Because He First Loved Us…

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IMG_1494Remember those faces?

You got on a plane in a big Pennsylvania airport and landed hours later in a tiny Belize airport (maybe with a stop in between?), bags loaded with clothes and games and VBS curriculum… hearts ready to embrace whatever God brought your way.

A few adults and a some crazy kids greeted you as you walked out of the building into the oppressive heat and humidity.  The kids smothered you with hugs and touched your bags and gave big smiles.  Two little girls ran circles around you in their effort to make me chase them.  Then around came the big school bus, and we all loaded up and started the long drive back to the base.

You remember, don’t you?  The heat, the sweat, the kids, the excitement, the stories and laughter and singing and dancing.  Meals together in the dining room and basketball games on the concrete slab.  A VBS program that shared the Name of Jesus with a hundred kids and late night games in the empty church.

I remember.  I remember picking you all up at the airport and talking with two of your girls on our way back, quickly realizing that your team was tight and the love was thick.  I remember laughing at your stories and asking question after question to try to get to know you all better.  I remember watching and hearing about the progress you made on both houses — the one painted and the one constructed, and the sheer joy each of you emanated as you served another.  I remember the trips to get ice cream, smiling as everyone got used to riding “Belize-style” (aka: in the beds of a couple pickups).  I remember dedicating the house and praying over another sweet family as you handed them the keys and watched their faces burst with happiness.

I am sitting here reading over the notes you wrote me and left in the paper bag.  I’ve read them many, many times and can’t finish without damp eyes.  You each blessed me, and I’m so grateful.  And I realize not all of you are going back to Belize this year {sixteen days!!}.  But for those of you who are…

Be.  Be open, be ready.  Be real; love on the kids and give them the [disciplined] attention they need.  Be encouraged, and be encouragement.  Be faithful in the little and the much; be willing to do what God asks of you.  Be listening to what He has to say.  Be watchful for all that He is doing; find Him and jump in.

Short-term missions is difficult.  The relationships you build in a week may not be able to be sustained beyond your departure — and that hurts.  So find the things that really last, and do them.  Say them.  Meet people where they are, see them as humans, help them where they need it and allow them to help you.

You probably know the verses:  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).  That’s it.  Love on people.  Love Jesus, and let that love shine through.  Fit in to the people and the culture and the setting as seamlessly as you can, and just be.  Soak it up, pour it out.

I love you and can’t wait to hear your stories.  (Just maybe not the super gross ones.  Haha.)

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