My name is Jenna Johnson, and for my high school senior spring break I went on a short-term mission trip to Guatemala. I had no idea what God had been planning and stirring in my heart. The week before my trip I had a lot going on with college, scholarships and making that big decision that would determine the next four years of my life. I was frazzled. As soon as I boarded the airplane, there was a stillness that I can’t put into words. God put me at ease and I knew I needed to be present in what lay ahead.
As soon as we landed in Guatemala, I felt more in the moment than I had been in months. I cannot begin to explain the amount of joy in my heart as we arrived at the City of Hope and saw all of the children streaming off the bus that brings them to the ministry each day. I hugged every kid like we had known each other for years. I instantly connected with two kids, Lucero and Dubini. Lucero was very sweet and kindhearted. You could tell just by being around Lucero that she was one of the helpers in her family. She has such a servant’s heart. Then, there was Dubini. He was one of the most mischievous kids I have ever met, and I come from a family with five younger brothers. He and his friends would always poke fun because they knew I didn’t know a lot of Spanish, but we would all get a laugh out of it. Towards the end of the week Dubini got in trouble and was unable to participate in the traditional “fun Friday.” He started crying, which made me sad for him. For some reason I felt the need to pray for Dubini and the opportunity to spend more time with him. That night I asked the Lord for more quality time with this amazing little boy.
The next day we went on house visits. I use the term house loosely because a house in Guatemala usually means a dirt floor and tin pieces formed together to resemble a shack. We started to enter the house and as soon as the small door opened, I heard that laugh and I saw those freckles and dark brown eyes. It was Dubini. I knew this was an answer to my prayer. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Our trip leader asked me, “Have you ever prayed that specifically before?” I realized in that moment that I had not. I learned that day what God can do if I trust Him with the small things, and I was excited to think what God would do if I also handed Him the big stuff.
I also remember sitting in a room with Joey, Stonecreek’s student pastor, Jose, the founder of Hope For Guatemala, and all of the teenagers in the ministry. Joey asked the teenagers what they wanted to do before they died. He asked them to list off three things. Many of the teens could not come up with a list. Joey didn’t let them off the hood, and challenged them to think about it, write them down, and bring them the next day. To my surprise, every one of them showed up the next day with three things written out. As each one shared his or her list, I realized the items were all things I take for granted on a daily basis; 1) To have the whole family together again, 2) To graduate high school, 3) To have the whole family know God. I was overwhelmed by their words. Once again I was present in the moment and felt God challenging me to take nothing for granted and rely on Him more. I began to understand what an incredibly relentless God I serve. Even when I don’t rely solely on Him, He is gracious enough to show me what life could be like if I put my trust fully in Him. He offers me small tastes of what it would be like if I took up my cross daily and began to learn about Him, His love, and how He loves me.
The moments I experienced throughout my week in Guatemala helped me to see God’s presence in my life. Before this week, I hadn’t embraced the moments in my life with a readiness to do something. I returned from this one week away with a heart that is softened and a life that is changed. Whatever lies ahead, I will be present in the moments, I will pray for the big and the small things, and I will pursue His love for myself and others.