Today I started my first official day of vacation. I’m on Hilton Head Island with extended family enjoying the beach and sun. Its an annual trip for us and amost always lands the week before my annual mission to Tecate.
I started the Tecate trip 6 years ago. It’s hard to believe it has already been 6 years, but it has been the best 6 years of my life. The blessings that I have experienced over this period are immeasurable and I am so thankful to God for all that he’s doing and has done through and with me these past 6 years. A lot of my experience over the past 6 years is documented in this blog if you’d like to read about more or my experiences.
What I want to share today is what is it’s like to go to Tecate and see God. “What? See God?” you might ask. Yes. To see God, but maybe not in the way that you think.
I saw God once when I was at the Tecate Bakery and a man who was dealing with a broken ankle walked up on cruches and there was a long line out of the bakery. He sat down to wait for the line to settle down. Honestly he looked as if he could barely afford a cup of coffee and part of me wondered if he was looking for a handout, but I could see his need was real and it was unsolicited. When I asked him if he’s like me to get him something coffee was all he asked for, that and when I offered more a slice of pizza. Gladly, I went inside and stood in the line for him and served him a slice of pizza and coffee. At that moment I was reminded, “when you do it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me.” It was a humbling moment because I realized that God was there with me in that moment serving a man I may never meet who had a need in his life for one more meal. It was an honor to serve it to him.
On another trip, we were asked to go out in pairs and silently built an altar to God out of whatever we could find in the dessert. It sounds like a strange thing to do, but what I saw afterwards as we went and looked at what each pair built was Jesus’ reflection shining through the art that was made by the hands of his servants. Stuff made out of old tires, sticks, twigs, wildflowers and stuff most people would call junk. But that’s just like Jesus. He takes the junk we’ve made of our lives and turns it into something special, something where other people can see him in what we do.
I saw Jesus when a young woman with a great dancing talent was baptized in the Pacific, and again when I saw a two young men who came together baptize one another in a pool. Yet again, I saw him when a father was able to baptize his daughter in that same pool a year later.
One year I met a man who was a vet from our military. He was from Mexico, but years earlier had chosen to join our armed forces. After his service was over, he lent his car to a cousin who stashed drugs in it. A few days later he was pulled over and searched. Even though he was legal he was deported with nothing, leaving behind everything. Somewhere along the way due to the stress of loosing his mother and his life choices he ended up getting involved in drugs in Mexico and found himself an addict. That addiction lead him to a dump in Tijuana where he thought he would spend his last day high on drugs. A fellow marine who was in his unit was there serving addicts in that dump and found his friend. He took him in, got him cleaned up and helped him find Jesus. Today, this man is married and he was there with his wife working on the orphanage we serve each year. God was there with him.
Each year, God has shown me something more about myself and about him. Each year, I have a new lesson to learn and God faithfully teaches me. Sometimes, it even happens when I am the one thinking that I am teaching. One year, I was asked to teach the youth on Sunday morning. I prepared for weeks what I would say and had about a dozen pages of notes. It was a life story, my witness compiled into a set of verses that represented what God had led me through. When I arrived in the classroom the teacher was there and heard my testimony. I had no idea that God would use my message to reach her on such a deep level and help her find the way in her own life, but in that moment I saw Jesus speaking through me to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Not all of the tasks that we do are easy and to be honest, it’s hard to sleep in a hard bunk with a sleeping bag after working all day in the hot sun. It’s hard to do without clean water and worry about simple things like remembering NOT to put toilet paper in the toilets. Compared to seeing Jesus, it’s all more than worth the costs. When Jesus shows up, none of that other stuff matters.
When I see the look in our orphan kid’s eyes when we show up year after year and poor into their lives it’s a blessing. When I see Jesus filling their lives as I did last year with the kids forming a band and playing together worship songs for us, it makes all the hardship worthwhile.
Three of the last five years I’ve been able to work on the church. One year I knelt and prayed a prayer as we were building an addition for their youth. I asked God to bless this place and that from here he would send someone to take the gospel to the whole world. Today, a young man from that church is working as a missionary and many of us who have served on this trip are taking Jesus to others. I found Jesus on my knees and I see him today in the work that each of us continues to do.
The other two years, we built houses for familes in the church. These families continue to serve and minister to others in Tecate and they`ve taken the blessings that we gave them an multiplied them for others in their community. Jesus continues to work and live among them.
This year, I’ve asked God to let us show the love of Jesus in all that we do and say. Loving people is not always easy. Getting involved in peoples lives can be messy and filled with pain, but Jesus was willing to do it for us… to step into our mess and help us out of it. Why wouldn’t we be willing to do the same for others?