Looking back at the two mission trips of this summer and there is one theme in common: God's plans are the best plans. Let me elaborate.
For the Croatia trip, we were expecting to play music at the coffee shops as a way to engage the locals in conversation. Part of the team was to teach ESL, but the rest was going to be at the coffee shops. We had our Youth Pastor, David, and 3 high school boys (Jacob, Kyle and Alex) who were the guitarists in the group and they had practiced several times leading up to the trip. Once we got there and visited the first coffee shop, we realized they were also bars, which made the 3 of the 4 musicians ineligible to enter the coffee shops. One half of the ministry team was cut out the first night!
The next afternoon, we went out to the park to play basketball and soccer. We started meeting some kids there and the coffee shop ministry became a park/sports ministry and we met several of the kids on a daily basis. These were kids that the church had no contacts with and were introduced to the church pastor whenever they came by. These kids started hanging out at the church each evening.
Then we realized that some of the kids attending the English classes were from a children's home about 3 blocks away. We started taking them to the park and playing with them and some of the older ones started hanging out at the church each evening, as well. Here were many contacts the church had never realized existed. This was God's plan to get these musicians (who also were athletes) to meet a lot of kids in the park.
The music ministry did exist but not the way we expected. David and the Boys played music every evening before the English classes started and they played one evening in the park. Next year they want to play more evenings in the park.
Down in Brasil, we went to build a church, we did a 3 day VBS program in 2 different locations and had planned to do some discipleship training. David and I were going to teach the sessions during the first week and some other men on the team were going to teach the next week. Through translation problems and misunderstandings, the Brasilians expected a church service every evening. The 2 hour training sessions ended up being 30 minute sermons (60 minutes when translated). David and I split the first 4 nights. Pastor Greg and Richard preached Sunday morning and evening. Two other men preached the next Monday and Tuesday and I preached for a third time on the last night. We preached 9 times in 8 days at 3 churches. Every pastor had great things to say.
Pastor Antonio Carlos from the church in Pedros II said that he had not felt this excited since he graduated seminary. The pastor of the church in Teresina said he greatly appreciated that every sermon was scripture proving scripture. Florencio, Executive Director of the Piaui Baptist Convention, commented that he wished every team would be as ministry minded as our team was.
In each instance, we had plans for ministry (and thought out, good plans, too) but God's plans were better. He wanted us to go and be prepared to do ministry, then He showed us what and how to do it. From now on, when I get involved with a ministry or go on a mission trip, I will expect God and nothing else!