Faith Overcomes Fear
By Michaelyn Sloan
“Aren’t you afraid?” is a question I am typically asked when I return from one of my trips out of the country.
I have worked in international adoptions for nearly 30 years, and the past 13 have taken me into humanitarian work in Asia, Eastern Europe, Central America and South America. My destination is usually an orphanage on the outskirts of a city or a makeshift clinic in a village. I am always met by a national who speaks English and travel with a translator, oftentimes in the company of other Americans working on the same project. Oddly enough, the most frightening experiences I have ever had while on mission trips took place while I was preparing to return to the U.S. and staying in very nice hotels in major cities: a typhoon in Pusan, Korea four years ago; and two years ago, an 8.0 earthquake just miles outside of Lima, Peru which was followed by 5.0+ aftershocks for nearly 24 hours, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries.
Other than these two experiences—both acts of nature—I can honestly say regarding these mission trips, “No, I am personally never afraid.” Ministering to those with so many needs leaves little time for one to focus on personal needs. During the past few years a number of articles in the secular media have spoken about “flow.” Basically, “flow” is a psychological state that occurs when a person is involved in a passion. All sense of time vanishes, and a state of peace pervades. I, along with others engaged in humanitarian projects, have described such a feeling. From a spiritual standpoint, I believe it is the Holy Spirit working through each of us as we experience “the peace that passes all understanding.”
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and unseen
Last February, my husband and I had the opportunity to participate in a 10-day mission trip in the mountains of northeast Guatemala. He directed the construction of a nutrition center while I translated for a medical team that provided gynecological screening in various mountain villages. Many of the participants were first-timers on a mission trip and captivated by the joy they witnessed in the people they were ministering to—especially the children—despite their living situations. On our last day, we gathered all of our left-over food, used clothing, shoes, and donated toys team members had brought from home. Our destination? The local garbage dump where the poorest of this country’s poor could be found digging through refuse to supplement their basic needs. Amidst the ground litter of broken glass, mounds of decayed garbage, stray dogs and even a stray bull, children and adults gathered to receive what we had deemed “leftover and used.” The laughter that had filtered through our group the previous days ceased and several withdrew to the bus overcome with emotion at the sight of this human suffering. Later, one of the women remarked, “To think that this is just one garbage dump in one country; I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around the numbers in the world!”
Conversations ensued while sitting at the airport awaiting our flight back to the U.S. The common thread was returning home to share experiences and encourage others to get involved. Despite the overwhelming suffering experienced at the garbage dump, words of hope and faith were interspersed in the shared emotions. Many of these individuals will never participate in another mission trip, but the message of hope and faith and the experience of making a difference in the lives of those who need it most, will be shared with others who may be spurred to become involved. Believing and hoping that a positive outcome may be achieved despite what may appear impossible or dismal is what the verse in Scripture is about: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and unseen.”
Human beings are God’s language
I recently had the opportunity to view the DVD adaptation of Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
I couldn’t help but think of mission work when I heard him remark, “God comes to us in the incarnation of caring people who come and are there for us.”
I reflected back on Rabbi Kushner’s remark this past holiday season as I listened to an 84-year-old family member excitedly relate how she had been feeling sorry for herself. Suddenly, she saw a TV commercial requesting donations for a program that provides medical treatment to children with cleft lips and palates in impoverished situations. She proudly showed me the $25 donation receipt and told me what a good feeling she had from contributing. She added, “This is the first time in my life I have ever donated money to something like this. I was feeling so depressed with no excitement for the future. Now I find myself thinking about that little child and picturing her with a pretty smile!”
Rabbi Kushner ended his message with these words, “Human beings are God’s language. You need to reach out and show others we care.”
Missions—be it a garbage dump in another country, or a stamped envelope with a donation—all reach out and show others we care.