6 Days of a Different Way of Living

It’s hard to believe it has been an entire week since I returned from my first mission trip. And man, do I miss it. It has been a crazy busy week for me. It was as if leaving behind a week of no obligations, slow, steady pacing, and minimal planning meant going into the next week trying to make up for all of the time not spent going full speed through life. I really did mean to write sooner, so I must first apologize for that.  The fact that I acquired some sort of sickness while in Cuba and was still recovering from it days later attributed to my lack of updates.  And my lack of updates throughout the trip was because there was no service or wifi the entire time. My phone was simply a clock and a Spanish translator.  I probably looked at my phone 1/10 as many times in a day as I normally do. But it was just so freeing to not be weighed down by any obligations.

So I didn’t exactly know how to go about this whole blog process, but I’ve decided to just go day by day. For the next five days I am basically going to blog about each day I spent in Cuba, and thankfully I’ve actually already written a lot in a travel journal I kept throughout the trip.  So this right here is an edited excerpt from something I wrote the first day right after I flew in and got picked up from the airport.  We had just gotten dinner (it was supposed to be lunch but took much longer than expected), and at this time we were on the way to our hostels in Pinar del Rio, Cuba which is on the West side of the island about two hours from Havana:

I’m watching the sunset from my breezy bus window as the faint voices of not so strangers anymore undermine the ínstense sound of every single part of this old school bus rattle and creak. The old, classic yellow school bus proudly displays “Taunte Marie” on the side, but is called “The Wawa” and it is our transportation for the trip. Out the window, I also watch outdated, colorful cars — models which I’ve never seen or heard of before zoom through the narrow crooked streets- all of which look the same. I hear talk of the house churches we are going to visit and to be honest, I’m really wishing I would’ve brought my guitar.

It’s getting dark. The ride to our hostels was originally only supposed to be an hour from the place we ate for dinner, but our translator, Manuel, now says it’s at least two. I’m exhausted yet immersed in too much unfamiliar content to let my mind go blank in allowing myself to rest my weary head. All I know about this trip is the names of a few places we might go and where we are staying– Pinar del Rio. I have ideas but no concrete description of what we will actually be doing all week. I know we are going to church tomorrow but that’s about it. The fact that I can’t picture what I’ll be doing on Monday is causing my subconscious to believe I’ll probably just be home by then. It hasn’t sunk in that these faces, this language, the hostel, this bus will all be my life for the next six days. I have no expectations. I have no rules on what needs to be done in me or through me. It’s all up to God. I’m trusting He will use me precisely how He chooses. Wow. The sky is now a meadow of soft pink clouds with hints of orange and purple brush strokes hovering over small mountains and some of the greenest trees I’ve ever seen. 

Bienvenido a Cuba.

FullSizeRender (1)The Wawa parked outside a house in the neighborhood of the housechurch we served throughout the week in Pinar del Rio.

The biggest way in which I was forced to adapt during these six days was the way of living- slowly, casually, friendly, selflessly.  This is the way these people seem to go about their lives and it’s beautiful. When someone says “We will be eating in about an hour”, expect it to be three. When someone says “We’ll pick you up at 8 in the morning”, expect it to be at least 9:30. Not because they are liars or careless or playing a funny joke, but because that’s just life.  And it’s okay. They just don’t put a giant, stressful emphasis on how fast something gets done or following the plans to a T, and it’s really rather refreshing. Life’s too short to waste time stressing about timing and plans.  Especially when nothing should be in our timing. It should be in God’s. God’s timing is perfect. Oh and it isn’t our plan we should be trying to live out, it is oh so most definitely God’s.

One of my favorite quotes a friend from the trip said was “When we make plans for ourselves, God laughs” and it’s so true. I’m an obsessive planner and list maker, and sometimes I think God completely messes up my plans on purpose just to remind me- Hey, this life is not your own. If you have given your life completely to Christ, then abiding in Him first before all else creates space for Him to move and work in your life. This is one of the things He really showed me during this trip. And wow you guys there is SO much more about this trip that I want to tell you all about and things I want to share that have truly changed me from the inside. So I promise I will try to share a lot of it. But just have a bit of patience with me, because unfortunately, I’m not in the relaxation of the Carribean anymore…

But God willing I’ll have a post up tomorrow… orrr the next day.

Love you guys 🙂

Leah

A Leap of Faith… to Cuba

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'”                                                                                                                                                      -Mark 16:15


First of all,  I just want to thank you for checking out my first blog post. Second of all, I want to say an even bigger THANK YOU to those of you who are the reason I am posting this! If you donated absolutely anything –a prayer or a penny– to help make it possible for me to go out and be a part of something amazing in less than a week, I want you to know how incredibly thankful I am.  And for those of you who don’t know, in only six days, I will be driving to the Atlanta airport at 5 am to then fly out of the country by myself for the first time to be a part of a team with 20 complete strangers.  Anxious is a bit of understatement…

Four months ago I decided I was tired of sitting and waiting around for some huge opportunity for God to use me. I just felt this nudge saying it’s time to go out and do it. I’ve wanted to go on a mission trip for quite awhile now, and I almost did last summer, but life got in the way. Not this time I said to myself as I scrolled through pages of a couple different mission trip organizations. In all honesty, I picked Cuba because it was the only trip that happening within the timespan of my spring break. I wanted to do something intentional for my spring break. I guess I just took those dates as a sign… but even then I didn’t know for sure if it was what God wanted me to do. I just knew if it was supposed to happen, it would. And then it did. The support I received from donors was crazy generous!  It was all open doors leading me to the notion that I was supposed to go to Cuba.  And although I knew it wasn’t going to be a familiar experience or a simple process, it was what God was calling me to and I think ultimately, He and I both knew my trust could use some strengthening– a good workout you might call it.

When I openly tell you guys that I am in a sense scared out of my mind to go this out of comfort zone, that’s my flesh speaking. But wow, it’s amazing when I am able to contrast that with the insurmountable peace that comes with the truth my Heavenly Father has so graciously given me.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” -2 Timothy 1:7

My God is giving me the power and authority to be secure in who I am and what He has called me to do. I will not be timid. I will go out and proclaim the name of Jesus to the nations. Like cmon people (!!!), we are all here for a greater purpose than to fix our eyes on what is only temporary and continuously soak in our me-centered world, only living to satisfy trivial desires. We were not made in the image of an ALL LOVING Father to sit on the sidelines and watch others do the Kingdom work that He has called every one of His followers to partake in (“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”).  We are ALL called to LOVE. Because He first loved us. All of us. No matter what we did. He looks at us and sees perfection because Jesus stepped in. And so I want people to know that! I want people to know that they are truly loved not because of anything they could ever do, but by God’s grace through Jesus!! (Spirit fist bump). So yeah just in case you’re still not entirely sure why I am going on this mission trip, it’s ultimately to make the name of Jesus known. We will do that by loving and serving the people of Cuba as well as helping out the churches and their different ministries. And even then, I am not entirely sure what God wants to use me for there. But that’s why it’s called a leap of faith– I am simply going, and the rest is up to Him.

So thank you again for your support and please continue to pray for me this next week, especially as I am preparing for this trip.

I’ll do my best to keep you guys updated 🙂

~Leah