March 13, 2005 Newsletter
Spring is just around the corner
and, as is becoming my custom this time of year, I'm
planning some international volunteer missions. You
should try it! I have found this to be the absolute
best use of my vacation time. And you would be amazed
how quickly and completely it eliminates all your stress and
restores the balance we all need, far better than fighting
through the traffic of other vacationers to get to typical
overcrowded vacation spots.
In preparation for this summer's
trips, I find myself remembering the first of such trips I
ever made with a group of forty people I had never met
before. I thought one of the reflections I wrote about
that trip might make a good newsletter article this month.
If you find yourself curious or
interested in volunteer missions, please contact me through
the contact page of this website, so I can help you get
The Mission Trip
By Rhonda Jones
Today I am
on my way to the Casa Aleluya orphanage in Guatemala. I
write this as I sit on the plane stuck at the gate waiting
to depart Atlanta airport. We are delayed. It seems
ridiculous now that I let myself get so stressed on the bus
ride down here. But, I did. The old control freak in me
kicked in. I wanted so badly to just sit back and allow all
the details to be taken care of by the men from the Baptist
church who have taken groups on many such trips before.
I couldn’t do it. I had soon
calculated the number of hours I typically needed to drive
to Atlanta for the many business trips I’ve had over the
years . . . compared it to the crawling speed at which the
church van was traveling with the luggage trailer pulled
behind . . . and concluded we would never make it.
Having flown internationally
before I knew how far we would have to drag our luggage,
weighted down with the many items being donated to the
orphanage. I knew how crowded and chaotic the check-in
would be. I had heard horror stories about the ninety
minute wait to get through the long security lines . . . we
were never going to make it. But, I willed myself to close
my eyes and go to sleep. We had finally pulled out of the
church parking lot at 4:15 AM . . . fifteen minutes behind
schedule already . . . God please help us make it.
When I woke from my brief,
uncomfortable nap, what did I wake to but our leaders, Greg
and Chris discussing the map . . . trying to figure out how
to get to the airport . . . and the ladies discussing where
we would STOP for breakfast. I could feel the stress level
rising by the second . . . we’re not going to make it.
I tried to suggest directions to
the airport. They ignored me. I tried to recommend we eat
on the road. They ignored that, too. In the restaurant I
had already swallowed half my biscuit whole by the time
everyone else took time to pray and give thanks together. I
sighed . . . we are never going to make it.
“Let’s stop for gas!” Chris
said, just as we finally got back on the road. “We will be
in a hurry to get home when we get back and we won’t want to
stop then, so let’s just go ahead and fill up now.”
I couldn’t take much more. “You
know, this is a real test of my patience.” I heard the words
coming out before I even thought about them. “I’m so
accustomed to being in control. I’m a nervous wreck. I
almost didn’t even ride with you. I almost decided to just
call and tell you that I would meet you at the Atlanta
airport. But, I believe this is part of the lesson God
wants me to learn from this mission trip. So, I’m really
trying to remain calm. But, THIS IS REALLY TRYING MY
PATIENCE. It is 8:00 a.m. and we are nowhere near the
airport. Our international flight leaves at 10:30! We
should be there getting our luggage unloaded RIGHT NOW! We
are really behind schedule!”
Everyone just laughed at me. It
didn’t even faze them. This is what I get for not driving
down alone and getting a hotel room the night before, I
thought. We are NOT going to make it!
I was already mapping out
contingency plans in my head. At least I knew there was a
later flight to Miami that would connect with our flight to
Guatemala. The other two-thirds of our mission team was
booked on that flight. It would be full. Maybe too full
for all ten of us to get a seat on it. But, I would get
one. I will make it to Guatemala! I will not be deprived
of the opportunity I’m going to have to learn and grow in
that environment. I’ve waited my whole life for this. If I
ever get to the airport and I can get my hands on my
luggage, it will be every man for himself, I decided. No
matter what happens to everybody else, I have to make it to
I hopped nervously from one foot
to the other while my teammates seemed to me to be moping
through the process of unloading luggage. I couldn’t take
it anymore. Grabbing my cases, I headed for the terminal.
It was a long hike . . . across the large parking lot in the
humid Atlanta sun, through the massive multi-deck parking
garage to the terminal entrance, up the towering escalator,
dragging my one hundred and twenty pounds of luggage behind
me, as the pack on my shoulders grew heavier with every
That wasn’t all that was growing
heavy. My arms and legs had stopped burning and just gone
completely numb. My arms will be too sore to pick up any of
the Guatemalan children, I groaned, as I realized the
American Airline counter was all the way at the far end of
the check-in lobby. I glanced back and didn’t see any of my
group. I kept on trucking. One way or the other, I was
going to make it.
The line was so long; by the
time my group caught up there was only three or four other
passengers between us. The thought flashed through my mind
that I really hadn’t accomplished much by racing out ahead.
But, I quickly dismissed it.
Soon, Lewis, the man from the
agency who was managing our trip, arrived and began
conversing with the group behind me. He briefly wandered up
my way to chat with me, but quickly returned to the rest of
the group. I could sort of overhear their conversation.
But, I was separated from them. I had already been
separated from them due to the fact that I don’t go to
church with them. Now, I had separated myself even
further. I didn’t want this to happen. But, it had
happened, and I was too tired and stressed to worry about it
now. I simply had to get to Guatemala.
The clock was ticking toward
10:00 a.m., and we were nowhere near the check-in counter
yet. I thought I could finally detect traces of concern on
the faces of some of the others. It would be a miracle if
this line could move fast enough for us to make a 10:10 a.m.
Then I heard Lewis’s voice again
from over my right shoulder. “Excuse me . . . excuse me,
please. Can we all move over and let these folks go
through? They have a ten o'clock flight.” He sounded so
What?! What in the world is he
doing? I wondered in amazement as I watched Lewis squeeze
by leading an elderly Indian couple and their luggage
through the crowd.
“If they are waiting to check
in, they need to get in the back of the line and wait like
all the rest of us!” I heard a lady in line behind me say.
That’s right! I thought. If
Lewis wants to expedite someone to the front of the line, it
had better be his own mission team! I grumbled to myself,
when the couple, dazed and confused, wandered past me.
While I stood there panicking,
Lewis became the candy-striper of the check-in area. Had it
not been for his bright orange t-shirt identifying him as a
member of our team—our trip sponsor’s idea—you’d never know
he didn’t work for the airline. He was back and forth,
shuttling people through the line, while the rest of us
stood there waiting and staring at the backs of each other’s
heads . . . creeping forward inch by painstaking inch . . .
until finally we were almost there.
Then, as quickly as the line had
seemed to start moving, it shut down again. One young man
was the problem. His large suitcase was overweight. He had
both cases opened in the floor trying to move contents from
one to the other. I watched him in disgust.
Socks! He’s transferring
socks! I thought. How in the world is that going to help?
Move something that will make a difference! Why don’t you
at least put the heavier of the two cases back on the scale,
so you can tell when you’ve achieved your goal?! My mind
was racing. Good grief, now he has stuffed that small
suitcase so full, he will never get it zipped shut! This is
exasperating! We all stood there glaring at the back of his
head. His face was crimson with embarrassment.
Then, there he was . . . our own
orange-shirted candy-striper, Lewis. He swooped up beside
the young man, dropped to the floor beside him and began
grabbing and stuffing contents from one suitcase to another
as fast as his hands would go. The young man who had almost
given up was rejuvenated and began working as hard and fast
as Lewis, as he looked up at his savior with sheer relief.
Lewis buried one knee in the top
of the cloth-sided suitcase. Together they tugged and
mashed and mashed and pulled until their hands finally met
holding the two ends of the zipper. And, when they put the
cases back up on the scales, they just managed to squeak
under the seventy pound limit . . . 69.5 and 70.5. They
looked at each other with pride.
“God loves me today.” The young
“Ah, God loves us everyday.”
Lewis smiled back. “We just don’t always receive him.”
I was stopped cold in my
tracks. It was finally my turn to approach the check-in
counter, but I was frozen. In that moment . . . in the face
of the stranger . . . in Lewis’s words and actions . . . I
instantly knew why God had sent me on this mission.
I had prayed for the many weeks
preceding the trip that God would use this trip to change my
life. I had decided that would mean I would discover a new
career path. Once again, I had tried to be in control . . .
in control even of what the answer to my prayer would be.
Already, before the trip had
even really begun, I had turned what was supposed to be a
love mission focused on others into a mission focused on
me. In fact, before it had even begun, I had completely
distorted the whole meaning of a mission. I was so focused
on getting to Guatemala . . . the destination . . . I had
completely ignored the journey. In so doing, I had already
begun to miss opportunities to do exactly what the mission
was all about . . . to show God’s love to my fellowman.
I am convicted. And so I bow
my head now, as I sit here on the crowded plane, and ask God
to hold this moment fast in my memory and to write the
lesson upon my heart. This mission . . . this life . . . is
about each moment . . . each step of the way . . . each face
In a microcosm, this mission
trip will teach me how God wants me to live this life.
In Lewis’s example, God has
already taught me.
We haven’t even left Atlanta yet
. . . and already my prayer has been answered.