Another summer brought with it another amazing trip to write about, to dwell on, to praise the Lord for. I went back to Nicaragua with the BCM and XMA (Extreme Missionary Adventures, for whom I have nothing but praises to sing), this time leading a team of wonderful, hardcore girls into the remote mountain villages to love on children and share the gospel with their families. As always, the Lord surprised me with the things he showed me and with the role I was able to play there. Every trip is different, even when you’re returning to the same place. Especially then.
But here’s the part that I want to talk about. This is difficult for me, because it’s oh so fresh in my life right now. And it isn’t pretty.
After every mountain top experience, a valley must follow. That’s what makes a mountain, right? It’s the valleys that define the mountains. And so after every trip I take, I experience a bit of a crash when I return. It’s like homesickness, except I’m already home. It’s the painful experience you had as a kid when you put on shoes that you had outgrown. You return home, and realize you’ve outgrown it. It was probably worst when I returned home from my summer missions experience in Peru because the growth then was greatest of all. But here it is again, faint and nagging in my heart and mind. Have I gotten teary in the grocery store while eavesdropping on the Spanish conversation in my aisle? Maybe. Have I offered to babysit the children of random Hispanic people? It might have happened once or twice.
But I was rereading in the wonderful XMA devotional guide when I realized I was not alone in this. The prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18 has a mountain top experience. He shames the prophets of Baal when God rains fire down upon the altar soaked with water. The Baal guys had been doing fire dances all day, cutting themselves and wailing in prayer. Elijah says one prayer and it’s a KO. Pretty embarrassing if you’re a Baal follower. As a result, the people fell prostrate and worshipped the Lord. This is a mountain if I’ve ever seen one.
But then comes Chapter 19 and Jezebel is pretty mad because she was on the Baal team and she’s known to be a sore loser. Fearing for his life, Elijah flees. Verse 4 says, “[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’”
So let’s recap. Four verses ago, Elijah was celebrating the Lord’s miraculous victory on Mount Carmel, and now, one day later, he’s praying for his own death. That’s how the demons work. They slip in unnoticed while you’re celebrating and before the dust has even settled, they whisper a few scary words: “It’s over. What next?” And just like that, you’ve fallen off the mountain.
But watch what God does: “Then [Elijah] lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”
The Lord provides him with a simple meal. Not a feast. But that meal keeps him going for FORTY DAYS? Does that seem pretty miraculous to you too?
Yes, the Lord has sustained me too in simple ways. He has given me friends to talk to in this time, events and celebrations to keep me busy, and He has set a task before me. This week I start work at the BCM doing Freshman Ministry. My time in Nicaragua has definitely focused my heart on this wonderful opportunity and I can’t wait to see God at work in the lives of freshmen at USC. Of course I can celebrate Nicaragua, but I’ve got to focus on the task at hand so as not to miss out on what God is doing here and now. Pray for me as I set out on this new phase of life, that God will refresh me with his Word as he did today.
It is my prayer for you too, that you do the same. Celebrate what God has done in your life, but don’t miss out on his current blessings. He’s working, even now, to show you more of himself. Don’t miss it while you’re looking back!
For those who are interested, some photo memories from Nicaragua: