When Things Changed

This month’s guest writer is Jillian Hunt. Jillian and her husband Andrew have been on three mission trips with Back2Back Ministries. They live in Cincinnati, Ohio with their three children, and they attend Vineyard Cincinnati. 

In 2015 my husband and I were celebrating our 15-year wedding anniversary. We originally planned to take a trip together to celebrate. As we tried to decide on a location, visions of all-inclusive resorts, lazy rivers, and beach days danced through my head. But no location ever felt quite right.

Our fifteenth wedding anniversary also coincided with our family’s five-year anniversary of attending Vineyard Cincinnati. We were active in the children’s ministry and, at the time, I would’ve said we were comfortable in our spiritual skin – perhaps a flag that all was not as it should be. In the midst of still trying to decide where to take our anniversary trip, the idea of a mission trip came to me during a church service one Sunday. Although I was surprised by the thought, I discussed it with my husband and suggested we do this in lieu of a tropical anniversary trip. We began to gather more information about what that would look like, how much it would cost, and where we might go when I discovered Vineyard Cincinnati partners with Back2Back Ministries. I knew we were following the right steps in making this decision when we realized the cost of the trip was the exact amount we had budgeted.

Six months later we boarded a plane for Monterrey, Mexico. Anxiety crept in as we grew closer to our destination. I began to question if we made the right decision; this was our anniversary trip, but my husband and I were sleeping in separate buildings and our showers were limited to three minutes.

The uncertainty and anxiety quickly dissipated.

The trip unfolded and I felt God light a fire within my heart. As we worked on projects, set up a library, and played with the children in the homes I realized our team was pouring out God’s love into the children, the caregivers, and the Back2Back staff and I began to feel a whole new sense of purpose. It was on the night of extended worship, though, 1,318 miles from my home that I heard and recognized God’s voice for the first time in my life.

When we returned, my husband and I got involved in the church’s Mission Impact Team helping to develop curriculum for mission teams pre, during, and post trip. During that time, I was asked to help lead one of the upcoming trips the church was taking. I felt extremely underqualified. I had only been on one mission trip and I still wasn’t exactly comfortable praying out loud in front of people, but I felt God asking me to say yes and grow. Instead of returning to Monterrey, our team would be heading to Mazatlán, Mexico. Anxiety crept in as I worried about whether the team would have the same impacting experience I had the summer before, and I felt sure nothing would compare to the big palapa, the mountain view, and the ways God revealed Himself in Monterrey.

It wouldn’t be long before I knew how wrong I was.

July, 2016 came and our team of twenty-seven set out for Mazatlán. We worked harder than we had ever worked. Through all the hard work during the days and team debriefings that bonded our team at night, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson – when you are obedient, God shows up in ways you never thought possible.

Two months later, my husband and I were approached about leading a trip in 2017. I quickly agreed, and was encouraged to pray about leading a team to Haiti. Standing in the back of the church auditorium I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and tears raced down my cheeks. I knew with 100% certainty I would lead the team to Haiti because God had a plan.

May of 2017 found our team of twelve leaving for Haiti. Haiti was the toughest trip we had experienced. We did practical projects, played with the children, and experienced Haitian culture. Debriefing each night proved to be strengthening both emotionally and spiritually. Returning from Haiti had us both feeling like we’d left a piece of our hearts behind. It was the first trip we returned from feeling unsettled and in need of time to process. I realized, in my hurt of missing Haiti, this was the beginning of another amazing chapter in God’s story for us. I have found that every time God shatters my heart, He puts the pieces back together with something more remarkable than before.

So here we sit, having experienced three different Back2Back sites – each one unique and having strengthened our relationship with God and each other. The story has changed since that first trip to Monterrey, but it develops with each new site we visit. Each site, and the children we meet there, add to our adventure, and as God weaves this journey with the shattered pieces of our hearts, we wait obediently for what is next.

Wild. Fearless. Reckless. A willingness to trust even when lacking understanding. As Back2Back Ministries celebrates 20 years, we want to share how stepping into the global orphan care movement has made your faith more wild, fearless, and, perhaps, even a bit reckless. #Back2Backat20

Share your story!