The summer mission trip to the neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine was an example of an instance where I expected God to use and empty me, but instead God filled me in ways that only He could have orchestrated. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up. There were no long hours of prayer or contemplation before committing to participate. It was simply through a casual conversation that convicted my heart to attend, which turned into one of deep encouragement and daily repentance during the trip itself.
From the first day on the mission field, I remember how rigorous the schedule was and how quickly things took off. There were hardly any moments to breathe and by the end of the day, I was completely depleted of all energy and strength. During one of the nights earlier in the trip, while I was lying on the cold wooden floor of my room after an exhausting day, I felt a wave of negativity pass through my mind. What impact was I really making here? What did I think I could contribute to here? I clung to these thoughts and from it others formed, until I felt crushed under a feeling of hopelessness. However, from even amidst this barrage, two thoughts emerged. First, it’s not about you, and second, you don’t have an incapable God asking you to do impossible things – you have a very capable God through whom all things are possible. My immediate response was that of repentance, and I recommitted my time to God.
The next day during Kid’s Camp I remember there was a young child named Jay who was particularly energetic and causing all forms of mayhem. Various other teachers had attempted to calm him down, but he refused to listen. At one point, I took Jay away from the rest of his group and held him gently on my lap, hoping to calm him down. However, no amount of soothing words or encouragement worked, and he only became more irritable. Suddenly, I felt compelled to share the Gospel, and as I did so, the change in his demeanor was instantaneous and startling. I told Jay that Jesus loved him, and that because Jesus loved him, he died on the cross for his sins, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice, Jay could now be welcomed into God’s family forever – a family from which no one and nothing could take him away. I remember that throughout this entire ordeal, I wanted to just let Jay go when he was squirming to be free from my embrace. But the picture that I could not shake from my mind was that of God holding me as I refuse to remain in his loving arms, longing only to chase after idols. Yet, through it all, He continues to encourage me with words of rebuke and comfort. In that moment, I witnessed the impact the gospel could have in a single child’s life and prayed that it would spread and ignite a broken community.
Although during the first night, it was difficult for me to see how I was going to make it through to the end, by the last night of the trip I did not want to leave. It was rebuking to see how satisfied I had become when I took my eyes off of myself and placed them firmly on Jesus. God humbled me into a state of dependency and blessed me in ways that I would never have been if He had not graciously allowed me the opportunity to serve him. God is faithful.