What I learned from my time in Mexico
Oh no, here we go again. It was that tight feeling in my chest. It had been building almost undetected till this moment, suddenly overwhelming. A telltale sign that I was anxious. It was Saturday night, the next morning we would be going to the nearby hispanic church we had been paired with for Sunday church service.
To make things worse, my stomach began doing somersaults telling me that, once again, I was out of control. Being in Mexico doing outreach felt nostalgic, reminding me of many memories in China when people came for short-term trips. However, in China I had always been a translator, the person who could break the language barrier and help people travel around the city. I have always valued my independence and ability to do things on my own, not having to be codependent on others. Yet, without the ability to easily converse in Spanish, I thought I would now have to rely and "bother" other people in order to have meaningful conversations and make connections with the people we came to serve. I was also anxious about the Philadelphia church we would be working with at our church site, not knowing what that dynamic would be like. Despite my smiling, carefree exterior, inside, my mind was running in circles, fretting about every little thing.
The following day, at the morning service, there was a man who had written a song of prayer. He asked us to close our eyes, and as we did he sang this touching song in Spanish pouring out his heart to God, asking for forgiveness. Through his song, God reminded me that His love and this Christian lifestyle is universal. It breaks down every barrier, even a language one. Having to rely on my team members was a blessing that not only bonded us, but also broke down my pride and the lies that told me I had to know it all to be successful. The Lord illuminated in me the simple truth that in my brokenness and weakness, he is the strongest because then I can't take credit for any good that comes out of it (2 Corinthians 12:9-11 ) rather, He receives all the glory!
Through the next few days God pried open my fist that gripped the things that made me feel the "illusion" of being in control, especially my voice. Or what I thought was my voice. Not being able to talk to the VBS children and adults all the time made me more observant. It made every hug, laugh, and smile all the more important. Even using my camera as a way to connect was special. Several girls would pose and take pictures of each other, and the sheer joy that they got from seeing themselves and their friends making silly faces captured in a photo were priceless.
Not speaking the language also gave me the opportunity to simply pray for the people and teammates who were fluent and were engaging in conversations. Of course I should have prayed much much more. Even so, God gave me the simple revelations of how He could use me in other ways. I had been sick the week before so even during Chapels my voice was completely shot and yet through that, it allowed me to further meditate on the words rather than focus so much on the singing. When I was feeling inadequate in my lack of knowledge of the language, God was merciful, using it as blessing. He allowed me to not be distracted by my own voice and thoughts, rather focus on simply loving on the surrounding people and hear his desires instead.
One of the special things we got to do was attend the nearby prison. Intriguingly, the prison was smack dab in the middle of the town, just off the busy streets. While we enjoyed our time playing with the kids in VBS, the chance to talk to adults was a needed change of pace. Somehow I had the gut feeling that the ladies in the women's prison would be very kind and I was excited to meet them. Sure enough, the prison officers were very friendly and the women were all very normal and pleasant. In retrospect, it was such a unique, almost odd experience. We were invited to play volleyball against six ladies. Let me say that again. We played volleyball against six inmates! I never imagined myself saying something so peculiar. Of course, we got utterly creamed.
Then the following day we returned and this time we were able to share our testimonies. I felt lead to share mine and as I shared about the struggles of coming back to the states to care for my grandfather who was in poor health, a chapter I thought had closed opened up again and I felt myself getting emotional. Yet they all seemed so attentive and supportive. When I finished, to my surprise one lady looked at me and in perfect English said" Kia, I love you." I had made this precious connection with a total stranger and I didn't even know her name. It was such a special moment I will always cherish. I learned that when we give our heart and time to God to serve others, He has a funny way of bringing that blessing back to us and using the people we came to serve to help us in our own battles.