The year was 2001 and 20 year-old me somehow found himself in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina riding in the back of a large, thrift store box truck with his head sticking out a porthole type window trying to find some fresh air in a desperate attempt to fend off motion sickness. I could only stand there for so long before the exhaust fumes started to make me feel lightheaded but, from this unique vantage point, God showed me something profound about my own life’s journey.
That summer I had the privilege of serving on a Summer Mission Team which gave me the opportunity to spend almost eight weeks serving alongside the loving, dedicated Salvationists of the South America East territory. For three of those weeks, one of my teammates and I stayed with a corps officer family who had the additional responsibility of managing the Army’s thrift store. Thus, the thrift store’s donation truck became a familiar mode of transportation.
We had driven down the same roads many times in our three weeks in Rosario. So much so that before too long I began to recognize some landmarks that told me when we were almost back home. This was significant to me because, from the back of the truck, I couldn’t really see where we were going; only where we had been. One day, as we were leaving the corps or outpost where we had been ministering, I remember hearing God say to me, “See? Look back at your life. See where you’ve been…and see that I’ve always been with you every step of the way.” As a young adult, this was very meaningful to me because I wasn’t always very sure of where my life was headed or what my past had to do with my future but, that summer on SMT, God reassured me that He had been preparing me and guiding me along the path He had marked out for me. Not only that, He had plans for my future as well! All He wanted me to do was to let go and let Him lead. To let Him drive the truck, so to speak.
I can’t say that I’ve always succeeded at surrendering completely to His will but, since my SMT experience, God has certainly led me to places and experiences that I never would have dreamed on my own. I now serve in full-time ministry as an employee of The Salvation Army’s Music and Gospel Arts Department with responsibility for the Bill Booth Theater Company and creative arts development throughout the Central territory.
As part of this role, I collaborate with the World Missions Department to manage the SMT program known as CAST: Creative Arts Service Team which we founded in the summer of 2015. Members of this team are skilled performing artists and teachers and use their musical and dramatic gifts to tell others about their loving God and sacrificial gift of life given by His son, Jesus. CAST’s summer session includes stops at corps and camp ministries around the territory and, in the past couple of years, we’ve even arranged a ministry visit to a location overseas.
My SMT story came full circle in the summer of 2017 when I accompanied CAST on their visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a leader and guest instructor. During those 10 days with CAST, God reminded me of what He taught me on my first visit; where He’s leading me now is preparing me for where He’s going to lead me in the future. Bill Booth Theater Company was formed only a few months after I returned from SMT in 2001 and I’ve served as that groups’ director since 2002. Now I’m using my experience from that leading group to encourage the next wave of creative arts teachers and ministers.
Argentina will always hold a special place in my heart and I’m thankful to SMT for making the introduction. I have many close friends there and the country itself has become like a second home. It’s also become a spiritual home, of sorts, and a geographic ‘standing stone’; I will always remember Argentina as the place where God taught me many things about Himself, about His kingdom, and about how to love others in His name. It’s also the place where He met me in the back of a truck and asked for my all…and I will spend the rest of my days trying to give it Him.
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