The little boy looked up at me with his round eyes and took yet another small step away from me. I was convinced that no amount of playfulness, coaxing, or promises of prizes was going to get Amar to follow me back downstairs. I started to get flustered as I wondered what to do. The rest of the boys in our group were ready and waiting to begin stations downstairs. “They’re probably wondering where I went. I should just let Amar be. Maybe he’ll join us later,” I reasoned to myself. But as I weighed this option, I remembered the lyrics to a song we had sung during School of Evangelism: “Oh, the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God. It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” This was the love of the Father — a deeply personal, individual love that would not settle for ninety-nine, but would do anything to demonstrate his love to his one missing sheep. At that realization, I knew I couldn’t let Amar alone. Fortunately, with the help of another teacher, Amar eventually followed me back downstairs and we were able to begin stations and fully participate in Kid’s Camp. But I share this memorable moment because it was a pattern of what God was teaching me about His own goodness to me throughout the trip.
During one of the evening worships of the School of Evangelism, Pastor Jason from OTR Living Water challenged us in prayer. He said that some of us had old hearts that had stopped dreaming about the kingdom. I felt that he was talking about me; I had been struggling through a frustratingly prolonged, dry stretch in my walk with God marked by times of deep discouragement. He went on to say that sometimes, in trying to bury our disappointments, we sometimes bury our hope along with it. As we went into prayer, he called us to be honest before God and to let our Father take care of us. I think something broke within me as I realized that I had been harboring many disappointments. Each time that I had questioned “Why did God let ____ happen?” led me to doubt the goodness of God, and defensively want to distance myself from Him. It was a sobering moment as I saw how weak my faith was, and how prone I was to try to handle life’s disappointments on my own rather than turn to God. I continued to wrestle through these thoughts for the remainder of the missions trip. With the help of Pastor Yohan’s morning messages, I came to recognize moments of incorrect thinking as spiritual battle and Satan’s deceit. Meanwhile, I saw many evidences of God’s goodness in Over the Rhine. It was shown in God’s provision of Living Water’s church building, the OTR moms who came to faith and now served alongside us at Kids Camp, Living Water’s expanding ministry to international students and refugees, and the long-awaited salvation of an Iraqi woman that week. I also observed Living Water Church’s resolute belief in that goodness. In what others can easily dismiss as a hopeless community, they had unwavering faith in the power of the Gospel to truly transform people’s lives. Now, after returning home from OTR, I am trying to hold onto the importance of recognizing spiritual battle, equipping myself with the Word, and looking for evidence of God’s goodness in my own life and surroundings. While my understanding of his goodness in my life may remain incomplete on this side of Heaven, I have some peace and am content that it is simply a truth that I will just have to trust in — that while I may not understand how God intended good out of some situations, I can still learn to trust in the promise of Romans 8:28 — that all things are being worked out for my good by my Father who wants to take care of me.