It wasn’t that long ago that no amount of money would have been enough to get me to do what I will do for the fourth time in five years, starting early tomorrow morning, February 2.
Me and more than a dozen buddies from Friendship Baptist Church in Sykesville, Md., and thereabouts will board a United Airlines flight from Dulles International Airport to Houston. It’s the first leg of a trip that takes us to Puebla, Mexico, arriving late tomorrow evening.
Why are we going there?
It’s a mission, though not quite like the one taken years ago by the Blues Brothers. We will spend the week doing, among much else, construction work putting a roof on the second story of the Hananeel Baptist Church’s sanctuary building. Men and women from FBC have been making this trip every year since 2001.
It’s a great week of working alongside men I love and respect, as well as with Hananeel members. It’s amazing how well two groups of people who speak different languages can communicate when they love the same Lord Jesus.
Why am I doing this? Well, on Sunday at FBC in 2014, Claudia and I were in the main service when Senior Pastor Mark Massey invited a guy I didn’t then know to come up and talk about “the Puebla mission.”
“I was intrigued and then I heard it: “Mark, you need to go on this trip.” Jesus didn’t have to say it twice. I turned to Claudia and told her I wanted to make this trip. Yes, she was, uh, dumbfounded.”
Understand that it was way back in 1991 when the Lord opened my eyes to see the wreck I’d then made of my life and others due to addiction to booze and my extremely selfish self. I’d come to the nation’s capital in 1976 to change it, but instead I let it change me. That morning in 1991 was when Jesus began remaking me according to His will.
Having been active in churches ever since then, I’d heard quite a few church talks about going on missions. But they weren’t for me, as I had zero interest in going overseas because those places tend to have lots of snakes and mosquitos, the people talk a strange language and they don’t have McDonalds on every corner.
But that Sunday morning in 2014 was utterly different. Despite myself, I started listening to this guy talk about how great it was going to Puebla to help a very poor but joyful congregation.
They had first met in a garage and in the years since, under the leadership of Pastor Estorio and Pastor Israel, they were now in their own building with a sanctuary and a classroom building that men and women from FBC had helped build.
The mission was a week of hard construction work, wonderful fellowship, challenging evangelism opportunities and getting out of one’s comfort zone to serve others, according to the guy.
I was intrigued and then I heard it: “Mark, you need to go on this trip.” Jesus didn’t have to say it twice. I turned to Claudia, my extraordinary wife, and told her I wanted to make this trip. Yes, she was, uh, dumbfounded. So was I, to be honest.
“And I did make the trip the following February, 2015, then again in 2016 and in 2017. I wasn’t able to go because of my father-in-law’s passing last year, so I am eagerly counting down the hours until we depart Dulles.”
And I did make the trip the following February, 2015, and again in 2016 and in 2017. I wasn’t able to go in 2018 because of my father-in-law’s passing, so I am eagerly counting down the hours until we depart Dulles tomorrow.
Throughout the coming week, I will be posting each day about whatever seems most interesting from one day to the next. These posts will give you an inside look at what such a mission looks like and why these endeavors are such incredible experiences in getting beyond one’s self.
The week ahead will also demonstrate, yet again, that the Lord can change the heart of a hard-nosed investigative editor and reporter, who over the past three decades has uncovered billions of dollars of waste, fraud and self-dealing in government, and make him an humble tool of His grace, compassion and salvation.
By the way, the photo above is of some of our guys at the Puebla Airport preparing to return home in 2017. The tall dark-hard man in the center talking to a grey-haired gentleman to his right is Pastor Israel of Hananeel. The grey-hair is Gene Martin, one of the world’s finest drummers and possessor of a remarkable sense of humor.