by Michael Jensen
My hands and legs were shaking. My voice was shaking. I gripped the microphone hard with my sweaty hands and continued preaching.
I would say a couple of sentences, and then the translator would repeat in Spanish what I had said to the audience. This gave me just enough time to quickly read through my notes so that I could do a better job when I said the words aloud.
Since I had never preached before, and since I was only 11, I had perfect reasons for being so nervous. Still I kept on, word after word, trying to make the sermon sound as good as possible. I concentrated on speaking loudly, clearly, and interestingly.
Very soon the sermon was over, and I was warmly congratulated by the loving church members and, of course, by my dad. I couldn’t just preach and leave, however. I stayed for the endless photos that the members and guests wanted to take, relieved to have my first sermon over with.
Then some of my new friends took my dad and me over to their house, which was right next door, so we could eat. Since they operated a bakery and knew how to cook very well, we had plenty of good bread, desserts, and tea. Some of us huddled around a little wood stove to keep warm. There among my newfound friends, I was happy.
* * * *
When my family signed up for the mission trip to Guatemala a few months earlier, I never dreamed that I would have such a wonderful time.
“Mom, I’m not so sure that this is a good idea. Besides, I want to go snow skiing! Maybe we should just stay here.”
“Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t go?” asked my mom.
“Well,” I answered, “I guess not, but I’m not sure that I will have fun. I just don’t see what is so exciting about listening to endless sermons, having late nights, and doing whatever you do on mission trips. And after all, I would have to give up snow skiing.”
“I know you would, Michael, but I think you would have fun. Come on, let’s just go. You will enjoy it.”
“Sure,” I answered, sounding more hopeful.
Soon I warmed to the idea and couldn’t wait until the day that we would leave. I remember the tremendous chaos as we scrambled to get ready. My house was a disaster scene, with stuff lying all over the place and my mom trying to get everything in order. We were worried that we wouldn’t be ready for the big day. It came faster than I thought possible.
* * * *
“Thank you for flying American Airlines. Guatemala’s temperature right now is around 78 degrees. Exit the plane carefully, and enjoy your stay.”
As I exited the plane, a rush of excitement surged through me. I had made it. I was in Guatemala! My family talked excitedly as we walked through the somewhat dilapidated airport. We were rushed through customs due to the fact that Air Force One had landed just after us, but at that moment I didn’t care about anything except the fact that I was in Guatemala.
We had arranged for church members to pick us up. Sure enough, they were there waiting as promised. As we drove through the streets of Guatemala City, I took in all the new sights and smells, but my only energy came from adrenaline. It was with great joy that we finally pulled into the hotel. A guard opened the huge gate that led into the courtyard. My mom checked us in, and with happy hearts we crashed into bed. The last thing I remember is my mom and dad tucking me in and praying with me.
* * * *
The next morning when I woke up, I wondered if the food would be good, or if I would be hungry the whole time we were in Guatemala.
“Mom, what are we having for breakfast?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s go and see,” she answered. My family walked into a little building and got some food: black beans, eggs, and watermelon juice. Not bad. I would survive! After we ate, my family packed up and headed out of the hotel to see the old capital of Guatemala, Antigua.
When we came back from Antigua, we went through an orientation to help us know how everything was going to work once we reached our campaign sites. I was very excited because I knew that after the orientation meetings we would go to our final destination–Quetzaltenango!
* * * *
When we reached Quetzaltenango after a very long, late-night drive, the fun really began. I saw the love that the church members and nonmembers extended to us. Their every action made evident that they appreciated what we were doing there. Some of the members drove long distances in a bumpy pickup truck just to get us, showing that they were willing to go out of their way to help someone else.
It felt as though everyone in their little town was bound together with a tight circle of love. I actually spent a night in one of the members’ houses. They didn’t have much money, but they brought out their best for me.
Not only did the church members love and respect our family, but they also loved and respected each other and God. Every day at our meetings the people sang with extreme exuberance, and I could tell that they loved the Lord with a passion. I saw the people’s love in what they were willing to do for each other.
When we had our baptisms, one of our friends actually climbed a power pole so that he could hook up a wire to one of the electrical cables. Then he ran that wire to a couple of hot water heater coils to heat the water in the swimming pool that was being used as a baptistery. I don’t know if it made a difference in the temperature of the water, but I do know that it was just another of the many lessons that the people taught me. Among those lessons are self-denial, faith, love, and respect.
Although I went to preach to the people of Guatemala, these amazing Christians, through their actions and constant love, preached to me. If you want an experience that will change your life, go on a mission trip. It changed my life. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Here are a few more pictures from my trip!
The pastor and me in front of Templo Adventista, the Seventh-day Adventist church.
We were frequently stopped by the police on the way to our church, but always released. This guy even posed for a picture.
After the meetings, we always went to a member’s house for supper. Here I am, drinking tea. (Is that a Guide book I see there on the table?)
Taking the cookies out of the adobe oven “with a 10 foot pole”!
One of the children getting baptized. You can see me in the audience.
After the baptism we were invited to a Guatemala-style potluck. Note the gourds uses as ladles.
Find out how you can go on a mission trip like the one Michael helped with! Visit www.sharehim.org.