By Nicholas Ngai
For those of you reading this who don’t know me, I’m a recently graduated Youth from Valley Christian High School and am going off to University of California, Berkeley, this upcoming Fall. Over the summer between high school and college, I went on a short term missions trip (STM) to Mexicali, Mexico, over a period of one week, and while it wasn’t a super long period of time, I was still awed by the amount that God worked both in the lives of the people of Mexicali as well as our own lives.
When we arrived to the C&MA Mexicali Missions Base on Monday, I did carry with me some fears about the ministries we would be doing throughout the week. The largest of these was that the language barrier was going to be pretty high this year. Unlike the last couple years, we didn’t have any team members who were very proficient in Spanish. I still had faith that God was definitely going to work through the team, but I had my doubts on how much God would work through me, specifically, having taken four years of French, rather than Spanish.
That being said, God dispelled those fears hours after we arrived at the Missions Base. We attended a church service at a recently founded church by the Missions Base’s director, Gil Blanco, and God assured me there that my fears were and are insignificant to His power. Different as the languages we speak may be, we are all still united under God’s love and tied together by the universal language of worship (cheesy but true), and learning to both pray and receive in the spirit was a common theme that came up time and time again throughout the week, whether it be blessing Oasis Church’s leadership staff or receiving a blessing from their congregation in turn.
I also realized something else during that church service: There is no standard to be met before something qualifies as “worship.” At church, I always want everything to fit in place and to be exactly so. Yes, I want to strive for excellence in the things that God has charged us to do, but He reminded me that night that even the most humble of situations glorify the Lord, regardless of how loud the drums are or the position of the lights on the ceiling.
The ministries that we engaged in during our week in Mexicali were homeless ministry in the park, construction ministry for Oasis Church, and a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Oasis with the theme of “Light.” I’ll address each of these one at a time.
The homeless ministry was perhaps the ministry I was most worried about, due to both the language barrier and the fact that these were people that were extremely different from me. We spent each morning preparing several hundred burritos and gallons of juice to hand out at the park, but, as was emphasized many times, our primary ministry was to pray over the homeless. Yes, we did pray in English, but we could definitely see their hunger to know Christ as their Savior and Abba Father, and we have faith that the Spirit was moving within them. Indeed, there was also a spiritual element that was taking place on the days we went to the homeless ministry, because there were several occasions when many distractions started coming up as the testimony-sharing time began; there was even a time a fight threatened to break out amongst the people. However, God showed His power even then, as they all miraculously disappeared when we started praying against them in the name of Jesus.
The construction ministry was where we did most of our grunt work for Oasis Church (and also where we sweated the most!). We helped put up waterproofing and chicken wire for the classrooms of Oasis, which exhausted us physically despite the lower heat, but much of the spiritual ministry that took place was in our interactions with the people working at Oasis. Juan, the Head of Operations, as well as Pastor Carlos and several youth from the church all helped out as we did our construction work, and while we worked, we managed to bond with each other despite the fact that we didn’t speak each other’s languages. One particular moment that sticks out to me was when our two teams convened at Oasis Church after our respective ministries, and we walked in on a couple of the local Youth playing worship songs on the keyboard. I actually recognized several of the songs they were playing, such as “Build My Life” and “Reckless Love,” and, before long, all of us were musically worshipping God in our own languages, yet another reminder of our connection that transcends earthly boundaries.
I do want to say that there were definitely many instances that re-emphasized the importance of relying on God throughout this entire missions trip, because there were many times that we would have floundered and failed if not for Him. Aside from the aforementioned instances during the homeless ministry, the worship team, which I was a part of, also experienced this a couple times. Right before the worship session that we led during Oasis’s Thursday night service, we underwent several spiritual attacks, and I was asked last-minute to lead the worship for the night. I was initially fairly hesitant to accept this, since I definitely had not been trained to do so, and I wasn’t as familiar with the songs, the songs were not in a key I was good with, and so on and so forth. But God reminded me that it is in His power that we do things, not on our own, and, ultimately, by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit was definitely present during our worship time, despite our own doubts and the schemes of the Enemy.
Finally, as for my own, personal ministry, while I definitely went into the trip expecting God to do something, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. I think even now, it’s still a little fuzzily defined for me, since the problem being addressed has been something that has been with me for a long time, and it’s still continuing as I write this. But it is clear to me the message God was re-emphasizing to me time after time. The verse that sticks out was one of the verses we read in TWA during the week…Psalm 139:16…“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Believe it or not, as much as people at church perceive me to super smart and knowledgeable, one of the largest things I still don’t remotely understand is myself. Long story short, I have dealt with some emotional burdens for a long time and I really have no idea why I care so much about the issue. It doesn’t fit with my personality, nor does it logically make sense to me, so I don’t understand why it is on my mind so frequently. But the fact of the matter is that it is, and, while I may not understand, God does. He knows me, and I can’t perceive the reasons behind His ministry to me from my limited and finite point of view, but I have faith that His reasons for me are good, all the time. My time in Mexicali and the following weeks afterwards have been mostly a time of revelation for me, slowly but surely. He is revealing to me where the holes are in my life where I haven’t quite committed to him. And, as that occurs, then the process of healing in my life begins. I don’t know what His timing is or how it will happen, but, again, He does, and my responsibility now is faith and continued seeking of His ministry.
There were many other things that happened outside of what I mentioned, and perhaps the tens of pages of testimonies that each member of our team has collectively written will get a little closer to conveying the sheer number of things that God did in Mexicali. Even more, while it wasn’t the focus of our mission, we also bonded in our fellowship with each other, had fun both praying and playing with one another, and got a little closer to the staff of the Mexicali Missions Base over both fellowship and foosball. But, overall, while we were only a small team this year with a short timeframe, God still moved in indescribable ways in both the people of Mexicali and ourselves. As I go off to college (especially UC Berkeley), I will always try to remember the things God has done in my life and perceive the ministry He is doing presently, as my confidence for the future.