My experience at OTR was something that I will never forget but going into it was a difficult journey. When I first heard that TRC would be sending a team to inner city Cincinnati at OTR, I was intrigued. I initially saw this as an opportunity to serve folks in the inner city and work with individuals who are struggling and have gone through systematic oppression. Basically it was a very worldly view of engaging with these people. Then God reminded and showed me what this was all about and that this was a missions trip. This was a trip to save souls and not about social work. That I am not going to become a superhero to these people but as myself, a broken man doing work for His glory and kingdom. That showing God’s love is the center of the trip and that all the other stuff will come with as a result of the gospel. What I did not expect was the multitude of ways God showed himself and also my heart.
I could spend hours talking about the blessings and perspective he gave me during the 9 days there but here are just a few. God can use a broken person like myself for the glory of His kingdom. To be honest, when I got there, I had no idea how God was going to use me to evangelize. How can I evangelize to these people when I have so many issues myself? I have so many flaws, shortcomings, and selfish desires. With all that, can my heart truly serve Him and be a witness to these people? God exposed me to the magnitude of my selfish heart and showed me how the glorification of myself was a huge idol in my heart. Despite that, God was able to open my eyes and heart to the power of His love. That with His love, anything is truly possible for His kingdom. With the help of the experienced volunteers and His grace, I was able to go out and talk to people about the gospel. Yes it was extremely difficult and nerve wrecking, but I could not have done this without Him. Trusting in Him is the only way I can share the gospel with others despite my doubts and shortcomings. Although it can be discouraging when people do not receive Christ, there is encouragement to come from this because I know that God will work in them in some way by hearing the gospel.
I was reminded that God is constant in the midst of our ups and downs. On the first day of kids camp, it poured in the morning. You could tell there was doubt and worry that the day would be cancelled or no kids would show up. During that time, we prayed and distributed flyers about kids camp to the surrounding area. God then cleared the rain and kids came. More and more kids came during the earlier part of the week and excitement levels were high. Then on Wednesday or Thursday, there were less kids than before. You could tell that this somewhat sucked the air out of the excitement and energy we were generating for the camp. Doubt continued to creep in but God provided with a last day filled with opportunities to spread the gospel to these children. God’s love is amazing, faithful, and unwavering. He is with us in our lowest lows and our highest highs.
As I mentioned earlier, without trusting in Him, I would not have been able to go out on the streets and evangelize. What does it mean to trust in Him? I think this trip was His way of showing me what it meant to truly trust in God. It meant having faith in Him every second of every day. Not just when we need Him or not just on Sundays but every day of our lives. We depend on Him and the love of God is what fuels us each and every day. So many times, I hear or read that I must trust in the Lord, but rarely did I see it with my eyes. But this trip showed me that in so many ways. The lasting images I have of this are of the OTR Living Water Church. Every morning we would do morning devotionals and Pastor Johann would be doing his in the front. On occasion, he would look up at the cross that is high on the wall. That simple picture summed up his relationship with God. There is no way he could be doing this ministry for 15+ years without fully trusting in the Lord. But that attitude and mindset is something he did not keep to himself. He has shown that to his staff and congregation as well. We were able to be a part of their Sunday service. Although a small congregation, they praised, worshipped, and prayed with all of their hearts. This image to me was a small glimpse of what heaven is like. People just loving God and having His joy and love in their hearts. Trusting and depending on Him.
Those are just some of the things I was able to learn and witness. We have so much more to share so please do not hesitate to ask each of us more! But words cannot do justice for the experience we had while at OTR, so you should definitely pray and think about joining next year :).
Yes this was an amazing experience, but now we must apply these things to our lives here in Chicago. Please pray for us as we continue to process all the things God has shown us and that we are reminded that the God that is working in OTR is the same God that works in Chicago. Let us trust in the Lord and use the knowledge and tools He has equipped us with to do His work in our community as well. Thank you TRC family for praying for us during that time and I hope the many blessings we received are shared with all of you!