We often talk about generosity around our house. We encourage the kids to share. They all know I’m quick to purge clothes that don’t fit or things we don’t use. We buy groceries for local food pantry. And we do what we can to help people.
But it’s hard to teach about poverty while living in a world of excess.
That’s what prompted my husband, Greg, and I to take a mission trip.
In late 2014, we reached out to our neighbors who organize annual trips to Guatemala to serve with Bethel Ministries International. We loved what they shared about the trip – the logistics, the relationships, the service projects. We were excited about the possibility of taking our 8-year-old daughter, Cate, with us, but I kept thinking we should wait until our 5-year-old son, Ben, could go too.
But neither Greg nor I could shake the feeling we were supposed to go. I talked to other friends about family mission trips and, although I was intrigued, I kept coming back to this one. It’s not the first time I was a little slow to come around to God’s plan.
In January, Greg, Cate, and I committed to go to Guatemala in July with a team led by our neighbors. In the months after, we participated in various fundraisers, which paid for the projects and materials. Cate got to be part of the preparations and was one of four kids on our mission team. There was another 8-year-old girl and two boys who were 7 and 11 years old.
Before we left, I talked to Cate about things – like how she may see a woman nursing a child older than a toddler because food options are limited and how she doesn’t know the language so walking away from us was never allowed.
I never worried about taking her and didn’t regret our decision once we were there. Cate may be only 8 but has common sense and is a deep thinker. While there, our team built three houses, distributed 35 wheelchairs, and visited 16 families to give them food, vitamins, clothes, toiletries and school supplies. We can talk all day long about generosity and continue to serve here in our local community like we do, but Greg and I believed showing her actual poverty would be life-changing.
Turns out, the week-long mission trip has already been life changing. We spent our last day in Guatemala enjoying the black sand beach of Puerto San Jose. In the midst of playing with the kids who became dear friends over the course of our week, Cate told us she wanted to be baptized when we got home. Greg and I had a conversation with our girl about sin and love and forgiveness right there on the beach that day.
God had been working on Cate long before we went to Guatemala, but it was there in a third-world country that my daughter’s need for a savior became clear. About mid-way through the week, I asked Cate what she thought about what we’d seen while we helped Guatemalan families. Her matter-of-fact response spoke volumes: “I should trust God more. These people trust God even though they don’t have much.”
We saw families who live in houses with dirt floors, don’t know how to read, have more children than they can afford to feed, choose between education and food on a daily basis, struggle to find work, and lost husbands and fathers to alcoholism. Multiple women we met were raising children who were born after rapes. One mom was raising three kids – the middle of whom wasn’t sure how old she was and the youngest of whom wasn’t registered with the government – and nobody in the house knew how to read. We told them about Jesus for the first time in their lives.
Yet some of these same families prayed and smiled easily. Two families gave their lives to Christ for the first time and others decided to return to church. The kids played and laughed. One 12-year-old girl had been going to church by herself for two years and was thrilled we showed up with a Bible for her family.
God makes us new – and seeing my daughter accept this truth was such a sweet moment, especially after everything we’d seen and experienced together that week. We had a front row seat to joy and poverty like never before – and we got to do it together.
Kristin Hill Taylor believes in seeking God as the author of every story. God continues to surprise her with all the ways her life is nothing like she expected. She lives in Murray, Ky., with her husband, Greg, and two kids – Cate and Ben. Connect with Kristin on her blog, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.