There are few events that occur in your life that change you forever – graduating from college perhaps, getting married for sure, birth of your children, absolutely. Death of loved ones that are near to you. Death of a close friend. As a life long Christian, I can think of a few times when I was moved in a way that I knew the Holy Spirit was involved. And as a life long Christian – it is easy to take some of those events for granted. I have always been envious of those who claim to have had a lightning bolt or even a mountain top experience in their faith journey that marked them forever and was their major turning point in life.
This past week I was struck by lightning – I enjoyed a mountain top experience with 16 men from RezDowntown and with several Honduran men that we worked side by side with in mission with one another. It is safe to say that none of us were “safe” from the emotional rollercoaster that we would experience on this deeply spiritual journey. The work was grueling, harder than most of us had ever done, the conversations difficult – partly because of the language barrier – but when we did break through, with the help of translators, we heard stories of such grotesque atrocities and absolute horror that we all asked – how is this person able to even go on, how can they survive what they have been through? Their faith and perseverance a witness to us all.
One story that brought us to our knees was about two of our Honduran construction workers who had planned to be in the caravan to the US. With no work, murdered family by gangs and no where else to turn they had decided they would join the caravan. Just before leaving they heard about this job, a job at the UM Mission house in Tegucigalpa. They decided to stay and work. They didn’t know why, it was just a job at first…. But then we showed up and Kevin was bold enough at breakfast one day to start asking them questions through a translator. He got the courage to ask hard questions and these guys appreciated his boldness and began to share their story. By the end of the conversation they all knew why they had stayed to work – it was to meet us, tell their story and for us all to realize that we are all the same just different. They cried, we cried – we shared tears and emotions that for the first time for each of us was forefront and real.
As men it was this weird and different space that we found ourselves in. Uncomfortable, awkward but real, raw and transformational. We all allowed the Holy Spirit to enter in and touch us in unique and transformative ways. I realize now, that this probably would not have happened with a mixed group of men and women – because as men we have to maintain a certain sense of control. We were part of something special, something that could only be possible if we could let our guard down to let it happen.
On our last day at the mission house – one of the men handed Kevin a hand written note. He had written Kevin his top 3 guidelines for life and survival. Kevin shared these with the group and once again, not a dry eye in the house. How could this man – who has lost everything – share such deep faith filled thoughts and ideas. Truly we learned so much from these men who have been through so much tragedy. Kevin vowed to keep the note and put it up in a spot he will see it every day to remind him of his time in Honduras – the time when complete strangers, speaking a different language showed us they are the same, but different.
We each went on this mission trip for our own personal reasons – perhaps some of us, not knowing for sure why we went. But we have all returned knowing fully, exactly why we went and what was gained by our willingness to say yes. We all went not knowing – a step of faith or because we were asked to go. We all went with different ideas, but returned with the same understanding. We have been transformed and changed forever. A brotherhood forever shaped by hard work, hard conversations and the Holy Spirit fire that melded us all together. We will return, we must return, even though we will go the same, but different.