Encountering God On a Ranch in La Paz, Mexico
Going into my first mission trip I had expectations of what it should look like—going out into local communities each day + presenting the Gospel to people. However, through my experience at Rancho El Camino, God has taught me that that is only one piece of the puzzle; only one job in the great work of extending His Kingdom among the nations.
Even more so, through the help of a language barrier between myself and the people within the community, I learned that the act of exalting the name of God is not only fulfilled through, or limited to, word of mouth but the Gospel is presented through our actions + in our service (Colossians 3:17). This is especially true in the Mexican culture, and was evidenced through how the local missionaries and staff at Rancho El Camino lived their lives.
Here I learned a lot about community. For so long I have been accustomed to living my life as an introverted, individualistic, independent type of person. But God is calling me to more than that. He is teaching me the importance of forming relationships with others so that I can grow beyond my personal walk with Him into a communal existence + form of worship as the unified body of Christ. We work better together in the effort of extending His Kingdom by encouraging, challenging, growing in all ways mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
This community of Christ is open. We serve one God, one Dios; one Father, one Padre. He offers us a universal, unconditional love that extends beyond borders, culture, language, or socioeconomic status.
Although I had my own hopes + ideas floating in my head about what a mission trip should model, we as a group didn’t have a set plan for what we were going to be doing while on our trip. We were going in with no expectations; just being open to serve in whatever way possible + following after the tasks that God had prepared for us to accomplish.
Some of these tasks came in the form of physical labor:
We dug holes + smashed rocks in order to put posts in for a new slackline as a part of expanding the camp’s challenge course.
We helped train, feed, clean up after the horses, as well as replace a portion of the old gates where they stay.
We did construction + mixed / poured cement for a new storage area for the Ranch, as well as a wash station for the staff + interns.
"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!"
Two of the evenings we went out into the local neighborhoods to promote the Ranch’s summer camps that will be taking place in the following weeks. The first night, there were not many children at the location we were in so we walked home to home (not the kind of homes we are used to…) handing out flyers + registration cards with information about the camp + how to sign up. The next evening, we were at a playground that was full of energized kids. We had the opportunity to play soccer (fútbol), make crafts, and act out a Bible story that was read in Spanish by one of the staff.
When we think of being blessed we often think in material terms. Being immersed into these local neighborhoods + standards of living reiterated the fact that God’s blessings in our lives extend far beyond material qualifications. These people are living in material poverty, but they are not poor (Luke 6:20-21, James 2:5). They have spiritual blessing far greater than most of us can attain because we succumb to the temptations of materialism + consumerism that hinder our walk with God. Material wealth is precarious, fleeting, and can be depleted, but the blessings + riches we have in Christ are readily available + inexhaustible (2 Corinthians 8:9, Romans 8:17).
Each day before setting out to work we gathered in a circle with hands outstretched to the center + raised them to the cry of “A LA CHAMBA!” It is a shortening of a motto the staff holds on the Ranch: “la cruz, la palabra, la chamba,” meaning “the cross, the Word, the work.”
While contemplating what exactly that saying means to me + how I can apply it, I discovered:
To The Word I set my mind to study + meditate on.
To The Work I set my hands to give + serve.
To The World I set my feet to go + share the Good News.
This is the first step along the path that God has planned for me. I believe He intentionally placed me at Rancho El Camino for my first mission trip for the purpose of learning the various aspects of mission work + discovering what area He is specifically calling me to take a part in. God doesn’t need me to accomplish His task, but He has sought me + invited me to have a hand in the great work that is taking place—what a blessing that is!
"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building."
This mission trip has taught me that although I may not hear + see lives be changed over to Christ in the exact moment before me, I am serving as the hands that plant the seed, lay the foundation, clear the path for individuals to encounter God + begin a lifelong journey with Him down the road. My job isn’t to save lives or build something extravagant so that I can take all the glory for those things. My mission here was to simply GO wherever God was calling me, SERVE in whatever way possible, and ENCOURAGE whoever needed it. God is teaching me to be open—open to having my own plans or expectations be challenged, changed, contorted + following Him humbly, faithfully, wholeheartedly.