I told this story in church this morning, and I promised Kathryn Hoyle that I’d record it in a note so that others could hear it too. This is the story of what happened to the glue we used in our mission trip to Guatemala.
As most of you by now know, I went on a 10-day mission trip to Guatemala with LendaHand Mission Teams over Thanksgiving 2010. There were 2 purposes for the trip: free medical clinics and Bible schools. I was assigned to the Bible school team and put in charge of crafts (organizing, not creating, thank God!). Each day I would look at the estimated number of kids, determine which crafts we would do, oversee the craft time, and then organize the supplies for the next day (which often included cutting more or procuring more materials). Over the 13 Bible schools sessions we conducted, we ministered to more than 1400 children — that’s a lot of picture frames, paper bag baskets, lamb puppets, and lamb ear headbands!
What we didn’t realize at first about these crafts was how “glue-intensive” they would be. We had originally planned to use glue sticks, but we quickly found out that the heat and humidity made the glue sticks….well, not stick. So, we switched to good old Elmer’s School glue. We had brought a lot of glue with us from the States, but very soon we were running low. On two separate occasions we made trips to Paiz (the Guatemalan Walmart) specifically to buy more glue.
On the second trip to Paiz, we bought 4 yellow bottles of glue to augment our dwindling supply, and on Wednesday afternoon, just as we were about to begin our 12th Bible school session, those yellow bottles of glue were the only ones still relatively full. We made the decision to pour the glue from the yellow bottles into the white bottles (which we had more of) so that each group would hopefully have enough glue to finish that day’s crafts. Even so, during the craft time, I could be seen violently shaking my glue bottle in a futile attempt to get every last drop into the tip and squeezed onto the construction paper!
When I packed up the supplies that day, I realized that indeed, every bottle was very nearly empty. There was absolutely no way we would have enough to complete the crafts for our last session the next day. However, the session wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon, so we made plans to return one last time to Paiz for a few more bottles of glue.
Except…the next morning, we were late leaving, and we realized there was no time to go to Paiz. Karen and I discussed the “glue situation” and decided to go with plan B — we’d have to use glue sticks, even though they wouldn’t work very well. Unless, as I fatefully said, “God multiplied the glue the way he had multiplied the toys.”
[An aside for those of you who don’t attend Trinity Worship Center: Every mission team to Guatemala ALWAYS returns with the same story — how God multiplies toys. We distribute small, happy meal type toys to the kids at the end of each Bible school, and on every trip (this one was no exception) there comes a point at which someone on the team has counted, and the kids outnumber the toys that remain. In our case, at our largest session, we had 210 toys and 321 children. However, somehow, EVERY child left that session with a toy. I watched it happen, and it was like Mary Poppins’ magical bag. Truly, an amazing experience. You know though, although I had always heard of this phenomenon, even watching unfold in front of me didn’t make it personal. You see, *I* hadn’t counted the toys. That wasn’t MY job. I’m not saying I didn’t believe the people who counted. I believed them 100%. But it wasn’t MY miracle. I was simply an amazed bystander.]
So since I had at last witnessed the miracle of the multiplying toys, I figured, if toys, why not glue? But….in true Type A fashion, I had glue sticks ready and waiting as my Plan B. All joking aside, why would God care about glue?
Okay, back to the story….
We arrived at our final Bible school church, and since we were late, we unpacked as fast as we could. I was frantically raiding every craft box for any and all glue I could find. After pulling out all the glue sticks, I found the bottles. The first one I pulled out was half full. “Oh, thank God, we missed a bottle yesterday!” I thought. I was relieved, because that would probably be enough for the preschool-age crafts, which REALLY wouldn’t work with glue sticks.
The second bottle I pulled out was 3/4 full.
The third bottle….was FULL.
At this point, I was laughing and crying at the same time, as I pulled out bottle after bottle, all at least half full of glue. And all 4 yellow bottles, which the previous day had been emptied into the white bottles before our 12th Bible school, were FULL. Not partially full. FULL. In all, we had 7 nearly full glue bottles, WAY more than we needed for that final round of crafts. If you know me at all, you know that I’m the typically Type A, first-born child: methodical, structured, organized, and practical. I may well have missed one half-full bottle of glue, but there’s no way I missed SEVEN.
Believe what you will, I and the members of my team know the truth. God provided what we needed, when we needed it. What makes it even better is that the theme of our Bible school all week had been….(you guessed it) God’s provision. Just as He provided a way across the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites, just as He fed 5000+ people with a few loaves and fishes, He provides for us today. Even something as insignificant and silly as glue for a craft.
This is MY “toy story,” MY personal miracle. If I hadn’t been the one to hold those empty bottles of glue and pack them away, I might have held just a tiny seed of doubt, but I can’t. I did hold those bottles, I did shake them and store them upside down in the hopes that just a few more drops would come out. I KNOW they were empty. And I pulled them out full. I can’t explain it. But then, I really don’t need to.
So what happened to those bottles? Well, at the end of the Bible school, there was still so much glue remaining, that we left a couple of bottles at that church for them to use. I also brought one home for myself, as my personal reminder that no matter how small or stupid a problem may seem to you, it’s never too big or too small for God.