Weeks leading up to it, I’d heard testimonies about how the mission field was a life-changing experience, but I still couldn’t grasp what my own experience would look like, nor did I have any expectations to be used by God in any particular way. All I knew was that I was stepping well outside of my comfort zone and into the poverty-stricken region of Galena, Mexico.
The first leg of the journey landed us in Austin, Texas, where we’d spend a few days getting acquainted with our American mission partners. From there both teams would board a bus and trek across the Mexican border en route to our missionary facility in Galena, our base camp.
In the days to follow, what impacted me the most, however, was when we branched out and spent time with the people living in the secluded mountain villages.
I remember our first drive up through the mountains, and how breathtaking it was. But the plight of its inhabitants would soon overshadow the scenic view. Dirt roads. Run-Down shacks with no hydro or running water, to a gentleman greeting us on his donkey, had left the scene before me so surreal; it felt as though we’d time-warped back to an earlier century.
And although it was heartbreaking to see the children and their families living in some of the most desperate situations imaginable, amidst their rugged conditions, I couldn't help but observe how materialism was of no essence to them. What mattered most was the fundamentals of life, such as food, clean water, shelter, and some form of health care. It was all of the things I had taken for granted back home in Canada.
Mother Teresa once said: “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” This gift was, undoubtedly, present in Galena. Because despite the language barrier, the mutual gift of a gentle spirit and a loving simile was witnessed amongst the local people and us, daily.
I still visualize the children running to greet me with their big smiles, as well as the communicative expressions we all shared with the Mexican people at our evening worship services. It was some of the most memorable interactions that captured my heart and remains with me to this day.
I often think about the impoverished people in the Galena region, and about their spiritual progress and well-being. Because it was evident that the battle against the powers of darkness lurked in the shadows of their city and villages, including the common practice of witchcraft.
In hindsight, my mission experience was indeed life-changing. It not only gave me a new perspective on what it truly means to be content, but it made me realize that whether we're involved in missions abroad or here at home, it's the work that Christ calls us to.
The Christmas season is fast approaching, and as we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Greatest Missionary of all time, let's continue to look for opportunities to brighten the lives of the less fortunate amongst us.