How Serving in Mexico Taught Me the Power of Letting Go
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I learned the power of letting go by serving others. I thought I was just going on a mission to help the less fortunate in Mexico, but quickly discovered how much more I was to learn.
If you want to fly, let go of everything that weighs you down.
Many of us can recognize issues we have but actually letting go can be hard.
It’s easy to get trapped into holding onto so many things: toxic thoughts and people, beliefs, fear, disappointment, control, others opinions or expectations, anger, and hatred.
And, it can be heavy.
I grew up Christian and have always heard “Let Go and Let God.” I would try with all my might but I still lived with anxiety and fear of things I could not control. As a result, life felt heavy sometimes.
The Wheel of Life activity helped me identify that I wanted to do something for spiritual growth. I also want to improve my relationships. I wanted to give back, contribute to society and serve others. Not only do I enjoy doing that, but I feel so good when I know I’ve helped someone else.
This past year, my youngest daughter asked if we could go on a mission trip to Mexico through Back2Back Ministries. To her surprise, I said “let’s do it.” I work full-time, have very little time, and it was an expense, but I felt it was something positive we could do together. I could tell instantly how much it meant to her that I agreed.
I enjoy serving others and knew this would be a good experience. Something I have never done before but have always wanted to do. Sweating, working hard and helping the less fortunate I knew would be a good thing to do.
I didn’t feel right just asking others for money. We decided to raise money by working first and then if people donated great, but we would be making sacrifices first ourselves not just receiving donations. Although there is nothing wrong with donations for a good cause, I just didn’t want it to be “about that.”
We planned one year ahead. She walked dogs in the neighborhood and saved it all toward the trip. We also received some generous donations from family and friends that sealed the deal.
I love packing, traveling, language differences, cultural differences. It was exciting that we were going on an adventure and that we didn’t know what to expect.
What’s interesting about the mission is that you won’t know your duties until a short time before departure. This is because the staff adjusts according to needs of the community. Our assignment could have been to build houses, etc but we found out it was to put on a Vacation Bible School for at risk children in Cancun, Mexico. It was to be fulfilling through serving and sacrificing for others in need.
I experienced all of those things, but also so much more.
My heart was pretty heavy when we left. There was a terrible strain within my extended family, I lost a very close relationship that made no sense, and three problems occurred just days before it was time to leave. A close friend was facing divorce, my dog was gravely ill, and my oldest daughter and husband were having some relationship difficulties. I did not want to go because of all this. How could I? I had to fix these problems, right?
I had already committed so I had to, but this was going to be a huge challenge for me with not being able to do anything about the problems or have any contact back home to check on everyone. Never in my life had I been in a situation where I could not do anything.
I was so worried about this that I was consumed with fear and uncertainty. It was a weight on my shoulders. But, I miraculously chugged along. I knew I would enjoy helping at-risk moms learn crochet (even though I don’t know how), helping the art teacher set up scenes for the kids, making heart-shaped pancakes (the only food the kids would get that day) and my heart felt some joy despite my troubled mind of concerns at home. It felt good to have these simple moments.
Seeing the work ethic of my daughter was nice as well. She reached out to help anyone and everyone. Language barriers weren’t a problem, she found ways to communicate. It was nice to see her raise her hands and sing in praise. I saw this and I saw this often. It literally brought tears of pride to my eyes.
Each day the team would spend in quiet time completing a devotional and then getting together in small groups to discuss. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the experience. It was therapeutic opening up, sharing concerns and ideas. What’s nice about a small group sharing concerns is you realize that other people have problems and need support as well so you are not alone.
I was touched when group members would say they had me in their thoughts and prayers. They would come to me the next day with a verse they thought might help and it was so comforting how much it did.
I began to realize that the reason letting go was so hard for me was a false sense of control. I was not trusting God and developed over the years an addiction to thinking I had the ability of “fixing things.” As a result, I took on a tremendous weight, instead of having faith things will turn out as they are meant to be. In this wrong thinking, I was carrying a lot of responsibilities and extra loads that were taking a toll.
It was great to recognize this, but another thing to actually do something about it.
During the middle of the week there was a worship service for the team. It was truly beautiful. Dark room with Christmas lights and staff playing the guitar and singing.
Three stations were set up that individuals could go to if they wanted on their own. One was to write down prayer requests and praises. Another was to write your burdens on a rock that would be given to God as it was later thrown into the ocean; another station was communion. It was easy for me to write down prayer requests and some praises.
It was even easy for me to write down my burdens on the rock. But, what surprised me the most was that I could not drop the rocks into the bucket. I held onto them tightly. After failing at several attempts I took them back to my seat.
Why was letting go so hard?
A lack of trust is why.
If I didn’t hold them tightly they wouldn’t get fixed. It was a habit obsessing and holding on. While listening to the music and watching my daughter in awe of her joy and praise, I prayed for the strength to truly let go.
I asked myself what it would be like if I could actually let go and trust once and for all. I felt a voice telling me to “Give it to me, this is not meant for you.” I began to visualize myself releasing and feeling lighter. After several minutes I stood up and dropped the rocks in the bucket. At that moment, for the first time in my life, I handed them over to God and gave up control.
Part of me still questioned if I would be able to resist not picking them up again. It was important to remind myself that I no longer have the weight, God has a plan, and I need to let go and have faith in whatever the outcome is. Since God took them, it was now my job to let God do his job even if it wasn’t how I thought it should be.
I felt lighter and it felt good.
Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.
The week continued. I was touched by a Mexican boy named Joseph that showed me his drawings. He had a notebook full of amazing pictures hand drawn with pencils donated to the center. The children could not afford the pencils at home so they loved coming to the center. I could not believe how talented he was. It saddened me to think how much he could accomplish if only he had the opportunity for lessons. But, he was so happy and proud of his drawings that it was peaceful. He said in broken English that drawing helped him feel calm and he liked it. I could relate.
We were informed earlier that the kids were at risk. They were from very hectic, broken families with a lot of stress. To hear him say how much drawing calmed him and that the center provided him a way to release that made me realize how valuable the mission was.
While I know my contribution would not impact the community that much in just one week, I could see just how valuable the overall program was. The full-time staff had committed and sacrificed luxuries and time to just help these people improve their lives.
It was purpose.
We visited a home of one of the students. It was a very simple shack to say the least. But, the student proudly road his bike miles back home to introduce the team to his family.
It was humbling.
This was a preteen riding miles just to attend our Vacation Bible School. I couldn’t imagine my kids doing that.
The house was a very simple home built out of bricks. It had a kitchen and a bedroom which housed a mother, father, grandmother, two children and an infant. The mother was so thrilled to have the team in her home. She set out some snacks and mentioned, translated from Spanish, that due to the center’s help they were able to add the second room to their home and they were so incredibly grateful. They were so thankful that the center provided a way for her children to get their education and improve their quality of life. It was easy to feel the joy and gratitude in the room despite it being a situation that we as Americans would be disappointed in.
1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
It was so simple, so humble and yet so peaceful.
I thought of the overabundance, materialism, and things we take for granted at home. Disputes over things that were meaningless. It humbled me. I know they faced many hardships and struggle with basic needs, but at the same time I was envious at their gratitude for the simplest of things.
“If you have a roof over your head, food, and a few good friends, You are richer than you think.” – Unknown
I let go of my burdens that night in worship, but gratitude was something I wanted to let in. Gladness in all circumstances. It is possible, I can see it in the Mexican children and families through the center. I decided I would take this memory with me and whenever I felt frustrated with an outcome or situation, I would remember them.
It was time to come home and I was very happy that my shoulders were lighter and my heart bigger. I began to remind myself on the flight home that God had a good plan and I would trust it, no matter what I would discover was happening to my “burdens.”
To my surprise my friend and his wife decided on marriage counseling and are feeling better about things, my dog’s health improved, and my husband and daughter worked out their problem — all without my interference and “control.”
Are you carrying heavy burdens? Ever imagine what it would feel like letting go? Give it a try, give it to God and receive the peace. It’s transforming.