“We aren’t in South Carolina anymore,” I thought as I looked around at the makeshift housing along the roadside, and the conditions in the school that would be our home for the week in Puerto Rico.
It was the first mission experience where our students were immersed in another culture and a flight away from home. Our mission was to partner with some local churches to do a Vacation Bible School and to work on homes in the afternoon. The school we stayed in had cement block walls, cement floor, and toilets and showers that did not work. Air conditioning was praying for a breeze through the windows. It didn’t take long to begin to appreciate some of the things we take for granted in America.
The first day we arrived on site, there were some cultural bridges that needed to be built and also some limitations of language. I had the great idea of walking through the neighborhoods inviting children to a Vacation Bible School, so I asked someone how to say, “We invite your children to VBS.” I don’t think I got it exactly correct and began to yell in the streets of the neighborhood, “Quiero tu los niños!”
It really didn’t cross my mind that I was the stranger in a foreign land yelling out to everyone, “I want your children!”
Fortunately, the church we were partnering with gathered young people, and we were able to have a great week loving the children and sharing the hope of Jesus with them. The construction in the afternoon was brutal, but it allowed us the opportunity to build relationships with those in the neighborhood and share why we were there.
I will never forget the words of the elderly wheelchair-bound woman who had been confined to her home because she did not have a wheelchair ramp to come outside. When they wheeled her outside for the first time, she took the hand of one of one of my students and said, “It has been a long time since I have seen the sun.”
As we returned home, it was hard to get back to normal. Stuff didn’t matter as much. It was hard to process requests to turn down the AC before the worship service started. We began to open our eyes a bit wider around parts of our community that we hadn’t noticed before, as well as the people who lived in those areas.
And I thought, “It has been a long time since they have seen the Son.”
Maybe you need to get on a plane this summer and say yes to a mission experience to be immersed in another culture that has limited access to the gospel. Maybe the Lord wants to send you across the globe to help you notice the people across your town.