Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mission Pictures

I woke up this morning trying to decide between two topics for the blog today: “Aerobic Housecleaning” or “Planned Poverty.” But God sent me another topic. She does that sometimes and I try not to argue.

I got an email from the church office during my first cup of coffee. Our pastor needed some “pictures of our church doing mission.” We have contemporary worship at our early service and use power point a lot, both for sermon illustrations and singing. They only show the lyrics but that’s OK because I wouldn’t know what to do with notes anyway, they just get in my way when I’m singing. But whenever Anne has photos to share it takes the sermon just one step closer to understanding the message.

I knew they had come to the right person who could give them pictures of mission. I spent at least an hour sifting through folders and folders of a variety of mission pictures-- from Service Break at the start of the year to doing maintenance at one of the church camps in the summer and, finally, to our annual trip to Guatemala in the fall.

Some people consider mission to be where you go visit the heathens in another country and talk them into becoming good Christians like yourself. But I discovered that whenever I went on those kinds of trips I always found people who were already better Christians than me. Instead, the trips are more for establishing a relationship with people who don’t live in your town and finding out that they are just like yourself. This doesn’t stop us from calling our annual trip to Guatemala a “mission” trip. But for the last few years I’ve started to call it a Family Reunion.

About half-way through the pictures this morning I had to stop and remind myself they only needed “generic” photos that would tell the story Anne intended for her sermon. Just clear, basic pictures with only one or two people in the frame and preferably an action shot of someone “doing” something. I sent a bunch of what I thought would be acceptable pictures of our church doing mission. But now I’m finished.

And here we are today at MY blog and we’re going to do it my way.

Because we’re not in a hurry here and I can explain the photos in a more detailed way. You’re going to get the story behind the story today. (You still will need to go to the early worship on Sunday for a whiz-bang sermon with lots of good, albeit generic, photos illustrating a great message.)


This picture of Roberto is probably a good one to illustrate a little boy with a bad eye who enjoyed having his face painted. Sometimes mission is taking health care to people who don’t have access to it. But what is missing in the picture is what a great drummer this kid is and how passionate he is when he plays them. Also missing are the comments by my friend Linda who works for an eye doctor here in Texas. She had a pretty good idea that this was a traumatic cataract, caused by some sort of cut (a lot of kids swing machetes around like yo-yos in Guatemala). In short, with access to quality medical care this injury didn’t have to take away the sight in this boy’s eye. Roberto’s problem is that he lives in a poor country. If he had this same injury in Texas he might have had doctors who could help him right away.

Here is Yoselena.

I wrote about her after my last trip. I don’t know what caused her deafness but I do know she is 14 years old and can’t read or write. When faced with my inability to have a conversation with her I got a glimpse of her life and how isolated it must be. There is no special education for her in her country. But I have heard her laugh even when she can’t hear it herself. God laughs for her.


This is Elda Leon. I think she’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. I sat behind her on a bus once and watched the wind blow strands of her hair. I watched as she patiently and gracefully re-tucked the strands behind her ear. Again and again. She has lived a long life of adapting to whatever the wind blows her way. She has a graceful and elegant yet humble way of moving. I have her picture on my wall to remind me what I would like to become someday.



I remember Elda showing me the ceiling of her church’s sanctuary. It had been damaged by an earthquake years ago and rebuilt in haste. Instead of bricks and mortar they had used wood and now it has a bad termite problem. The roof could collapse at any time. I remember her pointing to the rafters holding the roof up and her sense of urgency. Finally, and with frustration, she told me her age and that she is running out of time to have the building repaired in her lifetime.

On our last day in Guatemala last year Sergio Ramirez took the whole team for breakfast at his house before we left for Antigua. Sergio had taken all the furniture out of his living room in order to fit one long table with chairs on either side for about 20 people. I was blown away by this act of hospitality. To share one’s home and one’s kitchen with others is such an act of love.

You can visit churches and “projects” all you want but the true connection in mission is when you are admitted into someone’s home to share a meal with them. We were so crowded that I wasn’t able to get a good photo of our table. The camera could not have taken it all in. Also, it had stopped being a mission trip by that point and had become visiting Sergio and meeting his mother. So I got a photo of his mother, wife and daughter.


I don’t have any generic pictures of my trips to Guatemala. All I have is photos of friends.

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