I just got back off a missions trip to Paraguay where the goal was to train 70,000 people in leadership, values development, and living intentionally. The trip was amazing!
Before going to Paraguay, I really didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the warm welcome we received. Everyone I met was open to the idea of a better life. Vision and hope abounded. When I started leading groups, I felt like a superstar. Everyone I met was warm, welcoming, and wouldn’t let me leave without taking pictures and shaking my hand.
Though attitude was one of the groups facilitated to try to help people improve their attitudes, I saw it displayed every day. The traffic was horrendous, yet I had to describe the concept of road rage to one of the drivers! The entire trip, I didn’t hear one single complaint or negative word. This was a first for me. Though extreme poverty was all around me, people were happy. I saw people who lived in nothing more than pieces of plywood leaned up against one another with tarp roofs.
Watching as each person soaked up the information and seeing transformation happening in the people I worked with was amazing. I think, however, it was me that transformed the most.
Cateura is a small town in Paraguay, if you can call it a town. It’s more like the slums of the slums. The town is the country’s main landfill. The people who live there are called the recyclers because they make their living by digging through all of the trash in the landfill looking for items to sell and recycle for money. Driving through, there was a horse and dog eating from the garbage and just past that a large pile of trash. On top of the pile was an old vanity, some buckets, an old microwave and some other junk items. In the middle of all of that was a little girl. She couldn’t have been more than 4-5 years old. She had placed all of the junk there, on top of the pile. At first, my heart was broken. Tears began to well up. The I saw her face. Beaming. Smiling. Having a great time! She was playing house. This was all she had ever known.
Out of that town, however, has come something wonderful… the Landfillharmonic. A group of children, led by their instructor have been building musical instruments out of the trash found in the landfill. The saying that these children have is “the world sends us trash and we send them back music.” I was privileged enough to have them perform for us. I was awestruck!
Arriving at one of my engagements, we pulled up under a tree with fruit on it. I asked my translator, Sam, what it was. He told me that they were pummelo fruit. In the middle of the city! He urged me to pick one off the tree and eat it. He said that fruit grew everywhere. After I told him that I loved fruit, especially mangoes, he said, “David, we have so many mangoes that the fruit falls off the trees and rots on the ground. If you see something you want, reach out and grab it. You’re welcome to it here.”
Working with the translators, I had to exhibit much patience (which hasn’t historically been one of my strong points). Feeling the gratitude of the people I worked with has definitely made me feel grateful for what I have and the ability God has given me to help usher others through their own personal transformation. It also made me realize that some people want to grow and be led, others don’t.
I’ve always tried to be a “fix it,” but realize you can’t help everyone. Though you may not be able to help everyone, you can help someone. And there are many that both need it and want it. The transformation, however, starts in YOU.
I re-learned 3 main things from this trip:
- Not everyone in this world wants to grow, even some of those that claim they do. But those that truly do, will achieve infinitely more than those that don’t.
- Regardless of your circumstances, your quality of life is based on your perception of it. Happiness is a choice.
- No matter how bad things get, there is always something good in it. Success can be yours. Whether a mango or life, you just have to reach out and grab it.
I will only focus my time on those that want to achieve transformation in life and break through their lids.
There is a whole world of people out there who are aching for transformation and the best thing we can do is provide hope, opportunity and a process.
The most significant impact from the trip is with my translator, Sam. He told me was headed down a wrong path and didn’t know what to do. After some coaching, praying, vision and direction, I committed to mentoring him. It’s only a week later and he is now facilitating a group to help others grow and plans on many more. His mother messaged me on Facebook and called me her hero. Not a hero… Simply the Law of Addition at work. You get value by giving it.
“You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar