Our church took mart in a mission trip to Lithuania earlier this month. This post is part of a series highlighting different aspects of our experience and the IMB work going on there.
The first part of our trip that I’d like to highlight is our experience with our IMB personnel. We have one missionary unit in Lithuania, a country of just under 3 million people. A country that’s less than 1% evangelical. Milton Magalhaes and his family have been serving Lithuania for years. He and Lara have invested their lives, sweat, prayers, tears into this country.
Our goal with this new partnership is to amplify the work and effort that’s currently taking place. The analogy I’ve settled on is modern audio equipment. Like a pastor preaching a great sermon, only not enough people can hear his voice. We add a microphone and amplifier, and suddenly the exact same message is heard by many more people. That’s what we hope our partnership can accomplish with Milton—that his voice and message might reach more people than if he was working without us.
We wanted to serve and bless Milton and his family. And I hope we did. But many times throughout the trip I felt we were blessed more by them than they were by us. After a long week before we got there (of hosting another mission team), Milton met us at the airport and went to lunch with us. That same night, he had our team over to his apartment for a great dinner—that Lara, his wife, had prepared for us. They showed us incredible hospitality—and that’s only in the first 18 hours of us being in country. Milton served our team in so many ways—as translator, direction finder, restaurant menu interpreter, middle-of-the-night emergency room driver/liaison, and in too many other ways to mention right now.
There was a volunteer retired couple who made a lot of the logistical and scheduling plans for the trip, so I don’t mean to make it sound like Milton himself was responsible for planning all the details of the trip. But as the week unfolded Milton was there with us giving us invaluable help and great company to go with it.
So Milton and Lara served us even as I hope we served them. I know many of you have seen similar kinds of interaction when you’ve been on mission trips before. But for us that was only the beginning. We had a serious situation arise on our trip and I saw Milton and Lara go above and beyond above and beyond (yes, I meant to type that twice).
One of our church members who was on the trip with us began feeling really bad about the second day of our trip and it got worse and worse as the trip went on. I don’t want to get into all the details right now, but I think it was a combination of jet lag, spiritual warfare, and some other factors all coming together.
Delivering Help When Urgently Needed
By the third day of the trip, our church member was feeling so bad and disoriented that he could barely function. And all this was happening in the middle of a packed-schedule trip. No one, most of all our church member, wanted to distract or take anything away from the work we were there to do. But it was becoming obvious that he was in no shape to go on. But 1/3 of the way around the world isn’t really the most convenient place to start feeling bad!
I wondered—should we take him to the doctor? hospital? how does the health care system work in this country? what are we going to do? I was at a loss as to the best course of action. Milton wasn’t. “You’re coming back to my apartment,” Milton said. Our church member tried to refuse, but Milton and Lara wouldn’t let him. He told them, “I came here to serve you and I can’t make you drive (over an hour) back to your house late tonight and stay there just to take care of me. You’ve got important things to do here.” Milton said, “I’ll drive you there tonight and stay to make sure you’re ok, then I’ll leave early tomorrow morning to be back with the team when they begin their day.” I’m paraphrasing and condensing here, but this is the gist of what happened.
They took him into their own home, over his own objections, at their own inconvenience. And as I listened to this conversation take place, between Milton, and then Lara, and our church member, I was fighting back tears. We were stressed and worried about our church member. We were all emotional at that point. But I had gotten to see firsthand the servant, selfless hearts of Milton and Lara, our IMB missionaries. We came to serve them, but it was their sacrificial service to us in a time of need that deserves the praise.
Milton & Lara’s actions were extraordinary. And I expect what you see in them is what you’d find among our IMB personnel all over the world. I want to stress that we have absolutely amazing people working for God and with us. I witnessed firsthand proof of that in a way many people would never get to see.
So that night Milton stayed up late into the night with our church member, then got up really early the next morning to meet us back at camp. Later in the week, the same church member needed to go to the emergency room at midnight, after another long day and packed schedule. I had to knock on Milton’s hotel room door to wake him up. I can’t ever remember hating to wake someone up as much as I did then. I felt so bad because Milton had already done so much for us. He got up and got ready, took me and our church member to the hospital, translated the doctor’s instructions for us, then brought us back at somewhere around 2am. I know he was exhausted, but he helped us and laughed with us through the entire ordeal.
I really can’t say enough about how much we appreciate both Milton and Lara. First of all for the investment they’ve put in to helping us all fulfill the Great Commission. And then secondly for being gracious and patient with us on our trip and the tremendous help they were in a time of need.