The car has been washed and vacuumed out. Multiple loads of very dirty clothes have been laundered and put away. Bodies have been scrubbed, and teeth have been flossed. We are home. We are tired. We have been emptied, and we have been made full. And we have many stories to tell from our recent trip to Leadville, Colorado.
Last Sunday, 33 folks from our sweet little church packed up and headed up the mountain to spend a week in the town of Leadville. Out of the 33 people, 17 were children. The oldest kid was 15, and the youngest kid was 2. Our plan was to run a Vacation Bible School for 3 days in a mobile home park with members from a Hispanic church in Leadville. We had other plans too—a Ladies night, a night for just the guys, a Youth night with a band, and several work projects. Several months of prayers and preparations were finally coming to fruition as we travelled up to 10,200 feet in elevation.
As we walked into the Siloe Church on Sunday morning, the music began—loud, energetic, and worshipful. As the second song was playing, Faith tapped my hand and told me, "Mom, I feel lightheaded." I could barely hear her, and was slightly annoyed to be interrupted as I asked her to repeat it again. "Mom, I feel lightheaded", and she touched her head. We sat down together and I motioned to Billy to get her water. He left to find water, and she slumped over on me. She was passed out cold. After trying to get someone's attention, I grabbed Faith and carried her out to the sidewalk. You would think my nursing skills would kick in and I would calmly know how to handle the situation. Instead I cried like a baby and was shaking in fear. She woke up within seconds and was fine. After a few minutes of talking to her, we realized she hadn't had any water for several hours, and that combined with the jump in elevation contributed to her little episode. And that is how our mission trip began.
Our mission trip ended 5 days later at St Vincent Hospital—this time our son Jack was the one receiving care. But before I get to that, let me share how special the days were in between our little emergencies.
Our trip began with getting to know our Siloe church friends, and preparing for VBS. We passed out fliers to invite anyone and everyone at the mobile home park to attend the events of the week. After a long first day, we headed to our hostel to unpack and rest up for a busy week. Last summer we came to the same hostel, with many of the same folks, but somehow we knew this week was going to be different than last year. Last year's trip laid the foundation. And little did we know that first night, that this year's trip would prove to be fruitful .
Billy and I have been on several mission trips, all very different experiences. The one thing we have learned is to expect big things. And rather than focus on the task at hand, we need to focus on the relationships that might be built. For me, this is difficult. Generally, if I'm told to cut carrots or make beaded necklaces, then I will do that like a robot. But as our friend Beth had to remind us several times, "It's not about the task. It's about the relationship". As we set out to prepare for the unknown, children began showing up to see what we were doing. And rather than tell them to get out of the way, we used our 17 children to play and engage the locals, as we set up shop. The next day, 75 children sat under those tents and learned that someone named Jesus loved them. Sure, a lot of them knew it already, but many hadn't ever been shown what it means, and for the first time, they not only saw God's love in action, they invited that Love into their own lives.
The Ladies night, which I would normally avoid in my real life, but couldn't because it's a mission trip, and therefore NOT about me, was amazing. I happened to miss the amazing part, as I was taking our little girls home to bed, but as all my friends came back to the hostel that night, their excitement was palpable. They cried as they shared God's power and might about the women who shared their stories. And these stories weren't pretty. They involved abuse, hatred, death, and a depth of evil you only see in movies. By the end of the week, one woman in particular who had been seduced by this evil for 20 years, declared she'd given it up and chose to be a child of God instead. There was a real live fight for her soul, and for some reason God allowed our small little group of warriors to help her win this battle.
Several other moments during this week marked our lives forever. Our son Jack, at 13 years old, shared the wordless book with a boy named Isaiah, and prayed with him to receive Jesus in his heart. The other kids in our group shared the wordless book with countless children, and prayed with them as well. Mark and Josh worked in one woman's home, to make it a little safer, while Grace and Alicia took her shopping to buy her daughter a birthday present. Our group spent hours in the dusty wind, heat, with grit and grime on our teeth, playing games with kids and sharing with them a cup of cold water. We watched the Silo church members connect with their community and commit to come alongside their new friends, and help them grow in their faith. Our group gathered every night and every morning, and prayed for Him to fill us up, so we could give it away. The 17 children in our group prayed with earnest sincerity, and all of us adults tearfully thanked God for their example.
We laughed a lot too. There was the moment when I was beyond exhaustion, brushing my teeth in the bathroom at midnight with women I have grown to love so much, and we got a little punchy. It didn't take much to make us hysterical, and before I knew it, sweet, reserved Beth had spewed her toothbrush into the sink. We laughed so hard, I'm pretty sure Laurie wet her pants. We laughed about the family night, when our friend Chris was painting the children's faces. One boy requested "Mario" and poor Chris tried to meet his demands, only to have created a clown face. We laughed as Crazy Howard, the cook at the hostel told us multiple times about all the different road kill he has ingested. We laughed at Jason, our youth pastor, as he did the skits each day for VBS, with the one and only accent he knows how to use (British). We laughed at crazy Billy as he led all the children in song, doing "Father Abraham" with every ounce of strength he had.
Our final night in Leadville began at a park for the Youth Night. Beth was out picking up pizzas, Billy and the menfolk were helping to get the sound system up and running. I was cutting a watermelon, and all our children were playing at the park. Jack and his friends had found a 5 foot ledge and thought it was the perfect place to work on their parkour skills. I missed his first jump, and as he prepared for the second, I yelled to him, "Jack please don't jump! I don't want to end up in urgent care tonight!". ( I wish I was joking, but I literally spoke those words) Five minutes later, we were in the car, on our way to urgent care. Our friend Kelly, familiar with Leadville, jumped in the car with us to help us find the way faster. Jack was crying in the back seat, as his collarbone was obviously sticking out where it shouldn't be. I sat next to him and prayed for God to help him not be in pain.
Urgent care turned out to be the Emergency Room, and the folks at St. Vincent Hospital were nothing short of angels. D.J. and Lisa, a nurse and EMT, cared for Jack with compassion and tenderness. Our sweet friend Beth showed up and Jack cried when he saw her standing there saying, "Where else would I be?" While we waited to hear what Jack's future might be, we listened to Lisa share her story, and were moved by this obvious divine moment. Jack was brave, and began making up his injury story…something about "being chased by a bear off a cliff, while carrying a baby lamb". It was impressive. But the best part of our trip to the hospital was that even though it wasn't where we wanted to be, God was still there, so completely present with us, covering us in His love.
Our trip ended a day early with a visit to a doctor in Denver. Jack won't have surgery after all, and even though we missed the last night in Leadville, we know it was powerful. Folks we met from the week showed up to the church service and once again, heard the Gospel of Jesus. 13 children from the mobile home park showed up and exactly 13 gifts were given out. The pastor and his wife from Siloe church were prayed over, and the friendship that was formed last year, became solidified by a week of working together toward one common goal. We were a unified team of people from Mexico, Honduras, and Louisville, Colorado. None of it was our doing. All of it was God's Hand.
I began this trip empty and tired. Part of me didn't even want to be there. But as the week went on, I saw God's power and might, and became excited by the fact that He allowed me to be there and see Him work. By the grace of God, all we had to do was show up. He did more than we could ask or imagine, and for this we thank Him. God is good. All the time.