I didn’t want to go on a mission trip. I have never been a real big traveler. I have always been perfectly happy at home with the people I love, just enjoying the everyday parts of life. I knew friends in college who studied abroad and “just had to travel,” and I didn’t understand them. Then I was asked by Tricia, who I had just recently met, if I’d want to go with them on a mission trip to Peru. I surprisingly wanted to say yes. Summer is a hard time to get off of work, so I prayed about it and decided that if I could get the time off, that was my sign from God that I should go. I got the time off without issue. So, I signed up for the mission trip! This trip was something so out of my comfort zone, and yet from the moment I said yes, I had such a sense of peace about the decision. I usually worry and panic way ahead of big events, and have to know every single detail, but this time, I was so at peace about the trip and felt very much like everything was going to be work out just fine. I should have known then how blessed this trip would be!
As the trip grew closer, I was having a bit of a struggle with my faith. I still went to church, played piano in choir, prayed every day, but just believing full heartedly in God was harder than it had been in a while. With this, I looked forward to the trip to help “fix” my faith.
Finally, the day arrived and we travelled to Peru! It was beautiful and the people were so kind! The first night already pushed me out of my spiritual comfort zone. We jumped right into praise and worship songs as our “easy” prayer. Everyone else seemed to know all the songs. Never having done much praise and worship singing, I remember tearing up, already nervous in this chapel in Peru. Maybe I wouldn’t know how to pray on this trip. Would it be like this all the time?
God never gives us more than we can handle, so I did not have to wait long to have one of my major “God moments” of the trip. The very next day, we started talking about testimonials, as some of us would have the opportunity to give ours to some of the Peruvians later that week. One of the full-time missionaries gave hers and it really struck a chord with me. She talked about how she knew God, and the Holy Spirit, but did not have a real relationship with Jesus, until her conversion story where she talked about having a vision of Jesus taking a bullet for her. I started panicking again, thinking, “Do I have a real relationship with Jesus?” After her testimony, we were given some time to work on ours, and I headed straight to the chapel since I didn’t want to have others see me cry. There I prayed, and was graced with Jesus saying, “You know we’re friends.” I tried resisting, thinking I’m not good enough, insisting my relationship with Jesus is not the same as the way I see it with friends. In Jesus’ goodness, He asked me, “Who do you turn to when times are the best? Or the worst?” and the answer is clear, I pray. Not long, elaborate prayers, but little ones. “Thanks, Jesus.” Or “Help me.” But, that’s exactly how I am with my best friends. In a relationship, I don’t want or need extravagant, flashy gestures. I want loyalty and consistency, and Jesus does all that all the time, perfectly. He is available when I’m up at three in the morning panicking. I can give praise when a whole set of my favorite songs come on the radio. He always, always loves me, and is never too busy or distracted when I need someone to listen to and love me. In all its wonderful corniness, I know Jesus is my friend! And I never have to earn his friendship, it is freely given in the most loving way!
The chapel at Centro Pastoral where we prayed that first night.
Now, typically when I have these kinds of revelations, I have to jump right back into the normal daily grind and try and cement my faith and joy while living in the busy, high-tech world. But in God’s perfect timing, He revealed all this to me on the second day of the mission trip! So, I had lots of time with the amazing short-term missionaries, long-term missionaries, and people of Peru to allow this to truly settle in my heart! The people of Peru that we served on this trip are so incredible! Even though they have so little, they have such joy, and were so grateful for any praying, physical work, or joyful smiles we gave. The people also were so authentic; they did not try and show a fake self, and all the missionaries, short and long term, embraced that as well. Our time was so blessed in being able to share our testimonies with each other and the locals, praising Jesus throughout the day, singing praise and worship songs whenever the spirit moved us, and being able to give proper credit to the Holy Spirit whenever it re-arranged our days for the better! (Including an outrageously joyous cross-cultural dance party, rather than the planned quiet prayer time!) Another amazing opportunity we had was laying on hands and praying over those who were sick (something I had never done before!). Calling on God and giving people suffering a sense of community, love, and hope was a great way to bring God into these pueblos (towns). This experience also helped us to focus on God’s great power and reminded us to utilize intercessory prayer! Being able to serve the people of God daily in service projects, home visits, praying over the sick, and simply being an example of someone on fire for Christ allowed my faith to grow so much stronger during this very short period of time!
Near the end of the trip, I explained this increase as that my faith was always this little ember which, praise the Lord, never goes out. My faith definitely increases in size in bursts as I have encounters with God, and decreases during struggles, but there is always this small ember that is constant. This trip expanded the size of that ember that always burns for God, and I am incredibly thankful for God and the people He placed in Peru: locals, those that travelled with me, and those that live as permanent missionaries who made it possible. Obviously, I feel that I received so much more than I gave while on mission, but I know God worked through us in Peru and I’m sure our efforts had more effect on people than we were privileged to see in our short time. I know my time there continues to have an effect in my daily life as I see God and feel close to him so much more throughout the day. For someone who would have said she never had the desire to go on a mission trip, I am eternally thankful that God decided I should go!
Victoria Hammond is a St. Cloud area native and cradle Catholic currently enjoying the single vocation. She works as a pharmacist at the St. Cloud hospital and enjoys serving at her parish in music ministry. In her down time she enjoys crocheting, taking walks, and hanging out with her friends and godson!