I’ve been thinking about missions a lot this summer, and about how I have viewed them with a dangerously narrow mind for a lot longer than I care to admit. You see, my summer didn’t go exactly as I expected that it would. Actually, it didn’t go at all how I had planned. I wanted to be in Ecuador, interning. I wanted to be on mission, living on a mission field. Away. I wanted to go. To leave.
But I didn’t leave the country this summer. In fact, I didn’t even leave the state.
My youth group goes on a service trip every year. Every other year, we join with an organization called “The Pittsburgh Project” and repair homes in the Pittsburgh area. My youth pastor is from Pittsburgh, so serving there is a given. On the off years, like this year, we do something called “Impact Frederick”. Basically we sleep in a high school at night and replace shingles and repair siding during the day. Not my thing. I signed up as a leader just because I could. I wanted to do something missions related, and Impact was my only option.
So maybe that wasn’t the best mindset to be going into a week of service and mission with. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to Impact, but more of I wanted to go back to South America. I was filled with longing for missions trips past, and I let it fog the missions opportunity that I had been blessed with.
Isn’t it cool though, how God meets us right where we are? Saturday night was the first night of our trip, and there was a kick off session to set the tone for the week. It didn’t take long before I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.
It started off with a giant dance party. Um, what? In Ecuador we aren’t allowed to dance. This was different. Fun, and a rather pleasant change of pace if I was being honest. But that first night, dancing only added salt to a very raw wound. It was a reminder that I wasn’t on the other side of the Equator. I had barely even crossed a county line.
But then something happened that made me fight to maintain my composer. Which in and of itself says something, because my closest friends accuse me of having zero emotion. The first song sung on that first night of this trip was the same opening song that we always sing in Ecuador. Take the dancing out of the equation, the two trips were being kicked off the exact same way. Sure, we sang it in Spanish in Ecuador and in English in Linganore, but still.
And then the parallels started to hit me, one after another, leaving me so convicted it hurt to breathe.
I wanted to go back to camp. I missed being able to do life with a group of girls. I wanted to be able to share rooms with them, eat meals with them, serve and play and learn together. And that is exactly was I was doing at Impact. We worked with kids from a school that we have partnered with. On this trip, we were sleeping in a school. Sure, it wasn’t camp. But everything that I love about the camps that we run in Ecuador we did at Impact. Except this time the girls all spoke English. That was new.
So we danced and spoke the same the language and slept on tile, but we also sang the same songs to the same God and I realized that He hasn’t been calling me “there” or “here” but to himself. He had me in Ecuador for a time, and then he had me in Frederick. But He was there and here and everywhere in between. I guess it isn’t so much about location, God is everywhere. For so long, my prayer was “here I am, send me to Ecuador”.
At some point this past summer, that changed. The swinging of hammers, mixed with laughter and basketballs and water bottles being stepped on, blended with my new heart cry, created some gloriously broken melody that sounded a lot more like grace a lot less like me.
“Here I am. Send me.”
That’s it. No qualifiers. Send me to where you want me. I’ll cross the Equator or a county line or a property line. God always knew I would spend this summer on a missions field. It just took a little bit of coaxing to get me to see it.
I have no doubt that Impact Frederick did indeed impact Frederick for the Gospel. But it did more than that.
It impacted me.