“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
For nine years, I was the manager of international missions for Buckner and spent most of my summers with my cell phone attached to my hand, lest a team on the ground need me for any reason. I’ve been to 14 countries, some numerous times, over the course of my adult life. I’ve led more than 20 mission trips and have met hundreds of people yearning to serve the Lord on these trips.
When I was asked to write a devotional about my time in missions, I was surprised to be at a loss for words. How do you pick out one lesson or experience from more than 20 mission trips and hundreds of mission trip participants?
So I spent the last few days reminiscing, reading old journal and blog entries to find the heart of how I spent the last (almost) decade of my life, and I found exactly the story I was looking for from a Christmas trip to Peru:
“I had a great afternoon with my teammates. We decorated Christmas stockings and filled them with candy, we sang the "Sapo" song over and again, and we gave out lots of shoes and hugs. At least 50 kids had already walked up to retrieve their gifts and a hug from an American stranger with many more to come, so I wondered if it was at all getting monotonous for the team members as they rotated through the “giving line.” Then, for just a moment, I looked from the faces of eager children to the faces of my teammates. Their faces were a whole line of smiles. Chills ran up my arms as I saw their expressions, as if there was nowhere else they would rather spend that moment than to be sharing it with that group of kids. They were genuine smiles, not the kind you use when somebody takes your picture, but the kind that you use when you've stopped thinking about you.
“Suddenly, no one was thinking about themselves; no one was worried about how to do the craft or whether or not every child got the same amount of candy. No one was worried about anything other than being in that room full of kids. It was as if you could feel the Holy Spirit hovering over that scene, helping us to let go of our expectations of this trip and to let Him work on our hearts.”
After years of witnessing people step out of their comfortable world to love groups of children with no families or families with no hope, I thought most of the developed world had a compassionate posture toward helping the poor.
I recently ran across some statistics on the general public’s view of poverty that left me feeling discouraged. Then I remembered that day in Peru when I wrote that their smiles were “the kind that you use when you’ve stopped thinking about you.”
The truth is, my pride stands in the way of helping others all of the time. Sometimes it makes me think I have the answers to the world’s problems and sometimes it makes me resist telling a close friend or family member I was wrong. Sometimes it even makes me prideful about how much I’ve done for someone else. No matter how hard it is for me to believe, I know it’s really never about me – it’s about being His.
Susan Williams is the director of spiritual development for Buckner International.