It has been a month since Exuma, and I am just now getting the chance to write this. SO much happened on the trip–this note can’t explain it all, the DVD of the trip can’t explain it all, photo albums can’t explain it all, and re-telling our experiences can’t explain it all. It truly is amazing how much can get done in a day, let alone a week, if God is at the beginning, center, and end of the day.
A lot of people have asked me which Exuma trip was better. I tell everyone the same answer–both. Both trips were good, but for entirely different reasons. Even though we worked in a different part of the island, the work that was done this year built on what was done last year. The work that was done last year built on the work from the previous year, and so on.
Follow-up letter sent to my sponsors
I’ve recently returned from serving God on the island of Exuma again. One verse that could be used to summarize our week in the Bahamas is 1 Thessalonians 5:24, which says, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” God worked through the team, and as a result, we accomplished much more than we could with our own strength. Our work for the week consisted of landscaping and painting an apartment complex and outreaches to children of the island. The apartment complex is intended to be used for people in dire need of housing. Unlike America, there are no shelters to go to—this complex of six units and others like it are the closest representation of a shelter. Landscaping was done around the whole complex, and five of the six units were painted inside and out (one unit was finished prior to this trip).
This year’s outreach to the children consisted of a game and movie night and also a simple carnival. We focused on just the kids in the village of Rolleville because that was where our worksite was. Our first outreach started with basketball, baseball, balloon animals, balloon swords, soccer, a lot of running around, and many hugs. When it was close to getting dark, we walked to a nearby pavilion for some simple “Sunday School” worship songs. After the singing, the kids watched a short puppet show. Following the puppet show, we went to the other side of the pavilion for movie time. Two movies were shown to the kids—the first was a short, funny movie featuring characters from the movie Madagascar. The second movie that was shown to the kids was the Jesus Movie for Children. This movie explained the story of Christ to the kids and gave them the chance to accept Christ afterwards. I don’t know an exact number, but many of the children did accept Christ into their hearts.
Our second outreach was a simple carnival night. To burn off some of the kids’ energy, we played parachute games with them. Once the games were over, we separated them into smaller groups to share the story of Christ with them. The team accomplished this by using wordless bracelets—bracelets with a gold bead, a dark bead, a red bead, a white bead, a green bead, and a second gold bead. Each bead represented part of the story of Christ. These bracelets enforced what the kids learned from the movie. Once every kid had a bracelet, it was time for the carnival. The carnival consisted of eight stations; each station had a simple game and prizes. To make the carnival feel more real, the kids were given tickets to play the games. Every child who played was a winner and won prizes. By the end of the night, pockets and hands were overly full of prizes. One of the kids kept saying, “These games are very fun!” To these kids who don’t have a lot, bringing these simple games to them was like taking them to an amusement park. Their laughter, smiles, and excitement mean that they won’t be forgetting that carnival anytime soon.
God’s faithfulness was most easily visible on our last full day in Exuma. It was our day off, having completed the apartment complex. The team went to say our last goodbyes to the kids that we had met earlier in the week. Before we left, it rained. This might not sound like a big event to people living in America where it rains a lot, but Exuma hadn’t received rain for a few months prior to this rain. There were a couple of quick showers on the trip prior to this day, but they were quite brief—and one was a sun shower. As soon as the rain started to taper off, we loaded into the van and headed off to see the kids. We took a route slightly different than our normal route to see a part of the island that we hadn’t visited on this trip yet. As we were driving, we saw a rainbow in the sky. Cameras were whipped out as everyone in the van talked excitedly. We were able to pull over next to a landmark called the Three Sisters (three giant rock formations in the ocean). As we pulled over and rushed out of the van, we were able to see the whole arc of the rainbow over the ocean. It was a spectacular sight to see, one that will not be easily forgotten.
In addition to this wonderful display of God’s faithfulness, the team members each drew closer to God throughout the week by means of their personal devotional times, group times of worship, group times of debriefing, times of walking around the town to simply share Jesus, prayer, and living in community with each other. Friendships were both forged and strengthened. Going on a missions trip is an experience that changes one’s life forever. It isn’t always easy, but in the end, everything is worth it. Team member Marcelle Farhat knows this to be true. “When you let go and let God, He will do great things. He’ll give you the words to say and the heart to do.” Francisco Maldonado echoed this, saying, “I learned that if you put everything in God’s hands, good things will happen.” Megan Howarth remarked, “Going to Exuma, Bahamas for our SCF mission trip was unforgettable. I experienced God’s presence in ways that I cannot describe. I love that I am able to experience God’s adventure of traveling to unchartered territories, seeing the world, spending intimate time with Him and drawing nearing to Him, cherishing God’s beauty all around us, losing myself in God, and loving up on people.” I might be speaking for the group on this, but I can’t imagine a better spring break. Beach time is nice, but changing lives is even better.
Thank you again for your support, love, and encouragement.
As for what God did specifically in my heart, I know that I don’t even know a fraction of everything that God did that week. I am still overwhelmed and in awe of it, a month later. If I absolutely HAD to summarize it, I would say that God is faithful. I saw with my own eyes many prayers being answered. I saw change from last year. I’ll probably be writing about this trip for awhile in my journal.
I have SO many memories from this trip. There were CRAZY God times, times I was simply in awe of God, times we had to trust God, times God surprised me. Our team came together like family, accomplished what we set out to do, grew in our friendships, and grew in Christ. We were slaves of Christ. The best part of working for God is that it doesn’t feel like work.
Last year, we asked God for greater things to come to Exuma–it was the cry of our hearts.
This year, we asked God for greater things. It was only mentioned out loud once, during prayer the first night we got there, but mentioned in hearts quietly throughout the trip.
This year, we were able to see that greater things have started to come to Exuma.
This year, we sought the name of Jesus Christ.
The precious blood of Jesus Christ redeems
Forgiven I’m alive restored set free
Your majesty resides inside of me
Forever I believe
Forever I believe
Arrested by Your truth and righteousness
Your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness
Convicted by Your spirit led by Your word
Your love will never fail
Your love will never fail
I know You gave
The word Your only Son for us
To know Your name
To live within the Saviour’s love
He took my place
Knowing He’d be crucified
And You loved
You loved a people undeserving
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed You most You would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not grow tired or weary,
And His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
And young men stumble and fall.
But those that hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”