August 2012 |
I have gone on three missions trips: two to Denver and this year on the DuPage/Chicago trip. And I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if I had never gone on a missions trip with the Bloomingdale Church youth group. I have been stretched tremendously out of my comfort zone, have become comfortably sharing my faith with people I don’t know, and have a plan of how I am going to live out what I learned.
When I went to Denver on my first missions trip, I was a very shy 15 year old girl and I had no idea what to expect from the trip. I quickly learned that this trip would definitely not be easy for me, in fact, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I wouldn’t trade this trip for the world. I learned how to show Christ’s love in a practical way by passing out cups of cold water to people at a bus stop and a skate park, being forced to talk to people I didn’t know and then pray for them too. We also talked to homeless people a park where many homeless people gather and were able to pray for them as well. I was encouraged on this trip by our AIM project leader, Jon, to pray out loud in front of our whole group and that was scary. On this trip I discovered that with God, anything is possible. I used to be very timid and quiet, but God showed me that He had more in store for me and even though it wasn’t easy, I did the hard things on this trip. I quickly learned how to serve God and how living your life for Him pays off in the long run.
Then this year, we were all presented with the idea of a trip in our local community. I, like everyone else, was kind of confused by this idea. Once we went on the trip, I saw why God put this trip on the leader’s heart. We all served in our hometowns on the DuPage trip and by doing this, we had our eyes opened to how broken our own community is. Through ATL, which means Ask the Lord, we served our community in ways that we felt God was putting on our hearts. It was amazing to see how many people we could reach out to in our own backyards. On the DuPage trip I learned that the little things you do for people can make them see Jesus in you and can open the doors to conversations about your faith. I also learned that my community needs my help and I can make a difference here. I don’t have to go far away to help people come to know Jesus, I can do it right here in my hometown.
After one night to sleep in our own beds we were off to Chicago. We really didn’t know what to expect as we headed up to Family Empowerment Centers in Rogers Park for the week. Throughout the week, we passed out water bottles on the beach and in the streets in order to start meaningful conversations with people and pray for them as well. We had many interesting encounters with all of the people we talked to. We also helped with the Vacation Bible School at the Center. The kids came from broken homes and acted out because they weren’t sure how to respond to the love they were being shown. On the last day of the trip, we went to a Friendship Center in order to learn a little bit about how to share our faith with Muslims. We went to a Mosque to see what the service was like. Being in that building with a scarf covering my hair and head, behind a wall not even able to see the speaker was a new and intimidating experience for me. The fact that all the people around me were doing the rituals thinking they were making their way to heaven by doing all the “right things”, but not realizing that believing in Jesus is the only way, was very scary to me. This trip opened my eyes to how lost people are and how much lost people need Jesus in their lives.
When I got home from Chicago, my brain was spinning from everything I had experienced on the trip. Every time I would look at someone, I would wonder if they were going to heaven or not. Everyday I went to work, I realized that so many of my coworkers are not Christians and it weighs heavy on my heart. If I don’t tell them about Jesus and what I believe, they could go to hell. This thought scares me. Because of this fear, I have been telling my managers about the missions trip when they ask what I did on vacation and I hope I am opening the doors to deeper conversations later.
I am going to Western Illinois University in less than a month. Since this is a public university, there will be many non-believers. I plan to reach out to as many people as I can. To help me stay strong in my faith, I am going to join a campus ministry. I am also going to be a part of the marching band, which will allow me to meet and talk to about 200 people easily. I will try to be the person that my band friends can come to when they need help with a problem in their life. And I am hoping that my friends will wonder why I care so much about them, allowing me to share my faith with them and invite them to outreaches. I don’t want to be afraid to talk to people I don’t know very well about my faith. I am starting to realize how dark of a place the college atmosphere is . I know that my faith will be tested multiple times. But I know that “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12) God has helped me come out of my comfort zone and talk to people I don’t know. God has helped me be a leader this past year in the youth group and on the DuPage/Chicago missions trip, even though it wasn’t easy at times. God has been molding me throughout my high school years into the person I am today and I know that He’s not finished with me yet. I am going to college to study music therapy, but I am also going to college to reach a lost world that needs to be shown love, but more importantly, needs to be shown the love of Christ. I am grateful beyond words for these missions trips I have been on. And now as I enter the next chapter in my life, I am looking at my life as a life-long missions trip.