I just returned from another incredible week of ministry in Mexico. For the past six years, I’ve led a family (intergenerational) mission trip designed to give families and individuals an immersion experience in serving the poor and living in community with each other for a few days. We built a house for young Mexican family, conducted a daily Vacation Bible School (VBS) program for neighborhood children and this year we helped a local Mexican church build a new multi-purpose building that will provide a place for youth and children’s ministry, feeding programs and medical/dental services.
The week couldn’t have gone much better. We had a group of 32 people ranging in age from 7 to 70 and we built a lovely home for the Ramirez-Perez family, appointed with some very nice furnishings that were generously supplied by members of our team. Their previous home was a plywood hut covered with tarps and a dirt floor. What a blessing it is to be able to change someone’s living conditions in such a short time.
Our VBS program went very well, with about 40 children attending each day. They played games, won candy prizes, memorized Bible verses, sang songs, did craft projects and heard “The Big God Story” from the Bible in their own language every day. I was amazed by how the children listened and learned so well. Our goal is to bring joy to the lives of children during the summer and to plant the seeds of the gospel in their hearts. Mission accomplished!
During the week we gave all the children white t-shirts with the words “Dios está conmigo” printed on the front (which means “God is with me.”) These shirts were connected to the Bible story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. God was with Joseph, the Bible says, and so he was able to accomplish great things even though his brothers treated him badly and sold him into slavery. The children saw the story acted out in front of them, and then they decorated their new shirts with colorful fabric paints.
Dios está conmigo became the theme of the week. Certainly God was with me on Tuesday night. I lost the keys to my truck … I just couldn’t find them anywhere. I looked high and low—in and around the truck, in and around my bunk bed, in and around the camp (YUGO’s Ensenada Outeach Center). I went to the evening “chapel” service feeling frustrated, worried and very distracted about my keys. I just had to find them. Where could they be? During the worship time (singing), I got up and went to look some more. Still, no luck. I came back into the meeting and tried to listen to the speaker but I was getting more and more anxious. Not only did I lose my truck keys (in Mexico!) but the keys to my house, my office, my radio station locker, etc. etc. I was feeling really stupid. I didn’t want to have to tell anybody that I lost my keys. I’m a leader after all! How embarrassing!
We all had little notebooks where we’re supposed to take notes on the chapel speaker. But I was thinking about my keys and what would happen if I couldn’t find them. I didn’t hear a word the speaker was saying. Then I started praying. I wrote down the “Anxiety” and asked God for help with that. I crossed out the word Anxiety and wrote “Trust God” beneath it. I also wrote down the word “Embarrassing.” Eventually I crossed it out and wrote “Humility” beneath it.
After the evening chapel service, we met together as a team and I admitted to everyone that I had lost my keys. Immediately they began to ask me questions and offer suggestions: “Did you look in the ignition, in the bathroom, in your sleeping bag, in your suitcase, in your pockets, etc. etc.” I answered “Yes, yes, yes ….” Everyone was very sympathetic of course and promised to keep their eyes open for a clump of car keys. Hopefully they would turn up. They’ve got to be around here somewhere, right?
Then we prayed together as a team. I asked several of the children on the team to pray, and they did. They were very sweet prayers and one of the girls prayed especially that I would find my keys.
It was about then that I got the idea to look in the big garbage can where I had dumped trash from my truck earlier in the day. Could my keys be in there?
Swallowing my pride, I started picking through the garbage can, one piece at a time. The can was completely full. I found some of the trash from my truck, but no keys. As I got closer and closer to the bottom of the can, I knew this was a bad (not to mention disgusting) idea. I was getting pretty discouraged.
Then one of our team members shined a flashlight into the can and suddenly I saw a sparkle. There they were! All the way down at the bottom of the garbage can. I grabbed the keys and put my hands in the air … Thank you Lord! This can would certainly have been emptied during the night and the keys lost, probably forever. But God was with me, I truly believe that. I went to bed—not only with my keys in a safe place—but with confidence that the prayers of a young girl had been answered.