God, what do you want me to see in this story? Where do you want my heart to open up? Why am I here?

Flying into Puerto Rico, my heart was confused. I had been in the mindset of a third world country missions trip. But this….this looked like where I grew up. Or, at least a lot like it.
I live in Virginia in a large family full of heart and life. A normal day consists of everything from baby feet pattering early in the morning, to high school sized backpacks and boring textbooks, to soccer practice and loud dinners where everyone chimes into the chorus of the dining table. There is a roof over my head, game nights with friends, and food on our table. Family in my house is a place where I am accepted, challenged, and learning God’s design for me – Jaeden.

But on missions trips, don’t you go into a home with a dirt floor and view a scene where children have nothing to eat and where hearts have no hope? So, what was my heart supposed to do with the scene before me – suburb homes with plenty to eat and people to laugh with? That was my question as I stepped off the plane, until I looked deeper and saw something I had never seen before. The following snapshots are of a trip that redefined missions in my heart.

Missions first offers security.
Rolling out of bed, early one morning, I pulled on my shoes and headed out to meet the day with some exercise. I ran past the fence of the first home and noticed a dog – cute. The next home I ran by revealed another dog…every yard had a dog. Hm. Later, talking to a member of the church we were there to help, I was told that prior to the hurricane no one had dogs. Now everyone did. They needed a sense of security….

Vision builds after security stabilizes.
The team on this trip was really like family. We were received as family and operated as family. From the welcoming kiss on each cheek, to the meals and tasks we shared – relationships were the definition of the atmosphere.

Unity of family is felt as we all worked together.
The culture in Puerto Rico is very loud, boisterous and Latino. Welcoming. Mar Azul did a good job continuing that atmosphere within their ministry. I loved that every time we were about to advance upon a new project – painting a house, cleaning up a building, etc., the leadership paused us and explained the goal. They cast the vision. Because of that we could be unified.

Belonging happens when you know you are an irreplaceable part of the unit. It offers hope.
One of the days on this trip, our team went into a run-down school building that the local church (Mar Azul) was working to clean up. The building had been known as a place of dirt and drugs. As I was tidying up the room I was in, I noticed – off to the side – something glint in the sun. I walked over and, squatting down, I saw a used syringe. Yup. Drugs. My mind drifted to the fact that someone had been there, trying desperately to find hope – to find belonging.

As I reflect on the story of my missions trip to Mar Azul, I realize that family is missions. This makes sense and I can see it in how my own family welcomes kids into our home so they can have family. But, there is a process – security, vision, unity, belonging. Here in America, as in Puerto Rico, we have the security already. But, taking that further and casting a vision then brings unity of purpose. Purpose opens the door for belonging. Relationships are the key. The vision that Christ cast for me is to go and make disciples of Him. Once again, it is the relationship that is the key.