I remember as a little child, sitting in church on those hard, uncomfortable pews, listening to a tall gentlemen with a monotone voice and quiet demeanor describe what the country of Panama is like while showing slides of different people and things there. At certain times during this gentleman's speech I almost fell asleep. I was uninterested and absolutely in a lull over being in such a dull atmosphere. I thought I would never see the day that I would be in a different country working alongside and helping those who don't even speak the same language as I.
Last year, I took my second trip to the Central American country of Guatemala, which has a very high poverty and unemployment rate. I had fallen hard for the country last year and this year I couldn't wait to get back. See, I had discovered that being a missionary is about more then anything I have ever seen. I will share with you my experience and then relate it to the topic at hand.
In Guatemala, the team I was with and I stayed at a home for abandoned and malnourished children in the guest part of the home. The home is located in the small town of San Andres, in the beautiful Quiche area. We played with, loved and cared for the children at the home everyday for eleven days. Three days out of the week we set out on foot into the mountains, to set-up medical clinics for the Quiche native Guatemalans. Many of the people had never even seen a doctor or been to a hospital, so there was a lot of work to be done. We had two translators because the Quiche people do not speak spanish or english. We had one translator who spoke spanish/english and another who spoke spanish/quiche.
The usual dress for a Quiche women is a beautifully ornate blouse of different bright colors and designs with lace around the neck and sleeves. The skirt is actually more like a big blanket, wrapped around the body and fastened on with a belt. It was like seeing a rainbow when a bunch of women got in a group. The children were very cute with big brown eyes and glowing smiles. Even the men, whose faces had been weathered by the daily duties of farming in the sun and toiling with ancient farming equpment still had brilliant smiles and twinkling eyes. I loved every minute I spent with these people.
After a full day of the medical clinic we would ride (or walk) back to the home. I would sit on a bench in the little courtyard and hold a sleepy four year old in my arms. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
The most difficult part of the entire trip was coming back home. My struggle came from knowing that as I stepped off the plane I would be starting to enter an entirely different culture, that pleas of "Buy! Buy! Buy!" and media overload would start to rattle in my brain. I learned last year that it doesn't help to get angry at our culture. We are blessed. We are blessed and so we should bless others. Selfishness and greed are common in our "Look out for #1" world, but it doesn't have to be that way. That's why when you see those World Vision and Christian Children's Fund commercials on TV you might want to pay more attention, instead of changing the channel.
A missionary, according to Webster's Dictionary is: a person undertaking a mission and especially a religious mission. I realized that, in a sense, we are ALL missionaries. We have a mission as human beings to take, mold, and shape the world for the better. To care and help those in need. Religion plays an extremely big part in this, because the fundamental principles of caring and helping our fellow man are an intricate part of many religions. But the key to being a missionary does NOT have to be religion. The key to being a missionary is compassion.
After spending two weeks in a different world, I learned that we are not alone. No matter how hard you have it, no matter what dreadful path you think you're going on, somebody either has it worse then you or they are having the same problems.
I would encourage everyone to spend a week in a third-world country, but I know that the reality is for most people that taking cold showers and sleeping in rooms where you can hear stray dogs barking perfectly all night is no dream excursion.
My hope for this paper is not that you get down on your knees, lift your hands to the sky and cry out in mourning over our self-absorbed culture. My hope is that you get off your butt and go do something with your life to better this world. Then you will be a missionary.