Several years ago when I made my first trip to Helene, I visited a small elderly lady who was living in a two room shack over a stagnate swamp.
I could see the water beneath the house through the cracks in her floor. She had no electricity, water or sewage in her home. It was hot and humid with a light breeze coming through the window with no glass. She asked me if this was my first visit to Helene. I told her it was. She said, “Didn’t God gives us a beautiful place to live?” I struggled to hold back my tears. Then I told her, “He certainly did.” As I was about to leave her home she looked me in the eye and said with intention, “God Bless you, George."
Well God did bless me! I was instantly humbled, loved, and brought into the presence of God before I could inhale! Needless to say I fell in love with the people of Helene at that moment. Subsequently many more Christ encounters were soon to follow.
With several trips to Helene now behind me, I can say some of my most enjoyable moments are when I witness others experiencing these similar types of encounters. Recently, Nags Head Church asked me to lead a small group to Helene. Our group consisted of eight adults and three children. We began planning for our trip several months prior to departure. While raising money for the trip and building team member relationships, we grew closer to each other and to God.
The mindset of most Americans who go on a mission trip is to accomplish a physical task while there. While this is true, however the most important task we can accomplish is to build relationships and share the Gospel.
I am so proud of our group for adopting this concept and putting it into action in Helene. Even as our children played with the island kids, relationships were building. What do you suppose God will do with that in the future?
I began to hear of personal encounters between team members and islanders. My heart was filled with God’s grace. Personally I was able to pray with a group of men from the pond. During past visits they would hide from me. Pastor Burnie and I were invited into a man’s home where he played his guitar and sang several gospel songs for us. What a privilege and a blessing!
So, we made some repairs to the deck for MEI, and we shared God’s love with the islanders. Likewise, many of them shared with us. We encountered the Holy Spirit. We became one union worshiping God. We learned the value of a cup of room temperature water. We experienced the feeling of giving that cup of water to a child who has no water at home. Then we watched him drink every drop. We learned to appreciate the rain. We saw God’s sunrise like never before.
Our hearts are still in Helene. Everyone in our group wants to go back there. Meanwhile, I will never complain about the rain.
By George Farah - Team Leader and MEI Board Member