Our first-ever “Family Missions” trip to Honduras is now history, and even though I’m back to a more normal routine, I know that I will not define “normal” the same way anymore. On the surface, the week-long trip to Honduras was a life-changing event because of the incredible experiences we were privileged to share in as families and as a team. On a deeper level, the perspectives gained and the lessons learned will continue to keep working and growing within us for a very long time to come.

But this trip was much more than just a few families serving together in Honduras. This mission trip happened because hundreds of people rallied behind us and supported us, encouraged us, and – above all – prayed for us. This was a trip in which a small number of people were going to serve as representatives for a much larger number of people! Even though you may not have stepped foot onto Honduran soil, if you were one of those that gave us your faithful support, then know that this was your trip, too! For my family of four, there’s no way we could’ve gotten the necessary funds together in the amount of time we had to be able to go. From California to Tennessee, though, we received financial and moral support from friends and family that enabled us to go. Your response to my “Mission: Run” made that 26-mile run from Poplar Bluff to Dexter one of my greatest memories, and I was – and still am – humbled by your generosity and care. This is no cliché: we could not have done it without you!

So, to give you a report on your mission trip, let me being by saying that our week in Honduras was a busy one! We stayed at Faith Home, a General Baptist orphanage and school in San Manuel, Cortez, near the village of El Barro. Our first full day in Honduras allowed us to experience worship with Pastor Saul Meija and his lovely family at their church in Pimiento. Their church is still under construction, and at present time consists only of the concrete floor and concrete block walls. Since that makes for a very hot place to have church, we gathered together beside the church, in an alleyway between the church and a row of homes, with a large tree providing plenty of shade. The people of the Pimiento congregation were gracious in their welcome to us, and we were all deeply moved by their worship. Pastor Saul spoke of how the Christian life is one of growing from being a baby in Christ to becoming a mature adult in Him. That time of worship was a great way for us to begin our week!

Our Mission Team had two tasks that were the focus of our mission efforts that week: conduct several presentations for children in multiple villages (much like a condensed version of Vacation Bible School), and also to purchase and distribute much-needed food to specific areas that were under-served. Along with that, we also worked on several smaller projects that needed to be done on the property of Faith Home. Our “Vacation Bible School” consisted of giving away beaded bracelets that helped us communicate the gospel. Each bracelet was formed with beads of black, red, white, blue, green, and gold. The black bead represented the heart of mankind which has become blackened by our sin in turning away from God. The red bead represented God’s pursuit of us, and His great love for us that was shown in the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The white bead demonstrates that God gives us a new, clean heart when we are born again after receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior. Once we receive Christ, we are baptized to demonstrate our union with Christ – which is the meaning behind the water-blue bead. The green bead represents our new life of faith that must be nourished and cared for, so that it grows like a healthy green plant. And finally, the gold bead reminds us of our future heavenly home. Along with the beaded bracelet, each child received a goodie-bag that contained some candy, a toy, crayons, and a coloring booklet. We created the coloring booklet ourselves, using Bible verses and illustrations that went along with the story of our colored beads (in Spanish, of course).

We presented our children’s program to four different villages on four consecutive days: El Banano, San Manuel, Dos Caminos, and El Barro. We also made our presentation to the elementary school at Faith Home, and to the children of a government-run orphanage in San Pedro Sula. We served roughly 500 children during those presentations, and we worked with local village churches and their pastors to help guarantee that the children who made decisions for Christ would be sure to come back to Church for their next service!

To a person, every individual on our team encountered some child, some story, or some sight that broke his or her heart. On one end of the spectrum, we encountered abandoned children that had been left to fend for themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, we routinely witnessed families that were making incredible sacrifices to care for their children – and for others. We witnessed cases of extreme poverty and hunger, and encountered families that had absolutely nothing in their homes. But in every village, regardless of their economic state, we were welcomed, loved, and appreciated. Each of us on the team, though, also noticed something else about each village: by and large, the people were happy. They displayed genuine joy regardless of their lack of material goods. Their joy and peace didn’t come from what they owned, but from who they were, who they loved, and who they worshipped. For me, this was one of the greatest lessons that I thought I had already understood. The perspective I now have, though, shows me that I don’t understand that truth as greatly as I need to. Or now want to.

There’s no way I can adequately communicate all that we saw, witnessed, experienced, and felt in our time in Honduras. I returned home with a fresh sense of peace, but also a strong sense of feeling unsettled; maybe even a sense of sadness. Not just for those that broke our hearts in Honduras, but also for us here in America, in the land of prosperity. I am saddened for those that have such terribly difficult lives, and I am saddened for those of us that have so many things, but so little peace. The gospel needs to be more clearly understood and experienced by those of us in the land of plenty than perhaps we realize. How can we have so much, but end up with so little?

After I completed my 26-mile run on April 14, many people asked me if I would do it again. I answered that perhaps I would for the right cause. I can tell you with complete confidence, that I am beyond glad that I made that run: this was the right cause! This trip is one of the greatest experiences I’ve yet to have in my life, and the decision to go as a family is one of the best choices I have ever made. Every aspect of the training, preparation, and the run itself was so worth it! Although I’m not planning on doing the run again, I do hope to return to Honduras.

We don’t have to travel to another land to serve God and one another. Wherever you live, there is someone that needs what God has put in your life. We all encounter people that need to encounter the overwhelming love of God, and if we are ready to be used, God will put us in the right place at the right time to make a lasting impact. This word of warning, though: the person that may be the most affected by your service may be yourself.

This Sunday at Liberty Hill I’ll be preaching a message entitled, “One Click at a Time: the Motion of a Changed Life.” In the message, I’ll be talking about how God works in our lives to produce change and growth. The changes are more often gradual than dramatic, but God absolutely challenge us to grow. I’ll also be presenting a great new opportunity for us a church, but I’ll save the details for Sunday. I will just give you this hint: water!!!!

Grace Received,                                                                                         Joe Payne