I didn't hear God calling me that day back in 2016. My husband, Tony and I were attending our friend's 50th Anniversary celebration and were about to leave the church fellowship hall when Tony started talking to our friend's son, Dave.
It's not surprising, Tony is quite the social butterfly and I sometimes think he doesn't like to leave any place until he has mingled with everyone in the room. I sat back down and continued talking with a girlfriend until I noticed that Tony and Dave had finished chatting.
We weren't even out of the parking lot when Tony announced, "Vickie.... we are going on a missions trip to Cuba!" The word, 'we' mortified me. "You are, but I'm not." I said without hesitating. Tony went on to describe what the trip would involve as if he hadn't heard me tell him that I was NOT going.
Being a farmer, Tony was especially excited about the agriculture in Cuba and the farmers who were looking for help to purchase more land, grow crops and support themselves. The program was designed to help people expand or set up a new business and suddenly Tony had developed a strong desire to support the people in Cuba. I felt blindsided by all of his enthusiasm.
"God called you to go, not me!" I exclaimed with a different sort of passion. You see, we had been to Cuba on a vacation just a few years before that and the entire time that we were there, I suffered from a painful heat rash and other traveling ailments that come when you travel to a foreign country. I just remember wanting to go home. I remember the afternoons I spent in our rented condo crying for God to make me feel better. How could Tony ask me to go back there?
Our thirty minute car ride home felt much longer than normal. There was an uncomfortable silence that filled the air between us. Every time I looked over at Tony behind the wheel, I could see the disappointment on his face. I looked away and struggled to hold back the tears. Out of the blue, our once happy day turned bad. We were at an impasse, one that I feared was going to cause us a great deal of pain before it got better.
When we arrived home, Tony continued to plead with me to go to Cuba. Now I was wondering why God would allow this to happen to me. My fear was turning to anger. I just wanted to go in the other room and hide. By the end of the day, I felt the weight of our conversation still bearing down on me. I sensed the only relief would be to give in, please my husband and God - even though I did not want to.
A few weeks later, with Tony standing at my side I reluctantly signed all the paperwork and committed to going. It didn't relieve the pressure I felt. I still didn't want to go. In-fact, I felt a higher level of fear come to live with me.
But once I was there, there was no turning back. I know that God used me in ways that I never would have imagined. The weather was actually cool for Cuba. There were a dozen of us on this trip and everyone else complained about the lack of heat. All the while I was feeling elated inside by God's goodness. "Just ask Vickie to pray for that. She seems to have a direct line to God," the others teased. I laughed because I knew they were all just kidding even if they really were hoping for warmer weather. In that moment, I thanked God and asked for the continued blessing of the cooler temperatures.
And I wasn't alone in my fear. Another woman on the trip had been battling with depression and anxiety for a few years already and also went because her husband wanted her to go - not because she felt God calling her. We immediately gravitated to each other. We became fast allies with more than one purpose in mind. "We can do God's work and support each other on the journey," we whispered to each other so no one would hear us. It didn't take us long to realize that God had put us together.
I took all of my travel medication, I prayed for good health, for the people traveling with us, for the projects we were going to see and for the government to not witness us being the hands and feet of Jesus because they would be opposed to our mission.
It really was a 'vision trip.' Tony and I were thankful to have the financial means to go on the trip and to contribute to a couple of the micro-finance projects that we visited while we were there. Yes, God me gave the strength and support I needed to go on this trip.
He opened my eyes to a world I would have otherwise never seen, a world outside of a vacation resort - the real world. A witness to the raw poverty of people with so very little, to a horse collapsing in the middle of the street from pure exhaustion because the owner needed the horse to work, to the injustice of their government against its people when they refused the farmers the feed they needed for their hog operation. And yet - I remember the smiles hugs and love we shared with those people. I truly felt that even in the midst of my fear God used me to do his work.