When I was in High School I attended a church where every summer the members of the youth group could apply to go with the church on Youth Missions Trips around the country and the world. For three summers I travelled with them (twice to Scotland/Ireland and once to Mexico), and although I absolutely believe that God used those trips to help form my world view, I have often struggled to believe that those trips did anything more than change those who went..as opposed to those who we were reaching out to. In fact, in all the time I spent on these two week short term missions trips... standing in the town square handing out fliers and praying for people, participating in church "revival" meetings, and helping on work projects.... I really never felt connected to anyone we ministered to and honestly only led one person to the lord! And as I graduated high school and started forming my own ideas about world missions, at the top of my list was the idea that true and effective missions work needed to be long term...
Fast Forward about a year and a half and I found myself interning at the New York School of Urban Missions (NYSUM) in New York City with other members of my junior class from Elim Bible Institute (EBI). We spent three months volunteering all over the city....ministering to people at soup kitchens, Aids hospitals, homeless shelters, and even on the street. This whole experience truly opened my eyes to the needs of so many hurting people in my own country...or even my own region (considering I grew up in CT, just a three hour drive from the City)! And from this I began to form my ideas about world missions even more, feeling like if people are going to step out into Missions, they should begin in their own country....among the very people they are surrounded by every day...
|(World Impact Oakland)|
Fast forward another year and a half again and I found myself this time having moved clear across the country to Oakland California to participate in a year long missions organization called Mission Year. I had come to believe that Missions should be something that you do long term and that you should start in your own country and here I was ready to live it out. I was living with four other white girls, in a Hispanic neighborhood, attending an African American church....reaching out to our neighbors, tutoring, volunteering five days a week at an organization that teaches life skills to foster children who are getting ready to leave the system....and what I found was a belief forming in me that missions must be relational! In fact, after my year of missions was up, I found that I had formed such a love and connection to the city and the people that I decided to stay and ended up living out there over the next several years. I even moved deeper into the city began working for World Impact as a support staff member of their Oakland branch. My continued life in Oakland led me to believe that Missions is also something you do every day of your life....it's not a program, or even something you can turn on and off....missions is something you are!
Well fast forward to about six months ago when I found myself laying on the floor of my room crying out to God to show me where He was leading me next in life. I had come to point where I felt like every time I had my life figured out, it would fall apart in my hands, and I really just wanted God to speak to me His will and His purpose. I was expecting to hear something in terms of what I should pursue for a job or even in my education. I wanted to hear clear direction about my life plan. Instead....I began sensing God leading me to look back into short term missions!
To be honest...when the idea first came up, I stuffed it. I thought I had learned all I needed to about missions for my life....Missions was something that was relational and done every day of life, but missionaries were people who were willing to give more than two weeks of their time and who began by reaching out in their own community.....and that was NOT me! My ministry over the past several years had been to my own family and I had grown quite comfortable in that. Short term missions just didn't match with my life... so I thought this couldn't possibly be God! But over the next several weeks the idea kept coming up. It seemed the more I struggled with stepping out in ministries God had already called me to in my current life, the more I felt Him drawing me to a deeper commitment in the form of a short term missions trip. Summer had been quite hard for me and it had forced me to trust God in a way that I never had before and after failing miserably at that, I had decided that I was NOT going to step out in faith like that ever again...and thus any feelings about Missions trips needed to go away a.s.a.p! In fact, I recall telling a few friends how I was feeling about God and even missions, and asking them to pray that God would make the desire to GO fade away. I knew I couldn't honor HIM and keep growing in my faith without Taking this next step, but I was scared, so I needed it to pass.
Well after much prayer and petition, tears and repenting....It became clear to me that Short Term Missions is something I am being called to do. So I did a little research, found an organization that matched with my heart and stepped out to apply. That was almost two months ago and since then God has constantly overwhelmed me with His faithfulness. I stress a lot....I know I should put my faith fully in God, but often times I see the 18 million ways that something can go wrong and freak out. God in His faithfulness however, has stood beside me in every one of these moments and shown me his hand at work, both in my heart and in this world. He's opened doors for me to join a missions team, He's provided money for application fees and other paper work, He's opened other people's hearts to be willing to write reference letters for me, and He's given me a heart to step out in Him once again.....and thus this summer I will be spending a week in Quito, Ecuador ministering to orphans through an organization called "Visiting Orphans"! I don't know how it will all work out, I don't know what God will teach me through this or where He will lead me after, I don't even know how God worked so much in my heart in the past several months to bring me to a place of saying "Yes" to Him and his ways....but what I do know is that He is God...and I trust Him!
For more information about any of the ministries and/or organizations listed above, check out:
www.nysum.org , www.missionyear.org , www.worldimpact.org , www.visitingorphans.org