This last Sunday, many of us were blessed to hear how God showed up and showed off in Nicaragua as six of our God’s Grace brothers and sisters shared stories from their recent trip. As someone who has been there twice, it was a blessing to be able to listen to how the magic of Nicaragua touched their souls. I greatly enjoyed listening to them … seeing the beauty of a trash dump through my own memories AND seeing the beauty through the eyes of someone who was seeing this magical place for the first time.

This magical place can cause a roller coaster of emotions and feelings. Mission trips in general can sometimes be a lot to process. Often times, we go into a trip thinking, “I’m going to fix this or that … I’m going to fix what is broken … I’m going to make a difference and touch a life … “. While we can do some of these things by being present and intentional, we also return from a trip feeling like we didn’t make a difference at all, but rather, the people we cross paths with on our journey made a difference to us. The individuals we meet along the way both wreck and heal our brokenness.

Have you ever had one of those days where you just don’t feel like you make a difference? How about a day where someone made a difference to you?I would like to share the Story of the Starfishadapted fromThe Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977) – perhaps you have heard a version of the following:

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"

On the days when you don’t feel like you are making a difference, I encourage you to remember that with one act of kindness, one smile, one “hello” to a passing stranger, taking the time to be intentional in relationship, you are making a difference. In the same regard, on those days in which you feel like a starfish, lost, alone and perhaps stuck, God is there to pick us up and throw us back into the waters of our baptism. God is great at putting people into our lives or placing us just exactly where we need to be to help us remember that we are one family, loved unconditionally by God himself.

Dear God, thank you for the starfishes in our lives. Please help us to remember that we are all one in your Kingdom and that by intentionally building relationships with one another, we can make a difference to each other. Thank you for the words spoken from the heart by our fellow brothers and sisters. Please be with them as they find their way back into reality, yet remembering the beauty within a trash dump. Please continue to bless us so that we may be a blessing to others. May we continue to make a difference, one step (or starfish) at a time. In your name we pray. Amen.

April Schauer

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