After almost 30 years of marriage and clearing the nest, I find myself with a good amount of “me” time. I enjoy working out and traveling in considerable comfort or what’s better known as, 5 star-style. Never would I have pictured myself in an environment with extreme poverty conditions surrounded by kids with scabies and countless unidentified skin conditions, but that is exactly where God put me.
My first experience on the mission field was almost 4 years ago, accompanying my sister, Marlena, to Haiti. Since I felt that my good deed was being there for my sister, I didn’t really consider that I was actually there for the Haitians. To say I had a bad attitude is putting it mildly. Although I can’t say this trip rocked my world, it did leave an impression on me. Shortly after this trip, I went through a family crisis that brought me to my knees crying out to God just as I had seen the Haitians do in Haiti. That was my wake up call. It was God saying, “Here is your choice, Shelly. What do you choose? Life or death?” I chose life. Then my transformation began. I wanted to know more and immerse myself in all things of God. It wasn’t enough to just go to church anymore. I wanted to read and study the Bible. I wanted to go on more mission trips and this time be there for God’s purpose and not mine. I started to have a real relationship with Christ and seeking His will for my life through daily fellowship with Him. Through all this, I have learned that I am called to love and serve His people. I go on medical missions trips even though I have no medical training or experience whatsoever and that’s when I see God using me for His glory.
On these trips, we run mobile clinics in Haiti and in Mexico. Our teams consist of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and a few non-medical people like myself. We set up our clinics in churches or even grassy fields with a few trees for shade and plenty of bugs. Our main objective is to love on these people and share Christ’s love with them, while giving them basic medical attention. I help in the pharmacy which is usually just a couple tables set up with our medicine and vitamins, including an old school pill counter, which I use to fill whatever orders the doctors request. On the last trip to Palenque, I was in charge of patient management making sure people got to the right doctor in an orderly fashion. What a joy to see people not only being cared for physically but spiritually as the hope of Christ is shared.
Some of my favorite times there are when I get to hold the babies and play with the children because they are always so open and loving. Just like Jesus said, “the kingdom belongs to such as these.” I also enjoy going to the local church services. What a blast to witness the differences in cultures, yet united in that we worship the same God whether the women wear skirts and sit exclusively on the left side of the church, or everybody dances and claps in the aisles with arms up in full abandon. The connections made, not only with the local people and with the other teammates, give me a glimpse into the true fellowship we are meant to have with each other.
These trips usually only last 1 week, but they leave me changed for good. I come back with a little bit of each place with me. For example, the new food I am introduced to while I am there. We had a turkey soup and Mojarra fish served with homemade tortillas, which I am adding to my menu at home. More importantly, I come back with a grateful heart for all the ways that He has blessed me. If you had asked me a while back, I would never have thought to call myself a missionary, yet by the grace of God, here I am. Whom God calls, He enables and equips and that is where I find myself when I say “Yes” to God. Isaiah 6:8 says it best for me:
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
By Shelly Smith