By: Israel Ramos
I’ll never forget my first mission trip. Early in the morning, I loaded a large van filled with a bunch of high school students headed from Amity, AR to Belize, Central America. I was a Junior at Ouachita Hills Academy and had no experience at all in anything. Growing up in Southern California, we rarely did outside work — that was left for the professionals to do. I had absolutely no experience in construction and we were heading to Belize to build a mechanic shop for a group of people at a small educational institute in Progresso.
We weren’t the only students going. Actually, a group of high schools had partnered together to send their young people at the same time to assist in this project. When we arrived, things were beyond what I was prepared for. The first impression I had dealt with the food — it was so good! Ripe avocados from trees on the property were available to eat at every meal. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches were among the breakfast highlights — I made one for myself just yesterday, in memory of my Belize experience. Most people who visit different countries on mission trips lose weight. I certainly did when I participated in mission trips to other locations, but not in Belize. One of my life’s significant benchmarks took place while I was there — My weight reached 140lbs for the first time ever.
Belize, however, was more than just a memory of good food. On this mission trip, I learned my life’s most valuable lesson: unselfishness underlies all true development.
One would think that in order to get better at something, we must practice. Determination is the key to development. Discipline is needed to advance. Although all these things are true, I agree with this quotation taken from one of my favorite books:
“Unselfishness underlies all true development. Through unselfish service we receive the highest culture of every faculty. More and more fully do we become partakers of the divine nature. We are fitted for heaven, for we receive heaven into our hearts” (Education p. 16).
Determination, discipline, practice: all these will no doubt improve our abilities. I am convinced, however, that none of these will do more to advance the development of an individual than unselfish motivation. We have been created by God to be happy, only when we are unselfish. Nature responds to this law: birds sing for your enjoyment and mine. Trees give shade and shelter to benefit animals or weary travelers. In serving others, something divine is awakened in the human heart — more and more fully we become partakers of a nature that is not our own. Selflessness in Christlikeness. And the development that we receive in every faculty — mental, physical, and spiritual — is of the very highest culture.
Belize sprouted this principle in my heart. In serving others, I learned something that I most likely would have never learned in life. I learned how to mix cement, lay block, and level ground in preparation for pouring a foundation. I learned to put my fears aside and to use the little talent that I had for ministry to others. For the first time in my life, as a 16-year-old boy, I preached my first sermon — in Spanish. It was a mess. But the principle was planted and would continue to show its value in my life year after year, mission trip after mission trip, day after day.
Now I am certain of its value. Certainly, unselfishness underlies all true development. In my training, in my ministry, in my life, I find that always, unselfish motivations will outlast and out power the desire for personal greatness or competition.