Did you grow up with older siblings? I did. And one thing that I heard quite regularly was: “Don’t touch my stuff!” If something they had was precious in any way, that was the deal. Don’t touch it. But God doesn’t say this. He takes His most precious possession–His people–and He says, “Come. Be in community. Be involved in my most important work. Reach out and touch the people I love.” This was one big reminder that God gave me during our time in Honduras….and it just seems crazy now that I wasn’t too excited about going in the first place. So….how did I get there? My primary motivation for traveling to Honduras was to support my husband. It has been his dream to be able to serve abroad — using his talent as a dentist to help others and communicate the truth of Jesus Christ. He was so excited and I was excited for him! The problem was that I saw it as his trip and that I was just there as a support. God had other plans as usual. 🙂
As the departure date approached, I felt the pinch of the sacrifice. It was hard to prep my house, my in-laws, my kids, and hand off responsibilities in the Bible study I teach. I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this?!” However, it did not take long for God to soften my heart and to provide me with unexpected gifts.
I was put at ease right away by the kindness and love of all the people (now people who we consider our friends!) who run El Ayudante. We were well equipped and trained to install water filters, assemble latrines, and share the gospel. As someone who teaches a Bible Study every week, I found myself somewhat surprised that what I really needed the most practice was in sharing the gospel!! This was the beginning of hidden blessings. I was also struck by how wonderful it felt that I did not have to plan, prepare, cook, clean or DO anything for myself or my own little kingdom that I try to run at home (aren’t we so prone to focusing on those?)…but rather, I could completely invest in pouring myself out for someone else. My only prayer was: “Use me how you want to use me today, Lord.” What a freeing prayer to learn to pray! It took the removal of daily pressures to give my body, my mind and my heart a virtual “re-set.” I needed to recalibrate so that I would actually pray that same prayer at home! But it took being away. It took tapping into how God wanted to use me that day and that moment.
The actual serving then was wonderful. It was no longer Scott’s trip or my trip, but God’s trip and He showed up in amazing ways every single day. Every day we worked hard and did it with a smile for people who were so very grateful and worked right along with us in many cases. What could be more beautiful? It was especially meaningful to get to assist my husband, Scott in the dental clinic. I had never touched a dental instrument in my life, but got to hand him a few throughout the day! I haven’t seen his smile quite so big or the light in his eye quite so bright as in those moments. I was watching someone do what they had been created to do. It was being directly in the center of God’s plan and watching Him choosing to allow us to be involved in His cool stuff that He was about. And then that only expanded as I was able to watch his staff from his office and their families serve in the same way. It was God letting us touch His stuff.
And this leads me to the most meaningful part of our trip for me: this was having the honor of meeting Exon and his family. We had the privilege of installing a latrine at his house. He was ten years old, but worked along side us from start to finish with a huge smile and a happy heart. His eyes shone. We got acquainted as we worked and did as much as we could to understand each other, and despite the lack of words, there was a special unspoken bond. He smiled and worked with us all morning. We sat down together with his mom Maria and found out that she was also a believer. She had a strong faith but certainly had been through hard times. She spoke highly of her husband Carlos who was a hard worker and a wonderful father. She shared a bit about how they could not get ahead and that there were always too many bills because of illness or hardship in the family. I was able to share some of my own struggles and the dependence that this created in me. We both agreed that God uses those struggles to help us come to Him and then He carries us through the hardest of times. We spoke as sisters in Christ and I told her how special I could see Exon was. She agreed with tears in her eyes and spoke of some illnesses and unexplained headaches he had been struggling with for the past year. I asked him if he also loved Jesus. His enthusiastic nod and huge smile told the story. You can just see the light in some people.
For the rest of the week, God allowed me to see Exon every day. Each day, no matter my assignment, I got to see him. He was a patient in the clinic when I assisted Scott, he was playing soccer at the school we painted, he was there when we came back to put the actual latrine on the cement pad we had poured. We talked more each day, shared lots of laughter and smiles, as well as hugs and encouragement. Exon will never be forgotten. He is well-loved way over in our little town of Saugatuck, Michigan. My four kids are happy to know him vicariously through us and we pray regularly for him and his family. God used him to touch us and change us.
Honduras was full of unexpected gifts. It was God letting us touch His stuff….His most precious stuff….His people. Thank you so much to all the staff, the volunteers, and the people of El Ayudante who made this possible for us!!
By: Jill Nelson, team member from Michigan