We left Tampa on Sunday as a mixed group – male and female, families of varying sizes – many of whom have been longtime friends while others had just met. But there was a common thread that wove us together, we were each answering God’s call to serve. We were not traveling to the destination we had originally planned – but I suppose that is because when God calls us, he expects us to follow HIS plan. Although our intended destination had been El Ayudante in Nicaragua, the civil unrest there made it an unsafe option – so we traveled to Nassau in the Bahamas instead. While many of us were heartbroken not to be returning to El Ayudante, we also understood that our call was to serve God’s people, wherever there was a need – and to wherever he would lead us.
It might have been a change in our plans, but for Pastor Stubbs and his church, we were an answer to prayers. This church sees vacation Bible school as such a valuable way to give hope and share the love of God with the dozens of children who attend that they have expanded it to be a four week program. This year, while Hyde Park UMC was struggling with the question of where we might serve, St. Michael’s Methodist Church here had still not found volunteers for their third week – the same week that we had planned to travel. So here we are, answering Gods call as he answers this church’s prayers.
It hasn’t been a quiet week. The walls reverberate with the shrieking of children, the air bubbles with laughter, and songs of praise ring out. In the quiet, steamy atmosphere of the neighborhood the squealing of the children’s voices competes with the echoes of hammering. Settling down at night is hard – as there are many of us in each room – but the noisy, work-filled days make for exhausted missioners so sleep did eventually settle in.
Things didn’t always go as planned, and revamping our plan for the day became our norm. Fortunately we came with a willing heart and a flexible attitude and we adjusted as the need arose – in at least one instance our revised plan was only possible because of the yarn left by mission groups before us, connecting our groups in one continuous thread of God’s love.
As a family mission trip it has particularly been a joy to watch the younger generation. Although not much older than the group of children they were leading, they handled their charges with gentle patience, learning most of their names. The end result of these bonds they formed was tears from more than one Bahamian child as they said farewell to their new friends from Florida. How blessed we are to be able to ensure them that we will continue to be their brothers and sisters in Christ, we will pray for them, and we will see them again in our heavenly home.
It was especially heartwarming to see our own young people interact with each other. Although there was a wide range of ages, there was no silly pettiness among them. No one was ever left out and they were always moving around as a group. Where you would find one of them you would most likely find them all. This is not to say that they always agreed with each other. Whether they were discussing fashion or faith, all differences of opinion were handled with respect, humor and love. (And, Jack…. it is HI-biscus!). Their interactions personified the words of Corinthians 3:3 – “You show that you are a letter from Christ… written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”
From the children we taught, to the kitchen staff who fed us, to the workers who oversaw the construction of the shed and those who drove us around, we shared our faith, shared our praise, shared our love, and expanded our own families to include these brothers and sisters in Christ. How fitting that today’s daily scripture from Hyde Park included Corinthians 4:5-6, for there is no doubt that this group of missioners has radiated “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” while making Gods Love Real here in the Bahamas.