A Theft Struck Missions Trip in Mexico
They stole everything
It only took us under 3 hours over the Mexican border to fall victims to a major theft. All of the money was gone; stolen from us was the collective funds that the whole team of 30 persons had raised for the mission and materials for the building of a much-needed school in the San Quintin area in Mexico. As well, we suffered the loss of a passport, electronics, a number of backpacks along with some of my personal camera equipment.
I've never been a victim of theft before. Due to a series of unusual events, our team left the vans to grab a bite in Ensenada, and on our return we found our money and some backpacks missing from the vehicle. Being a usually very pedantic person when travelling, I felt pretty foolish for leaving my equipment in the van, especially in Mexico. Usually, I ensure all my valuables be on me at all times. In this instance, I kept my essentials like passport and wallet on my person but didn't think too much about my electronics and photography gear.
When idols are torn from you
In spite of the significant financial loss to our team, I found the loss of my belongings strange. This was an unfamiliar experience for me.
I'm a detailed planner when it comes to packing for travel, and everything in that bag that was stolen I believed to be "essential" to life for me. Yet, I was almost in shock that I was still whole despite the fact that it was taken away from me and I was not destroyed or broken but still whole. It was the contention between the feeling of being parted with something that you had formally put your identity in; the belief in my heart that it 'completed' me colliding with my head truth that I am whole in Christ.
It's a strange sensation of how when something inanimate that felt was so integral to your being was taken from you, something you thought you could never live without. The strangeness of the gospel truth inside me colliding with the lie that an inanimate object could be a part of who I am as a daughter made in the Imago Dei
Of course, we all know that we are not our belongings, but our day-to-day actions show otherwise, and sometimes those truths are only revealed when they are torn from us, when robbers rob, rust rusts and moths destroy.
What Christ offers us in loss and injustice
The loss of an object is a small thing compared to the greater losses that we face can through life, like the loss of a family member, friend or spouse. The loss of a home, our health, career, country or community although lesser in some respects can feel just as hard. The gospel does address this separation and loss, but I will not be doing so today although it will speak a little to it.
Christ offers us the freedom to be whole apart from created things that will eventually fail or fade. It's so easy for us to find wholeness, completeness and identity in our careers, hobbies, talents, stuff, or relationships. Yet when the thief strikes or when these things are taken away from us the gospel reminds us that we are and being made whole in Christ. We do not need to succumb to the lies that we are broken when we are robbed of the things we love, that we are still whole and are continually being restored. Because God does make me whole, He frees me from the need to fight back from the loss, from carrying a victim mentality or from the pangs of bitterness and anger.
His Safety and Sovereignty
The hard truth that God has measured through his own very hands the hardships that are poured out on me is also a comforting one. He wanted me to lose something of significant monetary value. I know that He has pre-ordained our loss for reasons above my understanding, but at the same time knowing that the reasons will one day be revealed to me. We live our lives in the presence of the 'cloud of witnesses' who see our responses to the trials and tribulations that crash over us. We have no idea how our 'unseen' responses play in the larger story of God. Because God ordained it and allowed it because He is good and works all things out for good for those who are called according to His purpose, I can trust Him; my soul can rest, wait on Him and see what He will do.
On Christ's return, we know that there will be justice for the loss and the subsequent damage to the missions trip as a result of it. Knowing the price of what that justice will cost, our response is to pray for the repentance and salvation of those who meant evil for us. Because of this promise of justice, we were free from the burdens of resentment, and bitterness, or a need for vengeance.
The cattle on a thousand hills belongs to God, He needs nothing from us, and it is an easy task for Him to replace our losses. Because God owns everything, I don't think we were worried about whether the build would happen or not. We had to make a lot of calls of course and use the wisdom that God has given to us, but we were not unbearably weighed down. In fact, just knowing that He allowed it spurred us on to pray and ask what He was trying to show us. For some part, I believe that He was showing us how this trip was funded by His wealth and not ours. Even in our losses, I was praising God that He didn't allow more important things to be taken, like one of our team's insulin and medication. Because we know God is sovereign and that He owns everything anyway, it helped guide us in knowing how to pray for the rest of the trip. I found myself asking Him to reveal more about Himself, His work and what was the larger picture of this short-term missions trip.
Have you been on a short-term missions trip before? Have you faced some unexpected trials or circumstances on your trip? Would love to hear from you, comment below! :)