I decided to transcribe my entire journal from my missions trip for your viewing pleasure! Here it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Justin’s heart on his virtual sleeve. Enjoy!
I’m so happy and excited! 1 day of bus travel is now almost behind us. We are 1/2 way to San Antonio & the odd spiritual thing that you can’t convey on paper is that with every mile, every state, I feel more peace and joy. Almost like I’m going home for Christmas. I get to preach on this trip and am excited about it! Rod doesn’t usually let other people preach, so I feel honored. THANK YOU, JESUS! I just want this trip to have tremendous impact. I am praying that I can lead 400 people to Jesus. Please, Lord! For YOUR glory!
MLT stuff has been well. Life is good. Right now I’m listening to Tom Feldman’s song “Glory”. Love it!!
I can not & WILL not earn God’s love. I LOVE that fact! I have been so good lately, living in this revelation. Praise my Bridegroom!
4-6-06: 1:52 a.m.
Darrel took a wrong exit and had to try a u-turn on the freeway. Dangerous maneuver, and the back of the bus scraped the concrete divider. I’m sure that gap was meant for cop cars, not 40 passenger buses. It unseated a tire and blew off a door from the bus. Currently I’m at a truck stop in Oklahoma (City?). When I got out apparantly a semi almost ran into me because the next thing I know a trucker walks up to me in the midst of my friends and asks me, “Do you like life?” and proceeded to chew me out. God bless that man! If he hadn’t been watching who knows what would have happened.
We have started to pray. I’m excited because I can see Satan moving against us.
This trip is going to rock.
4-7-06: 7:30a.m. Laredo, TX.
Great relaxing day at the hotel last night. Currently sitting outside by the bus. Just me and Pablo. I wanted to see a sunrise but it is overcast. I can see Mexico, especially the big, beautiful Mexican flag from here. Will have to take a picture. It’s already humid. Today will be spent 5 hours on a bus to Saltillo, and then getting acquainted with people we will be ministering to/with as well as living quarters. Bus ride yesterday was SO easy. Thank You, God!
I want to be pushed/stretched on this trip. Not because I have to, but because I want to. I will go all out. Esp. in areas of healing.
I haven’t wrote my sermon yet. It usually is easy for me, but this is not. It is difficult. Just isn’t coming- yet.
Scriptures popping out today for whatever reason, Acts 10:23
I am writing this at 6:46 a.m. I have been up for an hour and except for Rex, who woke up at 2:30 and prayed over the city, I was the first one up. I am sitting on the roof of the compound waiting for the sun to rise. The roosters are crowing like there is an invasion coming. Being up so early I was able to stake out the very best spot for a sunrise. I rarely see them in the States due to my normal “earliest” hour of 9:30 or 9a.m. at the earliest. Sun is close enough to the horizon to clearly see the outlines of the Sierra Madres. Air is bearing cool on my skin and feels spectacular. Barely any color in the horizon. Mostly night sky with a dull sliver of an earth-tone rainbow. We’re in such a flat valley that I can clearly see to the horizon in 3/4 of the circle around me. The rest, as I mentioned, is broken up with the Sierra Madres- very dry, almost desert mountains. Reminds me of the American Southwest. With this view my thoughts turn to feelings. Can almost feel the earth rotate. God loves me dearly and has put me on this planet another day. There is a reason.
The first blue-rays of sunlight appear and hit my paper. They intermingle with the reddish-light of the house and streetlights. That alone is worthy of a song.
I don’t know who will read this, but I encourage you with all my heart to take a missions trip someday. Even if you are not Christian, sneak onto one. You are amazed at the people you meet and the ways God reveals Himself to you. As well as the beautiful temporary home he has given us (earth).
Horizon is starting to become orange. Paper is almost all blue-tinted now. (Funny how that works!)
Yesterday we met our first batch of Mexican kids. They are (other than God) the main reason I came back. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I will be taking many of them for you. They are among the most beautiful and moving children I have met. Don’t know why (all children astound me), but they just are.
More people are awake now.
Sky starting to get orange/yellow. Slight haze and dark outline of the mountains is beautiful and somehow makes me feel like I did in Hawaii.
Quite light now. Golden tones on city and in the sky remind me of pictures I have see of Jerusalem. Quite pleasant. It will be a good day, as they all are in Jesus. Been informed by friends that I’m on a neighboring person’s roof. I like it here. I’ll stay a little while longer.
Can see details in the mountains. It is day!
NO OTHER THRONES IN MY HEART!!! AMEN!!!!
Well, yesterday was a big, beautiful day! After group and personal devotion times we left for a very poor neighborhood. My first assignment was to dress up like a clown and walk through the streets rounding up kids for kids Bible school. I had a few helpers with me and 1 other clown. I did this 3 years ago as well, but let me just say that this time was HARD! Perhaps I didn’t do the clown thing on the first day last time, but I expected to parade back trailing 20 kids. We ended up with about four, but we got the word out. Thankfully, by the time I got back from the second attempt there was somehow 30-40 kids there. Mexicans have a way of spreading the word. But I was very surprised at the stand-offishness of these particular Mexicans. Not like the idealistic, always smiling people I met in Monclova and who, I believe, typify the Mexican culture. Perhaps God will allow us to break down some of the walls and share with them our joy and love of them, God, and life.
When I got back, kids church was already going. Debbie had the wonderful idea of taking a Polaroid of each kid and pasting it on construction paper with the words “Jesus me amo” or “Jesus loves me”. It was a great idea, since these kids rarely get anything of their own, and never something as personal as their own picture with such a great reminder of Him and His love for them.
At night we had our first adult service at the same area. Many kids came as well. I had two main responsibilities. First, I was Jesus in a powerful drama called “The Redeemer”. It went excellent for “opening night”. I remember one particular grandma looking at me with tears in her eyes as I struck the last pose. Thank you, Jesus.
This picture is of “The Redeemer” from another day.
My other responsibility is in one of my primary giftings, worship. Rachel and I learned and played many Spanish worship songs over the course of the night. My goal on this trip was to hold nothing back, and I was faithful to that vision. Worship rocked, with Mexicans and Americans digging it. The downside of that responsibility is that I wasn’t able to pray one on one with people. We had a total of around 20 kids who verbally and physically stepped forward to receive Jesus as payment for their sins, and 7 adults. And we had numerous full and partial physical healings. Yep, people were physically healed. My church is big into such things, and went into this night expecting them to happen. In the U.S. I know of people healed as well (such as from M.S., back problems, etc). This night there were 2-3 people healed of everything from ringing in the ear to stomach and back pain. The church I attend also believes that God is eager to speak to us, even about problems other people have that He wants to touch. For example, the ringing in that woman’s left ear was something God mentioned to one of our people who then asked the audience if anyone had that problem. That is how she got healed and subsequently also gave her life to Jesus. We call these things “spontaneous thoughts” and although a person has to be open to hearing them in their spirit (God IS spirit, according to the Bible), He is very eager to communicate!
Another one of these spontaneous thoughts a person had was for a person with a sore left elbow. It was a bit of a downer when nobody in the audience raised their hand for this. But after the 40 minute bus ride back to our hostel my friend Rachel and I were walking to the dorm and say a little girl named Hermena (in picture above at night) rubbing her left elbow. I asked her if we could pray for her and then afterward asked her if she had any more pain. I asked her repeatedly because I hate false healings. But, she was healed and the next second used both arms to hoist herself up onto the windowsill. Halleluiah!
Yesterday God also showed me thrones in my heart that I had exalted over Him. Many of them were girls I knew or know. I’ve also begun to realize, now that I am forced to spend an hour alone with Him each day down here, how much it is important and liberating to do so. Seems like at home I turn such consistent time into a religious thing I rebel from. And in reality all I’m doing is walking, sitting, talking to God, reading the Bible, etc. It is so necessary. Lord, please give me grace, will, and desire to make this a part of my everyday life!
4-10-06: 9:30 a.m.
I cannot do it all. (Bring justice to the world). I can only do SOME THING! If everyone would do SOMETHING we would have no injustice. Don’t let yourself get paralyzed because of the immensity of it.
Big pitbull-looking dog just chased me into the bed of a truck. Lost some skin to the truck and landed on my iPod. Still works, but may have a slight buzz. After watching “The God Whisperer” I know that I should have just frozen facing the dog. But try remembering that when a giant brown Rottweiler/Pittbull looking thing is chasing you! I have hoped for a while that if given this moment of dog-fear that I would shine a bit more valiently! Oh well!
I pray I can react as fast as Peter did jumping for Jesus and as fast as I did jumping for the dog as I do for Jesus!
Lord, never let me use beautiful days as an excuse not to try to reach out with Your hands. Take away my complacency, apathy, and fill me with Your love and desires and PASSION!! AMEN!!!
Jesse Owens- Go to your limit and past your limit, to where victory is always found.
I can see strengths in others, and train, encourage, and call them out. I can see other people’s giftings.
Darrel just singled me out in group devotions and said he thought I was going to be a big part of His vision for Mexico. I’ve been thinking a lot about missions!
I see Mexico is starting to realize their identity. Mindsets are changing from distance from God to princes of Heaven.
O.K. Finally have time to talk about yesterday. It was awesome! I did a TON!! In 2 services at the large city park, I did a total of about 1.5 hours of leading worship, I preached twice (bumpy at first with a translator), I was Jesus in “The Redeemer” twice, and spent a lot of time praying for people. I saw a handful of people get saved after I preached, and one man I prayed for with back problems (he had a back brace and everything) was totally healed! He was twisting his body back and forth at the waist, which the interpreter said he couldn’t do before without pain. Halleluiah!
At night we had a service at the actual church building (our only one there). It was an awesome time! I love Mexican services!
After that we went to “Las Tacos de Checo” for some real Mexican food.
Then we went home. It was an EXHAUSTING day! But very fun! I’m thinking more and more about full-time missions. Currently on the bus going back to the 1st location for outdoor kids church, etc. in the poor area.
Yesterday was much like our first day of ministry in format. Kids church and a service at night. Once again I lead worship, was in “The Redeemer”, and preached at night. Fifteen people came up to answer the call for salvation!!!! HALLELUIAH!!! Awesome. Preaching has been all around interesting. Fun, but frustrating because both Darrel and Rod know I haven’t done it in this open air format before. So they constantly are giving me direction, good direction mind you, as I am preaching. It is probably better over all, but it feels less like me and I am enjoying it less. It is probably mostly pride. For 3 years at Brick and Amp I was in charge of everything. I preached when I wanted and I did to others what Rod and Darrel are lovingly doing to me. And so, yeah, I probably need to suck it up and learn. It is a different format and I am the one under authority. I also went door-to-door for the first time. This was AWESOME!! You could tell it was the first time for many people to hear of a personal relationship with Jesus. And their salvations were genuine. Most of them came to the evening service or with their kids to the kids church.
This was the poorest area I’ve seen to date. An area where kids make kites out of garbage bags and entire families live in cobbled shacks of wood and tin and cardboard. The poverty didn’t suprise me much this time because I had seen it on my last trip, but the little bugs that we found crawling on our skin and those kids flying the “garbage kites” drove it home. The people are, however, princes to me. I consider them my brothers and sisters. At night I still had energy left, so I played guitar passionately on the bus ride home. The whole bus was rocking out for 40 minutes. Got home and hung out with Rachel, Debbie, Stephanie, and Miriam.
Honesty time- I have not felt tremendous passion for anything on this trip, even the kids. This is extremely frustrating. Even the salvations I was used for yesterday made me happy, but I wasn’t crying for joy like I want to be. I need to figure out what it is in my life right now that does make me passionate. Sometimes new worship songs are it, and if I had a wife I believe that she would be it, too. I also enjoy some video stuff. But something is missing. I am so scared that when I return I will become lethargic and slip into work/Star Trek mode. I DON’T WANT TO SIMPLY EXIST!!! I have given you my life, Lord, and my own visions died for You and You alone!! Will you now not give me new passion and new visions and even a wife? Even if whatever you give me is only for you? Just make me passionate! PLEASE LORD!!! HELP!!!!
1 minute later
A white dove flew by me. A real one. The only one I’ve seen in Mexico.
So busy yesterday I didn’t have time to write. On the 12th the format was very similar again to the first day. I was a clown, helped with kids church, and at night lead worship, Redeemer (for the last time), and preached. This time I didn’t preach my “masks” message, but rather gave my testimony about God’s power and love in my life and about how I came to know Him. Darrel had a great idea again to give an “alter call” and then ask the Mexicans to lovingly go out onto the streets to the people who were listening outside the canchas area and ask them to come in and accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. This time he told me in advance, and I was able to work it in smoothly.
I finally felt the passion and purpose I had been looking for when about 5-6 single young men who looked sort of like the youth gang members and had been watching us for a long time came and gave their lives to Jesus!!! Prior to this they sat on the hills outside the canchas area and earlier in the week even spat on our equipment. Many other members of our group also point to this as the highlight of the trip. And it was the Mexicans that put them over the top! Yeah God! If Mexicans take on the ministry themselves we are all better off! So, for some reason, those men around my age really pumped me up! I got to encourage them with some inital guidance about friends, church, the Bible and then they prayed with the translator. THANK YOU JESUS!!! These were in addition to the 14-19 others who got saved that night. Thank You Jesus!!
Yesterday we went to a different area of poor people and did a short kids program. I cannot tell you how much I felt a more peaceful spirit at this place. Even walking the streets looking for kids I kept saying to my friends, “What is it about this place? I would consider living here it feels so good.” Well, what I was feeling spiritually was manifested physically in the program. In 15 minutes we had around 150 kids(!) NOTHING like the spirit over the other place!! I seriously would consider living there, lice and all. What a ripe, loving field to work and live in!
Another picture of cute kids from that area!
At night we had a service/party in our honor at the church and ate tacos and said our goodbye’s. I got to hang out with my favorite little Mexican kids, Osiel and Elhiud. Osiel is 6 and just CRACKS ME UP!!!!! (See picture) He is also a very caring little guy. Big Rex and I were throwing him up in the air and he would cackle hysterically and say “aye aye aye!” I could have died! I’ll never forget how that little guy also patted my back when we hugged goodbye, like he was saying, “It’s ok. Don’t cry. We’ll see each other again.” My new good friend Roberto and his family also gave me hugs and said goodbye. I love that guy! Talk about shining for Jesus!!
When we got back Rachel and I went for a walk and played with the neighborhood kids. They had been learning English in school and were eager to say words to us. We were so proud. 🙂 Rachel and I stayed up late talking with Myrna and another Mexican. Mostly about translating and about relationships. It was good. Everyone there had mission-minded hearts, and it was a good conversation. God guide us all.
We are now nearing the border. I was surprised how good my Spanish was on this trip. I believe it is even better than last time I came. The conversations were deep and fluid. I even preached parts of my sermons entirely in Spanish.
I think the most important thing I learned is to turn the tv off. Spend time resting, relaxing, talking to Jesus, and reading the Bible. God will take care of all of the rest of the details.
May many more missions trips come into my life!!!!!!!!!
Thank You, Jesus!!!!!