Last week I set out on a mission trip to the Appalachian Mountains with a group of amazing high school students. There were 15 of us total to be exact. One of my main goals on a mission trip is minister to those I am with…the students. I mean of course I am there to help the community, but this is my time to be able to poor into the lives of the students and have those convos while holding a ladder or singing an old Backstreet Boys song or even “snapping for Jesus” when our prayers are answered.
I must admit…
Going into the trip I was slightly nervous. I really had no reason to be nervous…I have led mission trips to North Carolina, Kentucky, Jamaica, Honduras, New Orleans, and Fort Worth. Not to mention other youth trips, and ones in which I was just was a participant. However, this was kind of a right of passage for me. This was the first one for me to lead as the only staff member. I think it is pretty healthy to have a few nervous feelings when you are leading. I did feel honored that Darin trusts me.
I definetly recognized a few things,…
First, I feel like every day I get more and more confirmation that I am exactly where I am supposed to be doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I’ve known this for several months, but God continues to reconfirm it. This is something that I think many people miss out on, and I am so blessed to be where I am doing something in which I am called and love.
Second, like a mama bear, you mess with my kids…you mess with me. We had another youth leader kind of “picking” on some of our girls, as well as some other drama trying to creep in, and just like a mama bear with her cubs a weird sense of protectiveness came into play.
Third, I absolutely love each and every one of those students. They are all so unique. It was so neat to see Jesus shining through them individually. At the same time, their light as individuals combined into an unstoppable force as a team. How beautiful is the body of Christ. I loved seeing their hearts stir. Even more so, I love seeing that some of those stirrings are causing change in their lives back home. On Sunday, the group had made a plan to sit up front together and raise their hands in worship just as we did at the camp ground. And. They did. I was so proud of them. It only takes a spark to get a fire burning.
One of my favorite moments on the mission trip was on Thursday night. We had a wonderful time of worship. Then the speaker came on and talked about being a new creation in Christ. When you are a new creation, you have to throw off the stuff that makes you the old you. After he spoke, Promise (one of the worship leaders) got back up there and played the song that I have come to love called “the day that true love died.” As he played the guitar and sang some of the counselors got on stage and began to paint on a canvas. The canvas ended up having a heart on it with lots of squiggilies. The canvas was propped up by a wooden cross. As the song faded, they dismissed us by youth group giving each of us a piece of scaffolding (scaffolding was the theme for the week). We started a little trek out into a field with tiki torches and a big wooden cross. We gathered around a tiki torch in the field. The tears started to pour out among those in our group. Then the spirit moved me. I started a little speech about how we all came here with scaffolding. Some scaffolding being people and things that are good and some that are bad. Before we go home you have got to throw off whatever bad scaffolding you are leaning on to make it. I began to tell these students as truth that was given to me by my youth leader, Jason Pagel. I told them, “We are family, and family sticks together.” I remember Jason making us chant this at church all the time. These teens had sweat together cried together laughed together sang together prayed together…I told them that we are family because of what happened on that cross, and that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of God or from the family that we have in Christ Jesus. I told them that we are brothers and sisters in Christ first. We don’t split up. We don’t let one of our family member stray. We stick together when we get home. We stick together when it gets tough. We stick together in good times. And together, we were going to drop our bad scaffolding at the foot of the cross. Then that was exactly what we did.
I kept seeing them put on facebook or hearing them say to each other…”my new family or my brother or my sister.”
This made my heart happy.
When we got home, of course Satan was waiting for some immediately. However, so was the family and body of Christ. They have been hanging out constantly. They have been calling each other, checking on each other,…It really is sweet.
So many times we forget that we truly are family…and this family does stick together…
I hope this little family will continue to stick together. Even if they don’t, I pray that they can look back on it fondly just as I think of times on the dock at the lake with my little family from my youth group growing up and that they will see a glimpse of how it should be and will be in heaven.