We're coming up on ten years since my first trip to Guatemala.
My church sponsored a short-term mission trip in the Lake Atitlan area.
From the moment I committed to the trip, I felt like i was doing something big.
We were destined to save lives, discover new cures, eradicate cancer, and what the heck...
We might as well bring about world peace while we were at it.
Thinking big isn't a bad thing, right?
Our Guatemalan hosts piled us into minivans for the ride from the airport.
Tropical Storm Agatha ripped through the area just a few weeks before.
Mudslides and flooding devastated neighborhoods.
Our mission plans were altered.
Now we had a rescue mission.
Bags of food and bundles of blankets were staged at our base.
Our team would distribute the goods to desperate survivors starting that afternoon.
The driver negotiated along washed out roads; past crushed homes and flattened fields.
My mind focused on the massive amounts of food and supplies that were needed.
But when we arrived at the mission base, there were only small bags of food.
A quart of oil, a few pounds of rice, beans, some flour, and a bottle of water.
Each family would get one bag and one blanket.
One blanket for a family? I thought.
We won't make a dent in these people's plight.
I was wrong.
Some of you know the story of my journey.
At the first shelter, I was somewhat embarrassed to share our meager rations.
But what I expected would be disappointment among the survivors was joy.
They lavished thanks on us... and on God.
We didn't deliver a small bag of food and a blanket.
We delivered Hope and the answer to their prayers.
As the first foreigners to reach their town, we proved the outside world knew of the mudslides.
They weren't forgotten or disregarded after all.
They prayed for us... for our safety and health and future.
Dozens of hungry families living for weeks on mattresses in a gymnasium with no bathrooms or showers... prayed powerfully that my life would be better.
It had been more than a year since the door to Jesus' Love was reopened to me.
It was the first time I thought to shut the doors behind me.
Sometimes I'm not so quick to pick up on what God is telling me.
He provided a poignant example of what is important when it comes to spreading His Love.
Being where His people are was more important than anything we carried in.
But years later, when Yesenia and I incorporated our own charitable organization,
my mind filled with thoughts of new homes, cured illnesses, and shoes on every foot.
We'd make sure every needy child had enough food, an education, and a computer.
It took me a while to recall what is most important.
The most important things we've done...
The most faith-building moments we've had...
Came about simply because we were there.
Handing out Christmas toys is one of my favorite things.
But listening to our children's thoughts after violence scarred our neighborhood moves me.
Distributing Bibles and food in volcano shelters was uplifting.
But not powerful like when a young mother wept in Yesenia's arms as we prayed over her.
This season we found a group of relocated families from our shelter visits.
My first thought was to shift funds and bless them with food and Christmas gifts.
But their leader told us the best present was that we looked for them... and showed up.
Listening to their stories, dancing, and praying with them are what I'll always remember.
When the lump forms in my throat, I remember how much being there mattered.
We don't have to do big things to fix the world.
Boots, sneakers, toys, meals, sermons, blankets, clothes... they all help.
But, they're all temporary.
If we want to be like Christ, we'll share what we can.
Like how Jesus healed people and provided along the way.
But His presence was enough for people to know Love.
It still is.
It's something we can all do.
"Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in them.
This is how Love is made complete among us... "
(from 1 John 4:16-17)