This past Sunday night, with my grandson and others, I returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua. The previous weeks had been spent preparing for the trip – assembling the layettes and personal care kits we would distribute in hospitals, taking care of myriad details that always arise when you are preparing to be away for several days, paying bills that would come due while you’re gone… the list goes on and on.
Not least among these is filling out the necessary forms for the mission trip. This trip falls under the umbrella of United Methodist Church Volunteers in Mission program, so it is necessary to complete all their required forms.
On one form the missioner declares his or her desire for care of his body should he die while in the country of service. I have always considered that just another routine which had to be done before I could go – nothing to be truly concerned about, did it but gave it little regard.
After a week of working around the school our team has helped to build, our mission trip ended on Saturday with a day of fun and sightseeing – zip-lining for some, a horseback ride to the rim of a volcano for others, a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua or a carriage ride around the city of Granada – a day of fellowship and relaxation. This was all climaxed with dinner in an excellent steakhouse before the bus ride back to our guest house residence.
Then early Sunday morning, it was departure time for part of the team.
A few years ago, some team members began staying over an extra four days for sightseeing and vacationing, seeing a pretty part of the country. Over that time, we came to appreciate the country for what it has to offer rather than just the neediest parts of a city. Since the international airfare has already been paid, these vacationing days are really quite inexpensive.
I had taken advantage of that opportunity for the past three or four years. In fact, along with Arron and Marilynn, I was signed up for it this year as well. Then, for a variety of reasons, we changed our plans and would do only the mission trip. Also, Marilynn decided she couldn’t make the mission trip either. So Arron and I were in the group who returned Sunday.
In the early afternoon on Monday, I got a phone call from another team member who had also come home on Sunday reporting she had received a call from a team member in the vacationing group. VERY unusual. The vital message? Rick had collapsed on the beach! “Please notify others and everybody pray.”
Rick, the biggest, tallest, gentle giant of a guy on the team; Rick, the man whose heart was totally given to Nicaraguan kids; Rick, the best loved of all the team among the Nicaraguans; Rick, the man on the team who had made the most trips (more than 20, I think); Rick, the man to ask whatever question you had. He had or would find an answer.
He had collapsed while swimming on the beach during the vacation days. CPR was done for 30 minutes, but he couldn’t be revived. Just like that!
He had been awake and alert to see us off Sunday morning and had then gone to the beach with the rest of the team. He had worked hard during the working part of the trip. Now, he was relaxing, having fun, enjoying fellowship time with his wife and friends, and very suddenly God called him home.
Was he prepared to go? Oh, yes! There’s no doubt about that! He loved Jesus, served Jesus, and shared Jesus. The important question now is, do YOU know Jesus? Do YOU serve Jesus? Do YOU share Jesus?
Helen Guilford can be reached at [email protected]