by Michael Reneau
We meandered into the courtyard of the small church in Puebla, Mexico-all of 15 of us-pensive at best, terrified at worst.
We knew the intimidating task in front of us during our week at the church Dios es Amor: to build the foundation of an addition to the church-a classroom for deaf children. The church had started a school for the population of deaf children in the area (who otherwise would be forced through the public education system with no training in sign language), and we were helping expand their facilities by putting in place the classroom's foundation and the bottom halves of all the exterior walls.
That was March of 2007. Eleven months later, another group came to Puebla and picked up where we had left off. They walked into the same courtyard and discovered a vastly different sight than we had seen upon our entrance: they saw the beginnings of a classroom-a foundation, and exterior walls standing about five feet tall. And before they left, they changed the picture yet again. When they left that small church courtyard, the classroom had all its walls, a completed roof, and door and window frames. The 18-member team enjoyed their last meal of the trip on the floor of that classroom. This second team had built on to the foundation that our team had laid.
My trip to Mexico two Marches ago was my first experience in international missions and with AMG International. As I worked with my teammates on the foundation and walls, plus several other projects we completed that week, God built upon the foundation He had laid in me. I realized the more we allow God to build upon His own foundations in us, the more we become disciples of Christ. I then discovered, with sweaty brow and aching muscles, that as much as our team's work blessed Dios es Amor and those kids, God was blessing us and making us more into His disciples. That trip with AMG marked a threshold in my walk with Christ and sparked a passion for missions and an awareness of the church around the world.
Through short-term missions and AMG, God has nearly completed a classroom that didn't exist a little over a year ago, but these physical fruits are but a fraction of His work. Just as He built upon the foundation at Puebla, God builds upon the hearts of His people through opportunities like short-term missions trips. Opportunities like these have a visible payoff in that someone is physically helped-in this case, Dios es Amor can continue its education of neglected deaf children. Other payoffs are made manifest, though, as Christians grow in their faith and in the knowledge of a world that so desperately needs the hope of the gospel and the love of the church.
An individual church, too, and its members can see the fruits of God's foundation building. If a church is just a place where believers come to get reenergized so that they may face another week at the office, they are missing out on seeing those very fruits. Involvement in missions-especially in another country, though we can find impoverished peoples in our own inner cities-opens the eyes of a body of believers, and can even break a church's spirit for the world and for its own sin.
As David reminds us in Psalm 51, a broken spirit can lead to so much more than a self-interest church experience. As he examined his own heart, David found himself broken because of his sin, but still looking to Jehovah for salvation from that sin: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (v. 17). Involvement in missions is often the wrecking ball that demolishes the ruins of an old life so that God can begin the foundation of His temple in the hearts of His believers.
Through willing believers, God adds to the foundations He has already laid in the missions fields of the world and in the hearts of His people. And what a day it will be when the walls finally go up.
Michael Reneau is a senior Journalism major at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn.,
currently working as an intern with AMG International and Pulpit Helps.