When you’re on a mission trip, it’s expected that you will be pushed to your limits physically, emotionally, and physically. It’s not expected that you will find some of those limits on your first day. The students were heavily challenged in every event of the day, and performed with flying colors!
The day started with us driving around the neighborhoods surrounding 6 Stones) the ministry we are partnering with for the week) collecting canned good donations. The students had to deal with some disappointment as most of the houses had no donations…probably about 2-3% had donations for us to pick up. But the kids displayed great enthusiasm despite the lack of activity, whooping and hollering aloud when we spotted a donation, and practically fighting each other for the privilege of running full speed to collect it. At the end of the day, the students commented that they learned better what it feels like to be on the “other side” of generosity, so desperately wanting someone to help that spotting even small bits of that help was like fresh air to a drowning man.
The evangelism training challenged our students deeply as they learned two tools to relate the good news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to people they’ve never met before: the Bridge and the Evangecube. Though almost all of our students knew the basics of both tools from their years at 121, they struggled when they were challenged to actually use the tools in conversation. It was easy to cover all the “talking points” in the script, but very, very difficult to include that message into an authentic conversation that they might have with a real person. Their discomfort with the task led some to frustration and others to excessive joking. Everyone was stretched!
We finished our work together by passing out flyers advertising our upcoming Vacation Bible School to residents of a local apartment complex. We received various responses, from excited acceptance to unresponsive apathy to open hostility. Our students were 100% respectful, polite, and kind throughout the entire exercise, receiving every emotion thrown at them and transforming it into a kind smile or an encouraging word. Every student knocked on doors and talked to people, inviting them to come hear a fun message that could change their lives forever. It was easy to read our students’ fear when faced with the prospect of talking to complete strangers and equally easy to see that fear melt away so quickly. What a day of stretching and overcoming!
We ended the day with a powerful time of worship, reading from Luke 4:14-21 and Jesus’ declaration of the purpose of His ministry. We talked about that the frustration and awkwardness we saw in our evangelism training was likely a result of one or two things: (1) a difficulty in seeing the death and resurrection of Jesus as a real event and (2) a difficulty in seeing ourselves in the gospel message. It seemed that as the students were communicating the Story of All Stories they saw it as something for “other people”, a message to be communicated rather than a personal experience to be cherished and shared. Students were left with food for thought, to wonder not only if they are ready to share the gospel but if they have truly experienced it themselves.
From impromptu walkie-talkie renditions of Taylor Swift favorites to leaders lifting a frighteningly huge and nearly-toppled box of canned goods, it was a really fun day. We are already exhausted, but look forward to what God has in store the rest of the week! Thanks for all your support as we continue to stretch ourselves to new lengths and allow God to refine our spirits on mission. See you tomorrow!