This year marked the fifth in the past six that I have joined a devoted and talented team of nearly two dozen men and women who are present and former members of Friendship Baptist Church (FBC) in Sykesville, Md., on a week-long mission to Puebla, Mexico.
At the outset, let me be clear that my saying this is not “virtue signaling” on my part. That God led me for the first time to go on this mission trip in 2015 was in itself a miracle and concrete evidence of how radically He has transformed a previously selfish, booze-addicted and politics-obsessed egotist with a new heart and desire to love and serve Him, my family, fellow believers, and my neighbors. I get zero credit here, it’s all to His credit and glory.
Led by Senior Pastor Mark Massey beginning in 2001, the FBC mission team has worked with the extraordinary pastors, members and friends of Hananeel Baptist Church in Puebla in building a facility that began as a small garage and is now a beautiful sanctuary, classroom building and courtyard.
Hananeel began as a tiny group, and has since grown to a thriving congregation of 250 Pueblans, who are today enthusiastically worshiping Jesus Christ, doing charitable and other good works in the community, and sharing the Good News of the Gospel throughout Puebla.
As described elsewhere on HillFaith in the past week (see here and here, for example), the team erected a roof on the third-floor of the sanctuary building and completed extensive re-wiring of the facility’s electrical system.
The evangelism component of the team also travelled to a satellite church and small gatherings in four separate villages located quite a distance from Hananeel, presenting a medical clinic for pregnant women and other adults, soccer coaching sessions for the kids led by Pastor Nevil Johnson, and personal visitations with grieving and/or extremely impoverished families, led by Blair Radney, a man with a heart for evangelism.
All of us were exhausted by the time we boarded a United Airlines flight back to the states early Saturday morning. As it turned out, however, the time for sharing and fellowship did not end when the aircraft went wheels-up.
After we had been in the air a while, I noticed my seat-mate was watching a video that looked somehow familiar on his cell phone. Turns out that he was watching a courtroom scene from the movie “God’s Not Dead 2” featuring J. Warner Wallace, the NBC Dateline “cold-case detective” who appears regularly here on HillFaith.
Naturally, “Javier” and I engaged in a discussion — initially about how great Wallace and the movie are — and then the usual commercial flying questions about where we were going, our families and so forth. He was born and raised in the Caribbean, then came to the states, became a medical doctor and has practiced in the Midwest for 30 years.
As it happened, Javier had been involved in a serious automobile crash in Puebla months ago that led to the deaths of multiple people in the other vehicle. The crash resulted in costly litigation and immense emotional challenges for him as he was unjustly accused of being at fault. Fortunately, he has video evidence of the crash that makes clear he was not at fault.
But the litigation crisis was not quite over and Javier said it had sorely tried his faith. He had stumbled on to the movie only a few days prior and was watching it for the third time because it was such a blessing in reminding him that God is in control no matter our outward circumstances.
As the song says, God is good all the time and all the time God is good. No matter where you are in life. And God willing, I will be heading back to Puebla this time next year.