Friday, October 15, 2004

To Remind Me

A few Septembers ago, our high school pastor talked to us, a group of youth workers. His challenge was two-fold. First, think and identify a defining moment in your ministry. A moment when, for the first time, you came to the realization that you could do it. A specific moment that you realized you were making an impact, that you felt and observed that God was using you to bless others. Secondly, understand that so much of ministry is providing an environment that is conducive for others to have these defining moments. His challenge really struck me, because I could readily identify with one of those defining moments.
I was about 23 years old and had been offered a dream job for the summer. I was in the midst of working on my Masters degree and had zero aspirations to work in that field for the summer. I wanted to do something fun. The church where I had been volunteering at had a somewhat progressive youth missions summer setup. Each summer, kids could go on potentially three different missions experiences, but would have to go through a progression of stages before moving to the next one, ie - Phase 1, 2, and 3. Because of my volunteering, relationships with the kids, past experiences, etc. the church offered me to lead Phase 1. Phase 1 was a 6 week sample of different mission and ministry experiences, a week at a time in places like an inner city kids camp, open air evangelism in a city, a work project, all around the East Coast. For the job, I had to raise support, but that would cover a very small salary. In other words, I would get paid to lead a 6 week student missions trip. I jumped at the chance.
It was an incredible opportunity. I had to recruit and interview a team, knowing that they would be launched into future summer mission experiences as well. I had to develop some sort of Bible study plan for the team. I had to make contact with the ministry hosts and firm up logistical plans. I was in charge of all of the financial and prayer support. There was one slight detail - week #5 was unplanned. There were lots of possibilities but nothing set.
So I had a week to do with whatever I wanted to. Talk about freedom to explore, experiment and risk. It was like a blank check. Having read about Kentucky coal mines and applachia and that whole region a bit, I researched going there. After some phone calls and such, we had planned to spend week #5 there, doing two Bible clubs, and staying in a Bible camp in the middle of the Kentucky mountains. Very cool. It was all coming together.
In a lot of ways, the whole summer was a defining moment for me. I learned an incredible amount of things, about myself, about the team, about God. It was a new experience for me, really running a ministry. It was neat to see all the ground work from the spring and its fruit during the actual trip in the summer. It was awesome to travel, learn and grow with students from the church that I attended, an immersion experience in bottling up discipleship for 6 weeks in a church van.
Our first morning in Kentucky was glorious. Here was the fruition of a vision I had conjured up and now, my team was running a Bible club for a bunch of kids in the middle of the Kentucky mountains. I was astounded at God's goodness to me. We ended up finishing the Bible club way early and had about an hour to kill before parents came to pick up their kids. With no plan in place, somehow I came up with the idea to paint some rocks. We had lots of paint and a whole gravel driveway. I still have that rock, it sits on my desk in the office. On one side it says "MP92" (MP stands for Mission Possible), the other side says "KY", and there is some paint all over it.
For every mission experience I do now, I try to get the students some little token. Like that little rock that reminds me that incredible summer where God impacted me so I could impact others, my hope is that one student looks back on this token thing and remembers how God spoke to him or her, how God used them, how God loves them.
Here are some of the things we have done and what I have given students that come along:
- lunch with homeless in a park and then working in a food distribution center : a used (but clean) spoon
- raking peoples yards in the community : a checker game piece (had the idea of strategically meeting people)
- throwing a Valentines day party at a nursing home : a little heart shaped stone
- serving at a pregnancy center for a morning : a baby teether
- NYC missions trips (2) - a NYC subway map and an "I Love NYC" keychain
For Saturday, when we go to Helping Up Mission to help serve the homeless, I am going to give each one of them a roofing shingle. I have to say, I'm more excited about this one than all the rest we have done. I REALLY love this momento. And if you are one of the ones coming along with us, don't blow the surprise.

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