Sometimes adventure is disaster from another perspective.
In 2007 I went to Peru as part of a special mission team. There were only four people on our team. We were going to instruct and facilitate the first youth camp in the northwestern region of the country. This was my first out of country mission trip, so I was flying high on a strong batch of that save-the-world elixir.
The trip had a sketchy start at best. Our leader misread our departure time and got us to the airport HOURS ahead of time. At least we didn’t miss the flight. Who needs that extra 3 hours of sleep anyway?
We arrived in Lima late and found that no one had made our reservations for the night. It’s cool, the Honeymoon room was available for me to share with another dude. Just before he carried me over the threshold they found us a standard room. Whew! I was having more than a few anxieties about the Honeymoon Suite.
We woke late, hopped in a taxi and headed out to visit a school before our afternoon flight north. The driver rocketed through town kamikaze style. At one point we hooked a hard right to find our divided street blocked, sooooo, we just took the left side. Don’t worry though, there were no cars because a middle school class was practicing for a parade.
I have to admit those kids were iron. They didn’t flinch when our passenger bullet hopped the curb and took the sidewalk. Storefronts on our left, planters with trees on our right. A hundred yards later we found our exit, but not before being spied out by the national police.
Armed with machine guns these action film clichés pulled us over. At this point my barba had not come into its world-wide acclaim. It was of the more common variety; the length and style apparently worn by foreigners coming to Peru to score drugs by the burro load.
The return trip found us whizzing along at 145 kph through the metro area of Lima. Our driver couldn’t be rid of us fast enough. A misprint on our tickets got us to the airport in time to watch our flight clear the ground. No exchange, no refund. Plan B. The next flight was booked, so we decided to fly to a nearby town and ride the bus in to our final destination. 8PM flight, no problem. From Trijillo, where we’d land, it was only to be a 6-hour bus trip.
On our final approach the captain pulls a steep climb, then hard right at the last minute, sparking gasps and screams and reminding me of a childhood trip to an air show. The guy next to me grabs the cross on his rosary and starts reciting prayers. Two more times verify that it’s too foggy. Oh, and there is a cow on the runway. The airline sends us to another airport nearer to our final destination to wait out the fog. Cool. We decide to get off there and take our chances on the bus. It would be a shorter ride anyway.
“Si, la terminal se cerro ya.” Or, the bus station closed ten minutes ago. The plane left, the bus station closed and the entire airport was the size of a small bedroom in a typical U.S. home. What now?
We flitted about the parking lot trying to convince someone to take us to our hotel, in what we thought was Spanish. Our hotel, it turns out, was still another 3 hours by taxi. We struck a deal, loaded our bags and away we went. Four Americans, a Peruvian taxi driver and all our bags for 2 weeks at camp crammed into a tiny Toyota station wagon. I now know what a dress shirt feels like folded up in those cellophane bags.
We rode 60 miles down a 2-lane asphalt scar cut through the desert, not seeing a building, a light, another road or car when Tiffiney asked, “How do you say ‘I need to use the bathroom’ in Spanish?”
At nearly the same moment, we crested a small rise and there was a lean-to with a sign. It was a truck stop. We went in and the lady said “No hay baño” and pointed around behind the building. Tiffiney ambled around back and made use of the lack of facilities, and we were off again.
I hit the bed at 2:15am. It was a ridiculously long day that was tempered by the thrill of excitement.
Why was I willing to overlook inconveniences, bad customer service and poor efforts by our local helpers. I was “in God’s service,” that’s why. If any of those things had happened in my own country I would have been fuming.
What made me MORE Christ-like during that trip? It was a reflection of my ability to manage myself. Not a reflection of the heart work Jesus had done.
I find many are willing to “suffer” the cause of Christ as long as a good story comes from it. Sure, we don’t say that up front but our actions betray our hearts. Local ministry work is not as flashy and spiritually sexy as foreign missions. The personal recognition is greater for those who leave the comfort of their own culture to “minister.” I was suffering from a hidden case of “What’s in it for me?”
Were you ever willing to do something inconvenient because of ministry circumstances? Do you have more patience and kindness when actively serving than you do in regular life?