“Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just alerted us that we’ve reached our cruising altitude. You’re now free to move about the cabin,” the flight attendant chirped over the loudspeaker in our tiny airplane heading from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, to Nassau, Bahamas.
What seemed like less than five minutes later, I heard her voice again announcing that we had begun our initial descent and anyone moving about the cabin had to return to their seats with seat belts securely fastened. Our flight time that August morning lasted a total of 26 minutes.
I had expected a quick flight. I hadn’t expected that through this trip God would teach me vast lessons about His character and my heart.
When we arrived, we were greeted by upbeat Bahamian music in an open-air airport. My team of 21 members piled onto a big, blue school bus that took us to the camp where we would be staying and working--the Adventure Learning Centre (ALC). I gazed out the window, while our bus cruised along the road. My eyes began to fill with new images of poverty set amidst a tropical landscape.
Throughout the trip, we performed some manual labor at the ALC. We scrubbed down outdoor benches and picnic tables that had become infested with mildew, eventually applying a fresh coat of paint. We primed the huge wall that guarded the Centre so others could paint it. We interacted with the children who attended the Centre during the summer, asking questions about their families and Bahamian lives. We observed their camp counselors teaching them about God through Creation. We even danced with them to their favorite worship songs. The children’s joy, laughter, and smiles were contagious.
Through our conversations and interactions, I acquired a newfound appreciation for my childhood, my family, and my citizenship.
I became aware of how fortunate I am, and I responded in humble gratitude to my Creator who planned and purposed my life just the way it is! I realized that our Heavenly Father also planned and purposed their lives in the Bahamas. I began to pray that they would follow Him into their destinies.
We also spent one day at the All Saints’ Camp, a small neighborhood of tiny, two-room shacks occupied by adult tenants who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Muscular Dystrophy, or other medical ailments that required special attention. The families of the residents dropped off their family member at All Saints’ because they couldn’t afford or didn’t want to care for them. Once again, I found my heart breaking for these people, who were literally “the least of these.”
Being introverted and slightly self-conscious at times, I couldn’t find the words to bring hope. However, when my speaking voice failed, my singing voice prevailed. One of my fellow teammates brought a guitar and a ukulele. A tenant at the camp had a keyboard in his room. With these instruments I was able to lead worship with a few of the residents. Our spirits connected as we worshipped in spirit and in truth. It was truly an uplifting experience.
I left All Saints’ with renewed gratefulness for the gift of music that I have been given.
Even though I only traveled 188 miles from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas, I received an awareness of the global need for the Gospel. This trip allowed me to zoom out and shifted my focus from my problems, to feeling the burdens that the Bahamians carried. My perspective grew from my near-sighted selfishness to far-sighted selflessness. My prayer life expanded from including only the problems and issues in my life and those of friends and family, to the strangers I barely knew in a foreign country.
Jesus died for the whole world, not just for the United States.
I returned to South Florida so thankful for the life I’ve been given, even the difficulties of living on my own apart from my family. I am blessed to have the ability to play music and lead worship, to have a job that pays me to operate in that gift. I am thankful for this passion that allows me to connect people with our Creator.
I encourage you to go on an overseas missions trip, even if it is only a half an hour plane ride away. I assure you that the Lord will teach you more than you could ever imagine!
What gifts has God given you? I’d love to hear how you’re using them.