I have led teams of short-term volunteers in Guatemala, but this was my first time leading a team in Laredo for the entire length of the mission trip. Guatemala is hard work and emotionally exhausting, but Laredo is its own beast. I am decently fit and I am not afraid of a full day of manual labor, but the Laredo heat brings it to another level. And yet, I left impressed with the commitment of the volunteers and how the pain of the moment brought them together.
The trip is only three days. Days start roughly at 7 AM and end around 8:30 PM. There are a few short breaks for eating meals and staying hydrated, but most of the time is spent working for the ministry. At one point, the team packed 359 bags of food in a little over four hours in a warehouse with no AC in 95-degree weather. And they even broke records, packing more bags in a shorter time than any other team in the ministry’s history. As Pastor Lucy explained, she squeezes as much work out of the short-term teams to give a break to the volunteers who do this year-round. And yes, every ounce of sweat was squeezed out of us….but the team did it with smiles and gave 110 percent.
When they arrived in Laredo, most of the team members did not know each other. They work for the same company, but in different states and in different departments. Most of these short-term volunteers flew into a city where they did not speak the primary language (Spanish, even though it is in the US), not knowing anyone, and not knowing what to fully expect. But they left united, forged together by suffering, brothers and sisters whose shared experience created an unbreakable connection.
No amount of HR training (no offense to my HR folks) can create that kind of team. Joint suffering breaks barriers and creates a brotherhood. I often see this kind of connection among military units whose pain and suffering are beyond what we experienced in Laredo–but I was still amazed at what three days of it could do. Many of the great heroes of the Bible had to go through their own periods of suffering before they could move on to their calling. They had to spend their due time in the wilderness. Why? Because suffering brings spiritual growth.
In those three days, I saw those moments of growth manifesting in different ways. I saw team members who were working beyond their limits continue to push through despite their misery. I saw three men with over 6 decades combined of married-life experience pour their wisdom into a young man recently engaged. I saw smiles shine through when I should have heard complaining and grumbling. I saw folks make changes in their personal lives for the better. I saw words of encouragement, compassion, and kindness in the midst of the sarcasm, and the jokes, and the laughter.
Kudos to the companies that send their employees our way to volunteer in our ministry. Those short three days helped provide food for over 400 low-income elderly. It also provided love, care, and compassion to a group of people who don’t often get that kind of attention. Their generosity is greatly appreciated by the communities of Laredo and our ministry. But these companies also invest in their own employees by doing so. These kinds of opportunities mold employees into better people, better workers, and better managers. There is no training like the kind forged in the fields of hard-core ministry.
About the Writer:
Luisa Rodriguez is a military wife and a mom to two girls. In addition to leading volunteer teams in Guatemala and Laredo and providing operations support to New Vision, she is the creator and writer of FruitfullyLiving.com, a website that helps women understand their God-given roles and purpose according to the scriptures. She is also the creator and writer of BiblicalWarfare.com where the reader can learn about the Bible’s battles and warriors.
Luisa authored A Royal Mission, a Christian fairytale that teaches young girls about identity and purpose, Preparing Our Daughters for Puberty, a mother-daughter Bible study, and Holy Boundaries, Sexuality Bible Study for Teens and Parents. She is also the creator and designer of numerous notebooks and journals.