Note: This post – with different pictures – was just sent out as a newsletter along with prayer requests. Don’t get our newsletter? You can sign up on the menu bar of our website – parks-in-slovakia.com.
In life, things rarely go exactly as we plan them… and we’ve found that to be especially true with mission work. For Americans visiting in an unfamiliar culture, changes can be difficult – that’s why we use the word “flexibility” as one of our keywords with visiting mission teams. Changes are inevitable, so expecting the unexpected can help us be prepared for the stress.
Our most recent team – nine volunteers from Baptist Church of Beaufort, South Carolina – experienced this from the very first hours of their trip. But despite lost airline reservations, an unplanned overnight layover, and luggage that was two days late arriving, they remained flexible. When ministry plans had to change throughout their week, they handled it with grace and laughter.
Even though we’ve lived in Slovakia seven years and hosted 15 mission teams, we still often have to remind ourselves to expect changes. But here’s the amazing thing – these moments are frustrating, certainly. But so often we’re so absorbed in our well-made and well-intended plans, that we might miss clues that God is showing us a different and better way.
This team’s visit was one of those moments for us.
Several weeks in advance of their arrival, we planned for the team to help lead a strategic event – a clean-up day in the village of Cakanovce. Our local CHE volunteers were excited about the clean-up day, which would be a catalyst for some new initiatives in the village. Everyone was mobilized, and everything seemed on track for a fun and meaningful day!
But a few days before, we learned that our clean-up day would not be possible because another event was taking place in Cakanovce at the same time. We quickly found a replacement activity but were disappointed at this lost opportunity.
We should not have been surprised to discover that God was working in the background. After conversations, it turns out our clean-up day might have caused some problems in the village – certainly not a good start to our projects there. What’s more, the new activity – a children and family activity in a different village – far from being a “consolation prize,” proved to be an open door for some new relationships and opportunities.
With the energetic help of our volunteers from Beaufort, we spent a beautiful and fun day in the village of Vysna Mysla. We tossed water balloons, played games with the parachute, and shared delicious grilled food together with our new friends. We heard some of their stories and discovered that God has been already stirring hearts in that community… there will likely be an open door for work there when we return from our summer in the U.S.
The Beaufort team helped us joyfully re-experience a truth we all need to be reminded of: We can make our own very good plans, and sometimes they work out. But when they don’t work out, God may be showing us there’s a different – and often better – way. We can allow ourselves to be bitter… or we can choose to laugh and watch to see what God is up to.
We’re thankful to the Baptist Church of Beaufort for supporting this group, and to the team for great work and helping us remember that God works through changed plans!