We arrived just after dawn, which can be incredibly early for a teenager, to make the trek from Fort Worth to El Paso for our annual River ministry mission trip. I must admit I did not sleep very well the night before being kept up by the excitement of going on a mission trip as a fifteen year old preacher boy. This would be my first mission adventure and I could hardly wait, but we all had to wait because as usual one of our team arrived just a bit late because he oversleep which was clearly evident by the state of his hair!
After a quick prayer for travel mercies, we hit the road to the sounds of Bachman Turner Overdrive blaring “Taking Care of Business.” Remember this was the ‘70’s and contemporary Christian music was still in diapers, and it was far too early in the morning to sing hymns.
I will never forget that first trip to El Paso. I remember we drove, and drove, and drove. I distinctly remember stopping for lunch in Midland convinced El Paso rested just over the horizon, but to our shock we had many more miles ahead of us across what appeared to be a lunar landscape. Upon arriving, we checked into our hotel. Unfortunately our reservations had been messed up by clerical error since computers barely existed, so our youth minister had to assign me along with two buddies to the “honeymoon suite” with a heart-shaped tube, and yes, a mirror on the ceiling above the bed. You can’t make this stuff up!
Early the next morning, we easily crossed the border into Juarez, and as I remember we made our way into a poor neighborhood complete with tiny frame homes made with shipping pallets. After a series of twists and turns we arrived at a small frame Baptist church building that would be our base of operation for the week. I remember wondering how we would connect with the children for our Vacation Bible School, but God answered that question rather quickly. As we unloaded, the children started appearing, and soon after we started kicking the soccer ball the yard of the church was filled with smiling happy faces. I did not know what they were saying, but I quickly discovered a smile and a hug can be translated into any language.
Over the course of the week, I witnessed the power of God and felt the sweet winds of the Holy Spirit at work. In the evening when we gathered for worship and preaching of the gospel, I witnessed boys and girls, and moms and dads giving their hearts to Jesus. I can still close my eyes, and relive the moment.
At times I wonder about those children, who today would probably be between 45-55 years old, how their lives were changed because of a band of teenagers who spent a week with them. I suspect only in heaven will I truly ever know the impact on their lives, but to this day I remember the impact on my life. I learned to love God more deeply, to trust Him more fully, to share His love in simple ways, and to trust the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.
This week, our church once again has been given the privilege to take the “GO” from the Great Commission and to make it our marching orders. Eighty-eight (88) of our students and sponsors traveled to Moore, Oklahoma to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of “tornado alley” who saw their lives twisted by the devastating impact of tornadoes. Through actions of compassion and kindness—and hard work—our students reminded those around them Jesus loves and cares for them deeply.
Meanwhile, University Baptist Church of Fort Worth sent twenty-three (23) friends to the border to join volunteers from our church to take the good news to the streets our valley. Much like my experiences from years ago, little boys and girls learned that Jesus really does love them, and so do we.
If you want to follow Jesus, let’s face it, “GO” will need to be part of your vocabulary and more importantly your lifestyle. Go and enjoy the adventure of following Jesus!