By Leigh Randall
In Summer 2013, I had the opportunity to lead my first international mission team.
Serving as a youth minister at Advent United Methodist Church, Simpsonville, I hoped the international mission would provide our high school graduates with an opportunity to serve in a way that would allow them to step even further outside their comfort zones prior to heading to college.
Advent provides missional opportunities throughout the year for our entire congregation, a summer mission for middle school students called Middle School Mission and our high school students participate in Salkehatchie each summer. This mission trip, for our high school graduates, provides them an incredible opportunity to serve and see the world more clearly as they prepare for the next phase of their lives.
Preparing for the mission, my United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Leader Certification was complete, the team had been selected and met many times together and, most importantly, I had the incredibly experienced and trusted guidance of Nick Elliott going with me.
The organization we were going to partner with for this mission was the UMVIM site called Mission Guatemala. Mission Guatemala was in their third year of existence and already had a reputation for partnering with the people of Guatemala to provide medical care, partnering with schools and providing awesome experiences for groups. In addition, the tagline of Mission Guatemala is “do all the good you can.” Even with all of the preparation and assurance that we were partnering with an incredible organization, I was scared to death! Not only were the students taking a bold step outside their comfort zone, but as their leader, I was as well!
Bold steps of faith are often scary, but as is most always the case, an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness, marked growth in faith and witness to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit accompany them. This was truly the case with the first mission Advent made to serve with Mission Guatemala. And it has been part of each mission we have served with Mission Guatemala since.
Since the summer of 2013, Advent has expanded their partnership with Mission Guatemala to include a February/March Adult Mission Team (starting in 2016) made up of adults and has continued the yearly summer mission for the high school graduates. In total, Advent has sent nine teams of 151 people. My joy has been leading eight of these teams.
We have served in the communities of Tocaché, San Andrés, Xecotoj, Godinez, Caliaj Tecpan and Choquec, where our teams have built hand-washing stations, bathrooms and classrooms; painted school rooms; and led Bible school.
As I reflect on the students and adults who have participated as members of the teams I have led, I get overwhelmed at the ways God worked in and through their lives and in and through my life, as well. Having the experience of serving with Mission Guatemala has been part of the ways the Holy Spirit has impacted the lives of students all the while leading to discovery of calling and pursuit of calling. I have witnessed these callings take on numerous forms, from serving in Africa following college graduation, to seeking careers in global health, to following the call of ordained ministry. And these are just some of the ways God has impacted the lives of students on these teams. The adults who have served on Mission Guatemala teams through Advent UMC are also learning and growing as disciples, as well!
Mission Guatemala has a mission to help meet the basic needs and improve the quality of life of underserved and impoverished Guatemalan peoples through health, education and nutrition initiatives and missionary service. Their hope is to do all the good they can. Their impact is felt far beyond the country of Guatemala. The greatest impact of all is the relationships formed during the mission trips.
For more information about Mission Guatemala, the work they do and ways to partner with them through mission teams and in many other ways, visit their website at www.missionguatemala.com.
Randall is director of student ministry and staff liaison to mission at Advent UMC, Simpsonville.