Second to the Gospel

I went to Nigeria last November with a discipleship program that I’m somewhat connected to called LIFT. The story of how that came to be and what I learned through it can be found here, here, here, here, here and here. A guest post from one of the LIFT directors is here.

LIFT runs on a semester schedule with a mission trip each semester. They just recently started up a program where students can apply for a second semester, so 8 of the students I went to Africa with are still here this semester. It’s been great having these good friends around for a few months more and I have loved getting to know the new students. It’s been a great semester, to say the least.

One of the things that I had been asked constantly since going on one of the LIFT mission trips is will I be going on another. The answer to that has always been no. It was a one-time deal; I had been planning a trip to Nigeria before the opportunity came up to pal-along with the program. Going to Nigeria was inevitable; who I went with was the end result of a lot of random circumstances. Therefore, another mission trip with the group would make no logical sense.

This semester (which is almost over) the LIFT (class #21) went to Brazil. Particularly, the Amazon Basin to work with an organization called Project Amazon. Because of my history with the mission-side of the the program, it made sense for me to assist them with this trip in some manner. While I wasn’t going with them, I was given the privilege of sending out email updates to their family and friends and updating the LIFT Discipleship blog while they where in the southern hemisphere. While there where some stressful moments (like missing phone calls on Easter Sunday), I absolutely loved every minute of writing their updates.

I even feel like the word “love” is an understatement. I came alive for two weeks. I wanted to pour all my time into informing loved ones of their adventures on the Amazon River. I couldn’t though; I have a full-time job and also went on vacation while they were gone. Thus, I feel like I failed. While I exceeded everyone else’s expectations, I didn’t meet my own. I could have done so much more. I should have done more.

Regardless, the group came home (I got to pick them up from the airport!) and my stint as “official blog updater” ended. While I miss it, I much-prefer having the students back in town; I have a social calendar again.

None of this, by the way, is the point of this post.

This past Wednesday, the group got all of its stuff together and put on a presentation for the community, giving them an overview of the trip. I was technically working during it, but managed to slip in for a few minutes. Just before the event ended, I was called away to tend to some work-things and missed the last part. When I was done with my task, knowing that the program was over, I decided to head back anyway so I could share my congratulations with the students.

Upon my re-arrival I was told twice within the first ten seconds that Tim T (the director) wanted to see me. When he became aware of my presence, he gathered all the LIFTers around. Apparently, he had tried to do this during their event, but I was gone. So with all my friends standing in a circle around me, Tim hands me a very large, beat-up EMS shopping bag (awesome in it’s own right) with something remotely soft inside. They were saying “thank you” for all the hard work I had put into their email updates.

I knew immediately what it was.

While in Brazil, the group had one thing to sleep on during all their traveling up and down the river. With hooks everywhere, they were given hammocks at the beginning of the trip. Every evening, they would hook up their hunk of fabric and settled in for the night. They also got to bring them home (quite the souvenir). This is what the group was presenting to me. A real-live, Brazilian-made hammock of my own.

I was speechless. I didn’t deserve a gift that special. or that cool. or that Brazilian.

This is, by-far, the greatest gift I have ever been given. I had been quite content with the thank you emails I was receiving from their parents. This was over and above any necessary-thanking-protocol. But that wasn’t the last of the goodness wrapped up in that large piece of fabric. I gave a thank-you,-I’m-too-overwhelmed-to-ever-go-back-to-our-old-social-standard hug to Tim T and he said to me, “Take care of that thing. It has served me well.”

Enter speechlessness, yet again. Not only did the group give me a hammock from Brazil, but it was Tim’s hammock, his bed for two weeks. Who gives up a Brazilian hammock? Seriously?

I am now the proud owner of a piece of Brazilian lifestyle. While this is seriously cool enough in and of itself, the fact that sacrifice was made to bring unexpected joy to someone else makes the gift that much better. I don’t deserve this gift, but I gladly receive it. Without guilt or shame.

Pictures to come soon. One of the guys is going to show me how to hang it properly. In a tree.


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