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And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
In the weeks leading up to being sent off to Guatemala this verse became one that I focused on. I would soon be sent off to this beautiful country, full of green towering mountains, majestic volcanoes and people who welcomed me with open arms. I was called to serve here. I was called to preach the good news. I was called to show the love of Christ to all I came into contact with. As weird as my feet actually are, I liked the idea of my feet being beautiful, figuratively of course. I was determined, I was energized, and I was ready to serve.
The ministry site I was placed to work with was the Sponsorship/Social Work team. For the first couple of days on site, a few Canadians (eh?) from another team and I went out into the city of Magdalena Milpas Atlas, Guatemala and visited schools where about 70% of the students were sponsored by people from around the world. Each sponsored child receives new shoes for school, a new backpack, school supplies, a school uniform, and monetary assistance. The pure joy and happiness that these children had truly exuded the light of Christ. Every smile was genuine and every hug given was meaningful. Even in the midst of less than perfect circumstances, they found joy in life. Little did I know, this would be something I would struggle with while here. After only 4 days working on site, God decided he had a different plan for my time here.
Since I was nine years old I've struggled with severe anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. As I've gotten older I've learned how to deal with it and I've learned what to do when I have an "episode". People usually don't even notice when I have a panic attack because I've learned to control it well enough. However, God was going to take that control away. He was going to allow the full severity of my anxiety to reoccur. After only being here a week, I picked up a parasite and became very sick. The stress of being so sick in a foreign country and knowing I was far from home was too much for me. My anxiety flooded every aspect of my body, mind and soul. Being sick is one thing, being sick with the severity of my anxiety is another. It's hard for most people to understand what it feels like. The only way I can describe it is that at any moment a feeling of impending doom comes over you like a cloud, you feel like you're drowning in darkness and hopelessness replaces every positive emotion. It's my hell on earth. The joy I had, the willingness to serve, the happiness...all gone! Why? Why did God take me all the way to Guatemala to lay in bed and be useless? My feet weren't out serving, they were cold and propped up. How would I bless others in a state like this? I was angry. I was bitter. I was scared. Every feeling of God's presence was gone. Surely God had left me. I prayed and prayed that He would take this from me. I thought I was here to be His light. Instead, I felt total darkness. Yet, deep down, waaaay down, I knew that God had a purpose and a plan. Slowly and painfully I let go of control, everything I had tried to do on my own was useless. I laid in my bed crying when God spoke to me. He said "I brought you here to glorify me! Yes, you are here to bless others and show them my love but you forgot about me. You forgot about praising me, relying on me." All of a sudden, it became clear. My time here in Guatemala was not for my "feet to be beautiful". It wasn't about me doing something big or grand and getting blessed because of it. God allowed me to be knocked down, helpless, and hopeless in order for Him to be glorified.
In my weakness, His power is made perfect. My time here has not been easy and I still have periods of anxiety and panic attacks but I will glorify His name in the midst of that darkness. No matter how far He feels from me, no matter how bitter I am, no matter my circumstances I will proclaim that He is my God. That He is to be glorified above all.
My time here in Guatemala has not been what I expected or prepared for. Our plans are not always God's plans. I had to be taken out of the mission field to realize why I was sent here. My purpose for being in Guatemala has been to proclaim Christ's mercy and faithfulness in the midst of tears, sickness, and hopelessness.
May Christ be exalted in all of my weakness. His name be praised!!