I went on mission trips to Mexico twice while in high school. That’s just what you did. That’s what every “Christian” did during spring break. But those high school mission trips had always been full of teenybopper drama. I’m not saying they weren’t meaningful; they were and I remember many aspects of them fondly. But, remembering my spring break of junior year, I can honestly say I mostly went on the mission trip for selfish reasons. Yes, I wanted to spend time with the Mexican children – put some of my Spanish skills to work – but I mostly was looking forward to spending an entire week with my “crush.”

I always returned from these trips on a “spiritual high.” I always promised myself that I would never again take for granted my warm bed, my hot showers, and paved roads. But that “high” always lasted – tops – a week.

Rose Miller, Seth James, Lacy Ramirez, Teleah Moss and Katrina Garrard in the piazza of San Lorenzo di Udine.

Three years later, in the summer of 2011, I found myself boarding a plane.

Destination: Italy
Cost: One heart 

The Italy team encompassed 7 Corban students: myself, Rose Miller (now Rose Craig), Katrina Garrard, Seth and Briana James (recently married), Teleah Moss and Caleb Ringhand. We had spent the previous few months prepping for the trip – rehearsing mimes and bonding as a team. We all sought to witness and plant seeds for Christ but I, again, had an ulterior motive as well: I longed to prove to God, to my parents and to myself, that my heart truly belonged to God and that I was spiritually on track. There was no greater way to prove that than by going on a mission trip right?

We were in Italy for two weeks. Two life-changing weeks.

A typical day in the beautiful, vineyard-surrounded little town of San Lorenzo di Udine looked like the following:

Morning – After having a delightful breakfast of the most delicious bread I’d ever tasted, we divided into pairs and distributed tracts around different towns. We encountered some extremely nice people, some not-so-friendly people and visited adorable cafés (called bars).

Teleah Moss shares a story with children at a park in Udine.

Afternoon – We’d have some lunch then enjoy an hour or two of risposo (when pretty much everyone in the country takes a nap.) Afterward, it was time for children’s ministry. We’d go to a park where we’d hold puppet shows, sing songs, read stories, play games and just have fun with the adorable Italian children.

Evening – This was when we were really challenged. This was the ministry for the adults. We’d perform our mimes that we had rehearsed; the mimes that showed Christ’s redemptive love; the mimes that we hoped would get the passerby to stop, watch and reflect. After each mime, one of us would step in front of the crowd, explain the mime and then share the gospel while someone from the mission organization translated.

We had several obstacles in Italy. Firstly, the people there aren’t very receptive to the message, in fact, they’re quite cold to it. Secondly, none of us were fluent in Italian – not even slightly close to it. Fortunately, knowing Spanish ended up being a huge blessing. There’s a lot of similarities between the two languages. It also ended up helping the ministry.

Since my start at Corban, it seemed that everyone knew exactly what his or her spiritual gift was. It seemed everyone knew what he or she were being called to do by God. I had no idea. What if I didn’t have a spiritual gift, I often wondered.

Rose Miller, Katrina Garrard and Lacy Ramirez after performing a mime in Udine.

While in Italy, I discovered that I did.

Like I mentioned previously, after each mime we performed we would share a bit about the message to the crowd via translator. After learning that I spoke Spanish, one of the missionaries we were serving with asked if I would be willing to speak to the crowd in Spanish, since they might find it more appealing than English. I agreed. But I was nervous. I didn’t know what to say! What if all that came out was a jumbled mess?

After performing one of our mimes on that fateful evening, I, shaking all over, stepped out in front of the crowd. And what happened next was all the work of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, I knew exactly what to say. The words flowed out of my mouth smoothly and effortlessly. It felt natural, it felt right.

Afterward, the missionary, Jesse Schreck, told me something I will never forget: “You have a gift Lacy, you know that right? You have a gift for communicating the Lord’s message.”

I went on this trip hoping to show God that I loved Him, but God ended up showing just how much He loves me.

Every single night while I was in Italy was the best night I ever had. I went to sleep with a smile on my face knowing that I was doing what I was called to do: sharing God’s love with others.

When I returned home, I wasn’t spiritually high; I was spiritually reawakened.

You don’t have to go on a mission trip to learn about your passion or to grow closer to God, but sometimes – especially if you’re as stubborn as me – it’s what you need.