Our church is sending a team to Haiti this week to help with the Samaritans Purse. For anybody that knows me, you’d understand when I say that it almost brought me to tears. And for this reason: I have a huge heart for missions, ever since I was a kid enthralled the the stories of Amy Carmichael and others. That passion has grown over the years as I have had the opportunity to go on mission trips to Myrtle Beach, Jamaica, NYC, and El Salvador three times. If only I were a millionaire I’d go every chance I got!
Truth be told, I am an emotional person. Most women are. But particularly when it comes to spreading God’s love around the globe. I tear up almost every time no matter what people group or what work is being done. It gets into my gut and I fight to keep the waterworks inside. With or without connections. This week Jason and I got our first letter from our World Vision child, Kevin. We specially picked him because he is from El Salvador and I find a deep connection with the people and culture there. I can’t wait to write him and tell him that we share something in common! And I can’t wait to watch him grow up, even if we are 2 time zones and multiple countries apart. He sent us a picture, which we now have proudly displayed on our fridge – his precious little 5-year-old hand prints.
But I digress. This post isn’t about my passion for missions or about Kevin from El Salvador. This post is about you and me making deep personal connections with others. And more importantly, this post is about you and me getting more intimate with a very personal God. Check out what I wrote after leaving El Salvador for the first time; I think it’ll help you understand what I’m getting at here:
You go out of town for a week or two – pretty far away. You go with some friends you don’t know that well… yet. You get close, closer than family. Not only close with your friends, but with the new people you met [there] – people you had long conversations with, people you REALLY connected with.
…but then you leave.
You know you’ll see them again, but not for another year. It literally pains you to leave – your head drops, and your heart sinks in a huge sink-hole of muck. Your face pounds from the tears that have saturated it for the past hour or so. What can you do from there but merely think about them at all times of the day and hope to have some e-mail contact? You start to think that this is merely some sort of withdrawal, but deep down, you know it’s really more than that – these are real people you’re dealing with here!
You had promised people you would e-mail them as soon as you got back. You have their e-mail, and they have yours. You’re a few days late because you had to leave town as soon as you got home – without your luggage because your flight was canceled and had to drive cross country. You talk to some at first. But then… time goes on. Life goes on. For you and for them. Quite honestly, you know there is nothing you can do about it. They are gone forever. For now. You may see them or speak with them once a year… maybe. But mostly they just fill your memories, and only your memories.
What anomaly is this? I fear being forgotten, yet even I forget. I fight it, but it is not something to be fought. Not really. It is natural, though you feel it should not be. There is no other choice. Still, all that truly matters is this: God does not forget. There is no leaving with Him, in either direction. Yeah, that can be kind of intimidating, but isn’t it what we really long for deep down anyways? A deep relationship that is consistent, ever-true, and always there? I know it’s something I want…
As you can tell I was really feeling the pain of leaving the wonderful people I interacted with back in 2007. A few of them I talked to via email consistently for months. But quite honestly, they are now only secured in my memory. One or two I got to see once or twice in my next visits, but it was not the long connection I had hoped. I often sit and wonder what their lives look like now. Did our team impact them for Christ? Do they remember us, or are we just shadows from “back in the day?” Particularly a woman who helped clean off my badly scraped knee on my final trip. She was such a blessing to me and I wonder what her name is, what her family is like, what her life is like.
Have you ever sat back and wondered what kind of impact you’re making with those around you? Or even pondered how many people you’ve come in contact with in your lifetime? There are probably only a few who’s faces remain engrained in your memory. And even those won’t last forever. History – personal or global – can easily be forgotten with time.
My first challenge to you is to make every interaction count – whether in the store, with your students, with your families, with parents, with other volunteers, or whomever else. My second challenge is to really get intimate with God. We often spend so much time worrying about ourselves, others, and our programs, that we neglect to pour into our relationship with God. We downplay His infinite greatness and too easily forget how He meets ALL of our needs.