Different Place, Same Family
by Matt Brock, Director of Development, GNPI
I’m not just new to GNPI, I’m new to global missions. Sure, I’ve been a part of churches all of my life and been aware of the good work so many are doing around the globe in the name of Jesus for some time. But, when you haven’t been up-close and personal with global missions, I think something gets lost in translation between your head and heart.
This was certainly confirmed for me last week when I went to visit the GNPI regional center in Mexico. My colleague, Tom Nutt, was leading a group of college students from the University of Missouri as they came to help make improvements to the GNPI regional center and to Vida Neuva, a local ministry serving the community in a variety of ways.
Even though I’ve been at GNPI for about six months, I had yet to have the opportunity to visit one of our regional centers. And though I have been helping raise funds and telling the story of GNPI for some time now, I was doing so just from what I knew, not from what I had experienced. In fact, besides a family cruise to Jamaica when I was young, a day trip to Ensanada, Mexico, for my honeymoon 15 years ago, and a trip to Israel in 2011, I had never even been outside of the United States.
So, intellectually I was prepared for the trip and meeting my fellow GNPI team members in Mexico, but I have to say, emotionally, I wasn’t. I was incredibly struck by the different life our friends lead in Mexico. Specifically, I couldn’t help but take in the vast poverty. I daily take for granted hot water, a nice place to live, and other amenities most people in Piedras Negras would never think about.
Second, though my travels outside of the United States are limited, I have traveled extensively inside the country. Whether Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, or many other places, I have never felt unsafe. I must say that in Piedras I found myself feeling uneasy as we drove through the neighborhoods as I saw conditions and heard stories of various acts of violence and gang activity the citizens experience regularly.
This was affirmed for me by Raymond. Though I don’t know his last name, I met Raymond at the home of Miriam Gurwell’s mother. Miriam is the wife of Bob Gurwell, GNPI’s International Consultant for South America. As we enjoyed homemade chili rellenos, I was struck by the genuine love, companionship, and contentment shared by the people around the table (there were about 25 people in the house for lunch). Raymond came in later than most who were there for lunch and sat down next to me when a seat was vacated. As we talked, he said, “I love this family. You know why? In here you feel the love. Out there,” he said pointing toward the front door, “There’s no love.”
A pretty simple statement, but a very profound example of what we’re trying to do at GNPI around the world. Whether good conditions or bad, safe or troubled, we’re trying to add more people to God’s family because that’s where love is found. We love because God first loved us, and when we understand that – when we embrace what’s been given to us and offer that to others – we’ve understood the reason we’re on the earth. When we understand that, conditions become less important and the mission becomes paramount.
I’m overwhelmed that I’m part of the family of God. I now see that, though life in Piedras Negras is very different from what I’m used to, in some ways it’s the same. I’ve got family who loves me here, and there. I’m thankful my family in both places has the same desire; we want to grow in our love for Jesus and help others experience it too. It’s where love is found, all over the world.