The Trip: The Setting
I’m not sure where I’m trying to go with this post. An introduction to the time I spent away in Venezuela? Bear with me, as I also see where this goes . . .
Six days ago I came back from a two-week missionary trip to Maracaibo, Venezuela. This marked my second missionary/service trip. My first was spent in the Sierra de Perija, Venezuela in June 2010. I wrote a bit about that particular trip here and here.
I’m not sure where to begin. So I’ll start with the photo above — my reaction to this photo. This photo wasn’t taken by me or anybody I know. A simple search on Flickr (y’all know how much I love Flickr . . .) led me to this photo. I remember that weeks before I arrived in Maracaibo, I fervently searched for photos of the city — to get a feel for the place, the buildings, the environment, the people. This is what I saw photos of most. The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge on Lake Maracaibo, a symbol of a budding and buzzing metropolis. I remember saying, “Cool — ministering to kids and young people next to this famous lake — can’t wait.” It’s funny, however, because though I’ve spent a combined month in the country, I have yet to even see this bridge during my time in Venezuela.
While a imagined a port city bustling with people going to and from their demanding jobs, I didn’t come to find that. In fact, I have yet to touch the waters of the famous Lake Maracaibo. Rather, I spent time in dusty neighborhoods that even taxis and public cars wouldn’t venture into. This was Maracaibo for me — a sometimes urban jungle, but mostly a dirt road-laden community, with its own citizens afraid to undertake the “tougher” neighborhoods — where taxi drivers would say (in Spanish, of course), “Oh, you want to go there? I don’t go there. I can drop you off in the outskirts.” It was difficult not to become disillusioned with the people, when they were not willing to help their own (this, of course, wasn’t the case for every Maracucho. There are actually many locals who are graciously and selflessly giving themselves for the sake of their people’s salvation and well-being ).
And here we were, us stupid Americans 😉 asking to be thrown into the supposed dangerous abyss. Call it foolishness? I, in actuality, call it faith. I suppose this is the time where I mention that this is the reason I (and most likely each person on the team) decided to completely shatter their comfort zones.
Faith. You know, the whole “believing air exists even though you can’t see it” concept (How many times have you heard that annoying phrase?). I took comfort in the simple Ecclesiastes 8:5 — “Whoever obeys His command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure” (NIV 1984). It was blind. I couldn’t really picture what we were going to do exactly or how we were going to strengthen the spirits of these kids. But never did I feel alone, without recourse. I just knew I was supposed to be there (it’s just an indescribable feeling . . .). So there we all walked into the difficult neighborhoods, Bibles and love in tow, to share with bright-eyed, incredibly energetic, receptive kids (below).
To be continued . . .