I was there with a team of 14 from my church. Most of our team concentrated on evangelism and training in youth soccer camps. Two of us were there to lead a pastor’s conference on men’s ministry.
The lessons I learned on this trip echo lessons I seem to learn on every cross-cultural trip. So I thought I’d share them here.
1) My goal is to minister, but I’m ministered to more. God rarely uses an instrument without changing it in the process. I learn, I grow, I’m stretched, I’m convicted every time.
2) People with less than me are more generous than I am. North Americans may give much money to charity, but we have an embarrassingly large amount left over to spend on ourselves. They don’t. They cheerfully sacrifice for us, and model hospitality. We should take notes.
3) First world problems are not problems. We live in the land flowing with milk and honey, and we lead the world in depression medication. We imagine more problems than we actually experience. We can’t spell contentment. Shame on us.
4) Small church pastors around the world are my heroes. And in most of the world, they are deeply respected and underpaid. In the U.S., this is reversed.
5) Sin is a human disease we’ve all contracted. And in shockingly similar ways. The struggles we face in the U.S. are very similar to the struggles in South America. We may sin creatively, but our sins can still be classified into the same categories regardless the culture we come from. We’re not that different from one another.
6) God is faithful. My friend and fellow-pastor Dave (pictured above on the left) taught on discontentment during our trip. He reminded us that God tends to get our attention in one of two ways. Either He will prevent us from getting all that we pursue, and use defeat to bring us to Himself (95% of the time). Or He will grant us everything we pursue, and use our lingering discontentment to bring us to Himself (5% of the time).
Either way, God remains faithful.