“Make me hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” Psalm 51:8
By Ariel Bosman
We know that God works in mysterious ways, but I don’t think I totally understood that until I got a phone call on January eighth from Maureen at Paradise Bound Ministries. The week before I had been on a trip to Washington D.C. for the 2018 Passion Conference with a few people from Benefit Twice and Fair Haven Ministries. It seemed like a pretty amazing way to start the year off, growing spiritually, meeting others and together struggling to balance the lows and highs of life.
But then, I got a phone call during the middle of my shift on a Monday from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered the phone and listened as Maureen told me that I had won a drawing that included a mission trip for two to Guatemala. After I got off the phone, I was a little overwhelmed — excited but overwhelmed. Who do I ask to come with me? When do I want to go? Will they give me time off of work? So many questions of doubt came flooding into my mind about all the things I had to think about and decide. It’s despairing how the devil can take a moment of pure joy and excitement and tempt you into doubt and fear.
As we set the dates that I would go, I was slightly struggling to find someone to go with me. Then, I asked Cassie. Cassie has been my friend since before kindergarten and one of my best friends since. She had seen so many sides of me, and I saw so many sides of her. We know each other’s fun sides, crazy sides, ugly sides, hurt sides. She let me know she could come, of course, because she’s one of my best friends.
As the trip grew closer, Cassie and I had many breakfast dates together to figure out all of the details, who would bring us to the airport and pick us up, how we would fit the medicine in our bags, what vaccinations we might want to get, and so on. And sooner than we knew it, it was Tuesday, and we were rushing out the door at 3:45 in the morning.
At this point, I didn’t know what to expect, and I was still questioning why God had chosen me to be His hands and feet out of all the people who entered the drawing. I kept looking at the PBM website trying to prepare myself for what was ahead. Let’s just say there was absolutely nothing that could prepare me for how incredible God is.
When we got on the ground in Guatemala, thankful for safe travels and warm weather, we loaded into the big vans and headed to the uttermost parts of the earth. I still was a little terrified at what I would be led into this week.
When we got to the first village, after being thrown around many times by the rocky mountain gravel roads and promising that we wouldn’t complain about Michigan roads ever again, I knew this was going to be a good week. I could see God’s hands in the shapes of the mountains, I could see His joy in the people, and I could feel His peace around me. I knew the devil was waiting, but there were so many prayers sent out for us that week and God had His angels protecting us.
After the first few hours and first of many meals of rice and beans, I knew I was where I needed to be while still not certain why. Dan asked that we not forget to take time to be alone with God this week. So in the morning, we would head out by ourselves before or after breakfast, read God’s word, pray, and take in the mountain views. Keeping up with personal devotions is always something that has been difficult for me so knowing I had the time, I made sure to take it. Reason number one God sent me to Guatemala was to get me alone with Him again.
In the first two full days on the ground, we were split into separate teams, getting to know the families we were assigned, and building the houses, stuck-ing, painting and decorating them with pictures and Bible verses. The third day was our dedication day. We all went around to all the houses praying and asking that God move in the hearts of these villagers that they may long to pursue Him. And yet all the while, in all our prayers and singing and presenting gifts, in the building and decorating, and choosing of verses, God was pursuing us too.
And I was beginning to get a clearer picture of what this was about for me personally. I’ve known God my whole life, but His plan for me was not just to know Him, but to know Him better; this was reason number two for God calling me to serve in Guatemala.
There were four teams that we had previously been split into for the building of houses. I had spent time building with this stranger named Shannon on my team, who became my second dad this week and who I now refer to as Dad.
So Cassie and I were talking close to Dad on the third day — the dedication day — about how little sleep I got in high school. Dad asked me why and I just poured it all out. I mentioned before that I had a lot of doubts, but I didn’t say was I was carrying a lot of grief and shame and bitterness. All not so amazing things to be carrying with you no matter where you are. I will get to reasons for these things later which will make reason number three.
After we finished up that day, with the dedications and a medical clinic, with worship and dinner, we headed back to the mission base where our warm showers and clean clothes were waiting for us. On the three-hour van ride down and up the mountains, Cassie and I sat there laughing uncontrollably while the rest of them attempted to sleep. Reason number four God called me to Guatemala was to get some good laughs again with my long time best friend, to grow with her, and to see each other out of our comfort zones.
The next morning we had devotions, and Dan asked us our “God-sightings” for the day before, and then asked us how God had changed our lives in the past three days and why we were there. Let’s just say that the tears were flowing now. Some people talked about how God knew who needed to be there and there wasn’t someone there that wasn’t supposed to be, and there wasn’t someone who wasn’t there that was supposed to be. Someone talked about how fear keeps us from serving the Lord fully, and there wasn’t fear when we were praying over the families.
And then Dan asked again how our lives were changed and why we were there. And then I shared starting with an ‘“um, so.” My life the past few years, really the past five years, has not been a walk in the park. I mean, no one’s is. In high school and beyond, I struggled with depression, and I only did what I had to do to get through without ever admitting that I was struggling. I am a very emotional person, so I had a lot of fights with my parents, but I had a lot of anger that I buried away from being broken by the words of my family and peers and by the standards of the world. In 2016, my friend Riley passed away, and I was wounded and grieving. And I felt like a failure in life. Come April of 2017; I had thoughts of taking my own life. And I stopped due to the kind words of a man in the church that made me take a step back from those thoughts. I went to get diagnosed; I went to counseling and worked at it. But there was still that shame. The shame and regret that took three days for Dad to undo. Three days. God took three days for me to be unashamed after years of pain, shame, and regret. So reason number three: I was there to meet Dad, and I was there to meet God’s kindness and peace once again.
I could keep going and going, but there is really only one more part of my mission trip story to share. Anya. Anya is Dan’s right-hand woman on the ground in Guatemala. Anya has impacted my life with her testimony. She is probably one of the most amazing people I have ever met. It’s not my place to tell you what Anya has been through, but she is reason number five I was called on this mission trip. I needed to meet her to be reminded that a year ago, God was right when He told me my story wasn’t over yet. He reminded me through her that He’s got better plans for me that I could even possibly begin to imagine.
Since I got back, I have been a little sad. I miss being around friends all the time with singing, praying, card games, football, and mountain hikes. But, I got a whole new family when I went to Guatemala. And every time I look at the pictures or talk to someone I went with, I am reminded how much God moved us that week. I am reminded we are all broken; we all have that shame or regret or something that is holding us back, but it was nailed to the cross. I am reminded God is so limitless. His love is not restricted to the boundaries of borders, or of mountains and oceans. I was reminded that people are different, and all people are God’s masterpieces.
And I wish I could describe so much better how much I learned, how much I grew, how much God showed up, but God’s grace to me that week and forever and always is completely indescribable.
There is absolutely no way I can be properly thankful to everyone who made that week of my life count, no way I can give back to God what He gave to me in three days, or a week, or in the past five years, but He called me to serve, and I won’t stop just because I got back from Guatemala. He called me for a week this year to serve through PBM but calls me for a lifetime to be His hands and feet.