me” that does ministry died, and I was able to truly see the Holy Spirit at work across the region.
With communication gaps I learned another vital lesson: silence is communication. It’s amazing how comfortable I’ve become with silence on this trip. We don’t have to speak to communicate. Sometimes just being there communicates the most important lesson; presence matters. The fact that I showed up every night, the fact I flew across continents to be here, the fact that I sat at dinner awkwardly trying to eat with people staring at me, matters. We don’t always need to be talking to grow deeper in our relationships with others. I feel a little more comfortable with the discomfort of just being with others.
Lastly, this trip has allowed me to be richly ministered to by others. I have not felt the sense of connection to God and others in spiritual things in a long time. Being on a mission gave us all the shared experience and shared focus that we needed to truly connect. I think that is what living and working in the kingdom of heaven is like. We are all experiencing God and sharing Him with each other, something I hunger for. It was awesome hearing others share how they saw God in their meetings. It made our songs more profound as we grew deeper in faith in our worship. Our voices seemed angelic as we belted out the words to “Wonderful, Merciful, Savior.” It felt like heaven. I can’t wait to be there so we can worship like that for eternity.
I want to thank the NPUC for empowering young adults to participate in this work. It’s encouraging to see the support and affirmation from church leadership as we seek to pursue our faith and service to the world together.