Comfort zone. A place or situation where one feels safe, at ease, or without stress. Antigua, Guatemala and La Libertad, El Salvador are both about 3,000 miles away from my comfort zone.
In July of 2011 and August of 2012, I spent time in Antigua and La Libertad, respectively. Throughout that time, myself and my peers were pulled further and further away from our little areas of contentment and, personally, I couldn’t be happier. I can almost guarantee that if asked, the rest of the groups would agree as well.
Without the trip to Guatemala, I wouldn’t know that the best way to wash an egg pan is to let your dog lick it clean, how easy it is to break a plastic stool, and how terrified I am of puppets dressed as construction workers. Without my time in El Salvador, I wouldn’t know that I will fall asleep after approximately 3 minutes of sitting in a hammock, that my favorite way to listen to worship music is in Spanish, and that one of my biggest fears is riding in a 15-passenger van up the side of a mountain.
More importantly, I wouldn’t know how easy it is to pray for someone who is hurting, that it isn’t necessary to speak the same language as someone to understand them, and that God can (and will) use anyone for His glory. That last lesson, I think, was the hardest to grasp, but in the end it produced the greatest rewards.
Early in the first trip to Guatemala, our whole team was asked to write our testimonies. After a few moments of silence, my always straightforward sister said what everyone was thinking: “But we haven’t…done anything.” You see, approximately 94.44% of our group has attended my home church for, quite literally, our entire lives. We don’t have tragic accounts of devastation followed by reform. The majority of us haven’t battled with addiction, none of us have ever been burdened by poverty, and the bulk of us have been serving God since a very young age. To us, those facts meant that we didn’t have a story. To many of you reading this, you may feel the same way, coming from a similar situation.
Just to yank us even further out of our comfort zones, we were also told that every single one of us was going to share our story at either a church service or school assembly. From that day on, people were always seen scribbling on the hot pink pieces of paper that we were given to write our stories on. I can’t remember how many times I was asked what I was writing about (or how many times I asked someone else what they were writing about). Most of the time, we kept our stories a secret until it was our time to share.
After a lot of prayers, searching through our Bibles for the perfect verse, and a few tears – we did it. Every single one of us battled through the feelings of inadequacy, fear, and uncertainty that came along with sharing our testimony with groups of people who have been through way more than any of us could ever imagine. Because we shared, some of us were told that because of our specific story, someone decided to accept the gift of salvation. For others, doors were opened to conversations that never may have happened otherwise. For all of us, we realized that God uses everyone – even the “church kids” who think they don’t have a story to share.
Throughout the collective 20 days between the two countries and two different years, we all learned more about ourselves, each other, and our Creator. Most importantly, we learned that we’re not here to be settled, we’re here to be sent. So now, I encourage you all to live by that calling. Set aside a few minutes or maybe a few hours to put together your testimony if you haven’t already. You never know when someone will need to hear how God has helped you or, simply, how He has blessed you.