Alex P., Paraguay LIFE Team Participant, shares his experience below.
I was expecting to simply do some business workshops and that was it – but God had greater plans.
I felt called to do missions when I was a teenager but never acted upon it. Life got in the way – going to school, finding a job, getting married, buying a house, having kids, etc.
One Sunday, the pastor of my church had a sermon about "rekindling lost dreams" and, immediately, I thought about missions.
When I came across Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s booth at Missions Fest in January 2018, they really got my attention. I searched through the LIFE Team trips and saw that the Paraguay trip needed volunteers with a business background to teach on financial literacy, which is sort of what I already do in my profession! This was a sign that God was calling me there.
So, I went on the trip to Paraguay to serve with Diaconia (GAiN’s in-country partner that provides micro-loans to help women get out of the cycle of poverty). There, I did workshops on financial literacy, how to start a business and managing personal finances.
We also visited several Diaconia Trust Groups – groups of about 15 people, who receive a group loan and help hold each other accountable to pay back their loans. Then we visited some of the local businesses of Diaconia clients. We got to see how the micro-loan program has impacted their lives.
Near the end of our week, we visited Jesus Responde (Global Aid Network’s other partner in Paraguay) and went to a wholistic community centre that partnered with a church to do AWANA Children’s Ministry and spent the day with the children and staff there.
In the middle of the week, I also had an opportunity to lead a devotional for the Diaconia staff. I tried to keep an open mind to whatever God had in store for me. I was busy preparing the business presentations leading up to the trip, so I didn’t have too much time to meditate on it beforehand. I was expecting to simply do some business workshops and that was it – but God had greater plans.
The devotional that I shared with the Diaconia staff was something I didn't prepare beforehand, perhaps only 30 minutes the night before. After several conversations with the local staff at Diaconia, it became apparent to me that because of the history with the Triple Alliance War and how it has affected the culture in Paraguay, the family unit is broken.
With the current culture in Paraguay right now, it generally accepted as normal for men to not be involved in family life, even being unfaithful to their wives. Some men are not present, leaving the burden to raise families to the women.
I felt that God called me to direct my devotional toward the men, talking about the importance of prioritizing family as a husband and father.
The staff at Diaconia really thanked me for speaking on the topic (even the women too). One lady said to me that no one has ever spoken on that topic like that before, and the men really needed to hear it.
There was great fruit from my devotional, as it even sparked more conversation with our missions team throughout the week! My initial intention was just to direct the devotion towards the men, but God multiplied the fruit by also blessing the women!
I feel that I showed God's love by serving the people through financial literacy workshops, leading a devotional, listening to people's stories and speaking into their lives, and spending time with the kids at the community centre.
What impacted me the most was listening to people's stories about how God has changed their lives through Diaconia, Jesus Responde and the local church. As long as we get out of our own way and say yes to God, He will open up doors and bless you abundantly.
I hope that sharing my experience with my family and friends will inspire them to also serve locally or abroad. I am most definitely thinking of going back! I've already made plans to return next year, and in the meantime, starting to learn Spanish.
If you want to go on a mission trip, do it! There is never going to be a perfect time to go. Life will get in the way and you can make up hundreds of excuses not to do it, but if you feel called don't ignore it. Say yes to Him and He will take care of the rest. You will be glad you did. You may even think "why didn't I do this sooner?” You will be blessed greater than you can imagine!