“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
We contacted PPM and began the process of choosing a date, picking our ministries and getting excited for what was to come. It’s strange what memories can burn a hole in your mind and wouldn’t you know it, one of the things I can still remember from that time of planning was a phone call from Laura Winslow (now Yoch). It was during our senior class planning time and we were all super excited that we got to talk to the person who was in charge of our trip. You could hear her passion for missions spilling through the receiver. I remember us talking about how nice she sounded over the phone and how we couldn’t wait to meet her in Belize. Little did I know that she would become such an important part of my life’s journey and such a power role model to me of what a good trip leader should be. I will forever treasure her kindness, leadership, encouragement and friendship that she poured into myself and my class that week. Fast forward a couple months and the wheels hit down. Stepping out of the plane we were immediately overcome by the Belizean warmth. We were all tired from our long journey, a little nervous about going through customs and generally anxious about how the whole week would turn out. We walked out of customs and Laura was standing there just like she promised, with a huge smile on her face welcoming us to Belize. We piled into the bus and off we went. The week had begun and whatever came next was in God’s hands because this was His trip and not ours.
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8
I cannot even begin to convey to you what happened on that trip and what it meant. The friendships we made with the Belizeans and the way we grew closer to one another and to God cannot be explained properly with words except maybe to say that it was awesome and life-changing. I had fallen in love with Belize and the people who called it home.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 5-6
Well, my friends, God had different plans. Everywhere I went, PPM followed. In one of my dorms “get-to-know-you” events, I discovered that a guy on the floor above me had gone on a trip with PPM and a few days later it was revealed that my roommate (MY ROOMMATE!!!) had gone on a trip with PPM to the exact place I had been. When I talked about places I had been and what I had done, she knew exactly what I was talking about; it was strange, exciting and unbelievable all at the same time because as we talked about our trips my heart soared. I felt like God was stalking me and He was using PPM to do it. He knew what I needed even when I didn’t. The path I was on as a biology major was not right for me, but I was terrified to even think about switching because I didn’t know where to go. So, I called Gerry McIntyre. Gerry has known me since before I could talk. She has been my youth leader, Sunday School teacher, and friend. If I ever needed/want to talk, I know that I can call her and she will listen and give me Godly advice. It took one phone call with Gerry for me to realize that I needed to change my major because there was something bigger God wanted for me than I wanted for myself.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:20-21
Fast Forward, again, I’m back in Belize. For 4 weeks I lead teams, I learned the ropes, I stumbled and screwed up, I got back up and tried again. I loved it! It wasn’t easy but it was what I was made for. It was hard at times and there were points where I struggled and felt like giving up but God taught me so much about myself and about who He was. I knew this was the place for me. I loved every minute of it and I wanted more. That was almost 3 years ago. All together, I have led 17 trips in Belize and each time I fall more in love with the people of that country and the people I meet from my teams. Each trip offers its own unique challenge but it also offers you a brand new chance to hand everything over to the one who has already overcome the ultimate challenge: Death.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—” Hebrews 2:14
It’s amazing to think that it was 8 years ago when I took my first step on a journey that has led me to where I am today. It has been filled with smiles and tears, ups and downs, but I can truly say that it was all worth it. I don’t know where my journey will continue to take me, or what I may be writing 8 years from now, but right now I can say that I am truly humbled and in awe of what God can do. I had no idea how important Praying Pelican Missions would be to me at the beginning and I had no idea that the people of Belize would become like family to me. I am excited for the journey ahead. I am humbled and honored that God has given me the opportunity to lead mission trips as my “job.” As I think back on the last 8 years that have brought me to this point I can think of no better ending then to simply state:
Praise be to God, the author and finisher of my faith.