I was so nauseated I did not know whether to get on my next flight or go home. It was my first mission trip. A few months earlier my cousin from Texas had called and invited me to join their family and church group on a mission trip to Honduras. My heart leapt inside me as I thought about going with them. I was not sure my husband would approve of my going out of the country, and there was the cost of the trip. I laid those issues before the Lord and the answer was yes! (Please read Thirty Feet Below Part I in the archives if you have not already done so, to understand the reference to it in this writing.)
Packing the last articles in my bags, I felt an excitement inside me. It seemed as if I was on the edge of destiny. The apprehension of traveling overseas, to an unknown country, was swallowed up in the joy I felt about participating in the Lord’s Great commission, in Mark Chapter 16. The first leg of my trip originated in Tampa with a change of planes in Miami. I was to continue from Miami to Houston where I would meet with the team. We would then fly on to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Soon after my flight to Miami took off, I began to feel very nauseated and sickly. The flight attendant gave me a cloth napkin with some ice to cool my forehead. I started to pray. I knew it could not be fear or anxiety because I was thrilled to go. I wondered if the symptoms were from a virus and I was concerned about the possibility of infecting the team. The plane finally landed and I had to decide whether to go home or continue on. I felt the Lord was compelling me to go so in faith, I stepped onto the plane to Houston, found my seat and continued icing my forehead. The moment that plane took off, the nausea instantly left! I realized it was the enemy (devil) trying to keep me from my destiny. It was then I understood he could put false symptoms on people to prevent them from fulfilling God’s will in their lives. I then felt a strong sense of God’s blessing and protection which stayed with me the entire trip.
The week in Honduras was filled with many memorable events, but the most impactful for me personally, was going to a Honduran prison. The prison ministry excursion was voluntary. Nine from our team of fifteen chose to go. The group included five women and four men. Our leader drove us an hour and forty-five minutes out of San Pedro Sula. We travelled from the busy city to outlying highways, then onto dirt roads, passing farmlands with acres of pineapple plantations. The air was pleasant as the sweet aroma of fresh pineapple enticed our sense of smell.
We created a dust cloud behind our bus as we journeyed down a road that appeared to go nowhere. The road finally ended at the base of a small mountain, next to a dated one-story cement block building in need of paint. It was surrounded by a tall metal fence which was wrapped in razor wire at the top. A large rusty wrought iron gate stood to deter visitors from going forward. The scene was menacing and foreboding. Several guards standing by the fence held long rifles as if they were prepared to use them. They stared at us with serious and intimidating facial expressions. Their shirts were unbuttoned because of the oppressive heat adding to our discomfort, and planting a seed of doubt in our reason for coming. The climate was thick, having a temperature in the mid 90’s and the humidity was extremely high due to its coastal location. The mountain blocked any breeze from cooling the prison complex and the lack of shade trees emphasized the unrelenting heat. My mind momentarily recalled an old western movie I had seen years before, which made me chuckle at the similarity of this scenario. I quickly returned to a sobering thought which caused me to question my judgement in coming, but it only lasted for a brief moment.
The local missionary Paul, who sponsored our team, handed one of the officers at the gate a piece of paper which confirmed our invitation to enter the prison and do a worship service. The head prison guard was summoned for final approval. He quickly nodded and ordered the gate to be opened. We entered the building which housed a few small offices and quickly passed through the entrance to the prison yard. Grey unpainted cinder block cubicles were surrounded by a latrine which ran through the entire property, wafting a pungent odor that was as oppressive as the heat. Sidewalks led us to the rooms that were no more than 8X10 feet in size. Each room had a set of metal bunk beds with a thin mattress and a sink. There were no doors or bars on the rooms. The prisoners congregated all over the grounds as we walked through but we had an armed escort, and armed guards were stationed throughout the complex.
Our escort led us to a large rectangular room that was walled on three sides, with a large opening on one of the long walls. The walls inside the room were a dingy grey and there was the obvious absence of pictures or decorations. It was filled with at least fifty men, young and old, making it difficult to navigate to the other side. A handful were Americans; all were imprisoned for various reasons. It was clear they were paying an exorbitant price for their crimes. The heat was almost unbearable and their sunken eyes were filled with hopelessness. It felt as if we had stepped into the bowels of hell. We had to weave our way through the crowd and it was then I sensed fear and vulnerability. The Lord quickly gave me a peace that we would be alright. Our team of nine lined up at the back wall and all 50 prisoners were standing between us and the exit. That day I personally experienced God’s peace surpassing all understanding.
I had been asked to share something that morning. I wondered what I, a middle aged American white woman, would share that could possibly relate to their situation. The Lord quickly told me they needed hope and I had several testimonies of the Lord intervening in hopeless situations in my life. My sharing was brief but as I looked into their eyes, I felt my testimony had made a connection with many of the men. The Gospel transcends time and space, gender and culture. Others shared and then our leader began to preach a powerful word from the Lord. He gave several altar calls that morning, one for salvation, another for backsliders and a third to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The power of God came into that room and most of those hopeless, forgotten men had encountered their forgiving, gracious and loving Lord. Many were speaking in their new heavenly language with hands raised and we were urged to wander through the crowd praying and laying hands on them as we left the room. It was an honor to pray for those men, forgotten and seemingly lost, but remembered by our loving Lord.
God moved in that place of darkness and hopelessness. He protected all of us in a dangerous setting so that we could bring hope and encouragement to them. We were honored and respected by them for coming, and God honored our faith and obedience by touching those men. It is a memory forever carved on my heart.
Since that incredible mission trip I have discovered that fear is the greatest enemy of our destiny. Fear can manifest in many ways. Insecurity, fear of the unknown, concerns for safety, and inadequacy are several fears that can squelch the call of God in our lives. When the voice of fear is greater than our faith in God’s protection, we can be stopped in our tracks, unable to move forward. I was afraid to talk about the Lord with people and had a fear of flying for many years. I felt so insecure and inadequate that I did not believe the Lord would use me to touch others. Over the years, He has delivered me from those fears and proven Himself to me. The Lord specifically chooses us because we are inadequate so that He will be all sufficient! He doesn’t use those who are secure in their own abilities; He picks those who depend upon Him. It doesn’t matter when we are called to do something, or go somewhere that is unknown to us, because He has already gone before us to make the way.
It is not about us having our own faith or strength, it is totally about our having faith in Him and trusting in His power to flow through us. We don’t have to speak eloquently, we only need to deliver the word He gives us. When we realize we are simply a conduit through which His Spirit flows, then we remove ourselves from the consideration and merely let Him work through us to touch others. Our works become simply hearing and obeying.
How do we get to the place of simply hearing and obeying? We make knowing Him our priority, and pursuing Him our reality. He reveals Himself through His Word: both the Old and New Testaments. He also reveals Himself through His Holy Spirit, who is our paraclete-the one who walks beside us teaching us about Him and His ways. Learning to flow in the Holy Spirit is as easy as prayer. The Bible says we can pray in the natural and pray by the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 6:18 instructs us, “With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.”
The Holy Spirit’s role in everything we do is critical. The promises of God are centered on our motivations and actions being in agreement with the Lord’s will. If we are not Spirit-led, then we are not led by God at all. He sent us His Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and to pray through us. Everything we do for His Kingdom is based upon the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance. Our success is based solely upon how surrendered we become to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Lord speaks to all His children, but only those who hear His voice are able to walk in obedience. His voice can be as subtle as a gentle breeze but those who are attentive to His quietness will hear His instruction and obey even without questioning. When we live and move in Him, and when we have our being in Him, He becomes such a part of us there is no longer a separation. We become infused or enmeshed in what He is doing and flow effortlessly with His leading.
His heart becomes our heart. What is on His mind is on ours. Those for whom He is concerned, become our concern. We are no longer pulled by the world and its many distractions. Instead, our focus becomes what He is directing us to do. Our comfort is not the center of His will. Our willingness to go beyond our place of comfort, to stretch beyond our safety and convenience is what He is calling us to do. One of my favorite songs is Oceans by Hillsong United. It cries out to the Lord to take the believer into the deep waters where their safety is only in Him. It beckons the Lord to stretch one’s faith to walk on unknown paths and to trust in Him in unsafe waters.
“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail, and there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand. I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace for I am Yours and You are mine. Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you may call me. Take me deeper than my feet have ever wandered, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”
Those who are willing to dive in the oceans of the Lord to go “Thirty Feet Below” to reach those whom the Lord desires to touch and heal, will find complete satisfaction and fulfillment. We will never experience the thrill of truly entering into our Father’s joy without taking risks and reaching beyond what we know, to delve into the unknown with Him. The Bible proclaims, “Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” If you want to know what the Lord is doing in the earth today, allow Him to take you thirty feet below!