When I first began planning our 2016 OCU WGM Task Force Teams, I knew right away that this was the team God planned for me to lead. There were no lightening bolts, no clear direction other than this was the one.
I had the privilege of getting to know my university team members well: Austin Caldwell, Barbee Graves, Haley Robbins, Austin St. Pierre, Kiirsten Truex and Andrea Williams. (Yes, we had a high rate of name repetition for such a small group and, yes, we managed to have to some fun with it along the way!)
Raising funds for our trip was easy…for some on our team, and for others, not so much. In both circumstances, we grew closer to God and to each other. God’s purpose for answering our prayers uniquely is valuable. When the funds came in without a great struggle, we saw God’s hand of blessing and we all celebrated. When the funds came in slowly, we were forced to dig deeper individually and collectively to ask tough questions: Am I suppose to go? What can we all do to help? Why is it so hard for me to ask for help? What if our team isn’t all funded prior to departure? Etc.
One team member, in particular, struggled with fear over raising funds. God proved Himself faithful through Haley’s perseverance. It’s a lesson that is character building and life changing! Haley’s church of approximately 30 members sacrificially gave $1004. Just days before departure, and in the span of three hours, the remaining $1200 was given by multiple people. God is FAITHFUL.
Two other team members struggled for funds, as well. They had participated on multiple WGM mission teams through their home church and knew that God was calling them to Paraguay. Kiirsten presented her need along with Andrea’s at their church the weekend before we were scheduled to depart; the remaining funds were given! Andrea told me later that, while she didn’t know how God would do it, she knew that He would provide.
When we departed for Paraguay, we all knew that our team was complete -- our OCU version of The Breakfast Club was His plan all along!
During our time in Paraguay, we had the privilege of participating in Iglesia Evangelica Mundial (WGM) church services at Buenas Nuevas, Cristo Viene and Nueva Esperanza, two chapel services at the international Asuncion Christian Academy (ACA), and painting a very long wall for Escuela No. 281, a school for grades K-12 in the Herrera neighborhood of Asuncion, and home to (at least) one tarantula. WGM Missionaries Weadette Burge, Beverly Lewis, Mark, Susana and Andres Donahue, and Andy, Lizet, Lucas, Timmy & Joe Bowen joined us at different times throughout the week. We were also blessed to spend an evening with Pastor Jose, Jessica and daughter Samira of the Nueva Esperanza church, located next door to WGM’s Guest House.
The school where we painted is located just around the corner from WGM’s guest house. Larry & Sharon Carr, our WGM missionary hosts, have tried for years to develop a partnership with the school. Just before we were scheduled to arrive, they offered to let us cover over the graffiti and mildew that was covering the elementary school building. Larry told us about students, teachers and neighbors who stopped him to say how happy they were to see the improvements. Please pray with us that this will lead many to a deeper relationship with the Carr’s and the other WGM missionaries in the area, and that many will visit Nueva Esperanza in the near future. We are hopeful that God will use this work project to expand His Kingdom!
At the church services, Haley Robbins or Andrea Williams delivered the message and our team shared “cardboard testimonies”. One of our OCU students from Columbia, Janett Burgos, graciously translated our testimonies into Spanish prior to our trip, so we were ready to share just a few hours after landing in Paraguay.
Austin and Austin spent time with the kids at ACA playing basketball and other games during gym classes, while Barbee, Kiirsten and Andrea sat in on various academic classes. Haley did a great job in the College Success class, informing the upper classmen about OCU’s programs and student life.
Our student team members, along with Larry, Sharon, Andy, Lucas and Timmy, completed Eco Reserva Mbatovi’s obstacle course, including zip-lining, before our time in Paraguay ended. They had a blast!
If this story was to end here, then it would be worthwhile…but it wouldn’t reveal any of the many lessons the Lord taught us along the way. For example, as Barbee shared with me recently, “I saw firsthand how much faith and prayer goes into ministry. I was also reminded that you don’t always see the results of the seeds you sow into a ministry right away.” It can take years, and even then you may never know this side of Heaven what God is doing behind the scenes. As long as you’re doing what He’s called you to do, you’re doing the better thing.
I watched as the students challenged each other to be better Christ-followers while we were together: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” They challenged and sharpened me, too, and for that I am grateful.
More than a couple of the team members commented to me on the field and since we’ve been home that we were an interesting mix for a team. Some of us knew each other by little more than a name before we came together. The students come from different backgrounds, studying in different fields, and have different interests and dreams (four of which include missions, praise the Lord!), and yet for this 9-day journey, we acted as one team with a common purpose: to honor and glorify Jesus Christ, and to support the missionaries in their work.
Since I first penned the opening of this letter to you, I’ve been searching for the words to explain why I believe God led me to lead this team: It was to allow me to experience His pleasure in our obedience to His call.
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