I went on my first missions trip to Nicaragua. This mission trip did so much for me. It opened my eyes to the world, essentially. It also is the place where I received a more specific call into the ministry. God showed me so much when I was in Central America. On one of the last outreaches we did there were hundreds of people packed into a square. They had all heard that we were handing out groceries. There was no stage and no sound system. We planted ourselves in the middle of the crowd and made space. As the choir was singing during the program I looked out at those hundreds of faces, but one specifically caught my eye. It was like everything and everyone else in that crowd faded as I looked at this little face. She was right in front and she was precious - dressed in a faded teal dress that looked like it should be worn on Easter Sunday if it weren't for how dirty and covered in dust it was. Her hair was in a high pony tail and her face was tear-stained. My heart... it just broke. I almost left the choir and picked her up then, but I knew I should wait until the song finished.
The minute the song ended I walked right up to her. I knelt down to her level and just looked her in the eyes. She was still crying, and probably six years old. I didn't even say anything to her, I just reached out my arms and she fell into them. I hugged her so hard and then I just picked her up. I couldn't think of anything else to do. She nestled onto my shoulder for a moment and I wiped the tears from her eyes while I just prayed for her. After a while I decided to take her into the kid's program and see if someone could translate for me.
The missionary's daughter, who was under ten herself, happened to speak both English and Spanish. Yes, this is who I resorted to. From what we gathered her name was Helen, and she had been crying because someone had hurt her. She showed me the scratches on her arms and I saw the dried blood. My heart beat so fast when Elyssa, the missionary's daughter, was trying to translate. She had been hurt. I hated that. It woke something up in me. I made sure that for the rest of the night I gave her special attention. I brought her on stage when the puppets performed. I made sure Elyssa was around afterwards so she could have someone to play with. Someone eventually came and got her, and I wished I could speak fluent Spanish to give her a proper goodbye, but when she left I saw the look in her eyes and I'll never forget it.
I'll never forget Helen. I'll never forget the first moment I saw her, or when I realized that she had been hurt. I can't get her face or her dusty dress out of my mind. It's almost engraved there: her tears, her eyes, the moment I finally saw her smile when I brought her on stage with the puppets.
And maybe God has a theme going here.
I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador this summer. I actually arrived back in the States this past Saturday. Ecuador, and South America, was amazing. It was such a great experience and I can't wait to go back one day. There was a portion of the trip where I had the chance to go see where one of the missionaries, someone who's known me for a good portion of my life, Henry Smith, in his natural environment. It was awesome. The group we were in split up on the outskirts of Guayaquil and went on our way to do home visits. During this time I staid back to help my parents, uncle, and Henry, make a video for the church, and after we were done everyone was talking in the kid's tent.
Three beautiful children ran over and started to talk and play with us. Henry kept going on about how one of the children had the most gorgeous smile. I asked what her name is and he said: "Helen."
I was instantly reminded of Helen in Nicaragua, and as I looked at this Helen in Ecuador, my heart made the same connection. I had the chance to love on her a bit, play with her, carry her around and just make her laugh and it was in those few moments that I think God was speaking to my heart, helping me realize that I'll come into contact with more "Helen's" around the world. That the Helen I met in Nicaragua wasn't the only one I would ever meet to be engrained in my memory forever, but He was calling me to have a heart for numerous children and hurting people around the world.
My heart connected with this so much.
I don't think it's a coincidence that I met another Helen in Ecuador. I don't think it's a coincidence that she's engrained in my mind like the sweet girl I met in Nicaragua, either.
I think it was on purpose that I met Helen, and because of both of them God has awoken something in me to take with me wherever I go - a constant reminder, a humble perspective, and a heart to see that this isn't the end, this is only the beginning of places He's going to bring me and the hearts I'm going to carry with me for the rest of my life.
Helen's only the start, and because of her tear-stained face and eventually her unforgettable laugh, I don't think I'll ever be the same. If meeting a little girl in Ecuador this summer who also had the name Helen helps me to remember that connection and also connect with God's heart, then I'll take it as God knocking on the door of my own heart and saying that this 2012, this trip, and even the past trip to Nicaragua, isn't the end of what He wants to show me is in His heart.
It's only the beginning.
This blog helps me remember that. I carry them both with me now. My life is my response back to this call. I'm going to do what I'm going to do for the rest of my life because of hearts like Helen.