You Know You’re on the Mission Field When…
Peanut butter, jelly, ham, and cheese sandwiches with lettuce and tomato! Yes, we had healings, salvations, and baptisms in the Holy Spirit on our mission to Colombia, but one thing that no one will ever forget is the peanut butter, jelly, ham, and cheese sandwiches. On a day when we were going to be traveling between cities, we asked our hosts to pack sandwiches so we could just eat on the bus rather than having to stop. However, something got lost in translation and our request for some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some ham and cheese sandwiches somehow got interpreted as sandwiches will all the ingredients combined – and lettuce and tomatoes tossed in for good measure! Well, such is life on the mission field.
My mission team of fourteen students from Charis Bible College left Colorado as the mercury registered six degrees below zero and landed in Colombia where the thermometer read exactly one hundred degrees higher – 34 Celsius or 94 Fahrenheit. Not only did our bodies face the shock of such a drastic temperature change, we also had to adjust to the fact that there was no time for sleep, having had to meet at the school at 2 AM in order to drive to Denver for the all-day flight that got us to Bogota late that night so we could board a bus to get to our destination around 1 AM – only to get about four hours of sleep before meeting at 6:15 AM to head out for our first ministry assignment. That first day set the pace for the week with two chapel services at a big public school in the morning, a ministry session at a drug and alcohol rehab center in the afternoon, and a church service in the evening. When one of the students began to feel a little faint at the rehab center because of not being acclimated to the heat and being crowded into a fairly confined space with the seventy residents plus staff and our team, I offered to take her outside for some fresh air, only to discover that we were double-locked inside the facility – another awareness that we were really on the mission field. When we did some door-to-door visitation in the community around the church before the evening service, we had the opportunity of meeting and sharing with some neighborhood residents. One particularly interesting visit took place in an ice cream shop – but not a “shop” as we would normally think. The signs on the street outside certainly looked like they were inviting us into an ice cream parlor, but when we walked up to the door we discovered that it was the door to someone’s apartment. As we looked around in puzzlement, a lady showed up and the shop owner went to her kitchen refrigerator, took out an ice cream, and made a sell. As the customer began to enjoy her treat, we were able to strike up a conversation. Before long, she invited us to come to her apartment to pray for her sick son. We, of course, were happy to follow her the two or three blocks to her house where were found the boy lying in bed. As we were getting acquainted with him, the ice cream shop owner showed up and joined us for a time of sharing the Word and prayer. The two ladies and the little boy then accompanied us to the church service. Again, another experience that proved to us that we were on the mission field.
A couple of days into our trip, we traveled to a different city about an hour’s drive away. After leading chapel services at two different schools, we headed to a river about another hour’s drive away where we were to have a picnic for lunch and a time of relaxation. However, we had another of those events that let us know that we were on the mission field – our bus was stopped by the police at a roadblock checkpoint. It seems that you have to register the travel itinerary for all commercial vehicles that transport passengers. Our driver had done all the proper paperwork but didn’t realize that the picnic spot was in a different district from the town where the schools were located. At first, the police told us that they could confiscate the bus because it was operating illegally. We explained that we thought that everything was in order and that we could simply turn around since we didn’t have the proper registration. However, they didn’t seem to think that the problem was so easily solved and needed to report it up their line of authority. Perhaps an hour later, their superior approved for us to go ahead to the river and texted a new permit. After giving us the good news, three of the police officers came onboard the bus and asked for prayer before they let us leave. As we pulled away, they were waving goodbye to us like old friends.
After the picnic and some time at the river, we went back to the city for a church meeting before heading back to our “home base.” Unfortunately, one of the students tripped and fell, breaking her ankle. I took her to the emergency room where they put a cast on her leg. The following day, I took her to a doctor for a follow-up examination. Again, we had another of those now-you-know-you-are-on-the mission-field experiences when the doctor told us that he would have to remove the cast and replace it with an orthopedic boot. His explanation was that she would not be permitted to wear a cast through the airport security checkpoint since the customs officers would be suspicious that there could be cocaine mixed in with the plaster.
I also had to take one other student to the doctor because he was having extreme stomach pain. Even though I suspected that his problem was caused by something that he had eaten – another one of those indicators that you are on the mission field – I wanted to take precaution since the symptoms he described sounded a lot like appendicitis. Our host suggested that we visit a doctor who was her close friend. This doctor’s visit turned out to be the best I have ever been on. The doctor had us do a video chat with his son in the US who had met his wife while he was interpreting for her mission team in Colombia. Then we had a video chat with his other son who lives in Canada. While this second son and the daughter-in-law were on the video chat call, everybody prayed for the student. During the exam, the doctor shared that when he was a patient in the intensive care unit several years before he had left his body and seen heaven. He then described how God gave him a mission to come back to earth to fulfill – to start a church as well as continuing his practice. I’m sure that things like that don’t happen except on the mission field.
And there was one final experience that really let us know that we were still on the mission field. After spending a whole week with no hot water, we were all looking forward to a hot shower on our last day when we were to spend the night near the Bogota airport for the early departure the following morning. Yes, the facility had nice showers and plenty of hot water – but NO towels!