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ImageThe next several months were a whirlwind of things to get accomplished in order to make the trip a success as best I could. I began the process of breaking each episode down to individual parables and segments of scripture so we could quickly show a specific story while evangelizing. I started asking our CrossTalk audience to donate tablets that could be used for this project. I asked people to help by sending money to buy water filters to deliver to pastors and to collect every and any flash drive or SD card I could find to load the content on them. And the team continued to develop the curriculum.

Once the curriculum was delivered in its earliest forms, a member of my brothers church offered to organize the content into a more professional format for such a curriculum. Marla Wharton, an educator with both missions and curriculum developing experience, did just that.

Once Marla sent her versions back to me, I began the process of fine tuning, adding more content, and formatting the copy for consistency and greater visual appeal.

By the week of our trip, I was in a state of minor depression because how much I had on my plate and all the attacks that came at me personally. Attacks are many times unable to be planned for and that was the case for almost every one that came for me. It was the Saturday before our Monday trip and I remember sitting at the computer frantically trying to prepare the tablets, the DVD’s, the flash drives and SD cards, and get my other things together. I had my nephews birthday, a photo shoot, a worship service to finish preparing for, a plan for the office to prepare in my absence, a 10 page paper due for one of my masters level classes, and I wanted to still spend time with my children before leaving them for 10 days. My son had also been asking that I help him with his class project and also help him make a poster because he was running for the fifth grade class president at school. My second son also had a project that he needed help with as well. I was overwhelmed and beat down to the point of tears which doesn’t happen very often at all. I sat behind the computer and continued working, going on just hours of sleep from the past several days combined, and tears just flowed steadily from my eyes as I wept in surrender. I simply could not do any more without strength from The Lord. I was spent in every way possible and was now using my last measure of energy to weep in defeat.

There was a huge pressure weighing on my shoulders to do everything I could to lead this trip with excellence for the 15 other individuals who were joining me. Pastor Everette and my brother, pastor Ben, had pitched this Journey to Cuba to their congregations on my word that it was a good thing. My father had permitted me to steer our ministry into a whole new world on the premise that I said I felt it right. I did not want 15 people to raise money, take off work, and leave their families for something that was not ready. With that, there was absolutely nothing in my mind that would allow me to stop working to make sure every ministry detail was in order that I was capable of doing. Unfinished DVDs, unloaded tablets or drives, incomplete lessons were not an option.

One of the biggest sources of emotional rise was the large amount of anxiety I had about customs. My last trip began with a four hour interrogation over items I was bringing into the country. While I was encouraging the group not to worry, I was bringing in far more this time and we still did not have our religious visas worked out. What we were attempting was nothing short of extreme boldness (perhaps obvious stupidity to some).

It was at this point that the scripture came to mind from Isaiah 40:31

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

It was in my weakness that I was encouraged. That certainly didn’t stop the tears but it was a healthy reminder that I cannot accomplish what is necessary without the help of my Christian brothers and sisters and I have to rely on The Lord for everything. I was also reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I finished the last of the lessons and got them sent off to my other brother, Caleb‘s pastor, Jason Exley. Jason had agreed to translate the lessons into Spanish for us even though we were leaving in less than 48 hours. Nevertheless, he got them all completed and got them back to me by Sunday evening the night before we left.

I was able to get my sons poster done and both of their projects done thanks to my sister, Emma. I was also able to spend time with my family at my nephews 10th birthday and I did get to help a friend out by taking their family pictures. Sunday afternoon, after a wonderful service and excellent thanksgiving style lunch with our OASIS group (Older Adults Still In Service), I went home and got many of my things packed for the trip. At around 10 or 11 PM, I finally went back up to the church to work on formatting and printing of the lesson plans in Spanish. It was roughly 6:00am when I finally finished formatting, printing, and organizing all the lessons and the various details I needed with me for the trip. I went home, grabbed the family, and headed back up to the church for the official start of my second Journey to Cuba.

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