Thursday, July 10, 2014

You make me brave.

My daughter Selena recently participated in a mission trip to NYC. She has written about it and I found it so moving that I wanted to share. Here it is, in her words.

You Make Me Brave
I’ve found that I am someone you would call a dreamer. I hold these burning passions in my heart that make me anxious, anxious to get out into the world and do something. There is a psalm in the Bible that keeps reoccurring in my head when I try explaining why I know what I am supposed to be doing in this life and it reads, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This past year I earnestly sought out the Lord, experienced Him in indescribable ways, and truly fell head over heels in love. God has shown me this light that radiates from within me, it longs to shine on areas that sit in darkness. I’ve been called to a mission, one that is dedicated to ministering to lost areas of the world who have never heard of the Most High. Whether that be spreading the Word to my neighbors here in the safety of my hometown or throwing myself into a country that rebukes Christianity and risking my own life, so be it.
“But God, how am I supposed to prepare?” I asked.
My close friend from school was organizing a trip to New York City to partner with Street Life Ministries and serve a week doing street evangelism, homeless outreach, food truck services, etc. Unlike any other type of missions’ work I had ever done, this opportunity sparked my attention. God, is this where you want me? Keeping it in the back of my mind near a month before the actual trip, the financial weight kept hovering over my head, restraining me from getting excited in fear that I wouldn’t be able to cover the cost. I was praying continuously, yet openly, knowing whatever God’s plans were in regards to this trip were just. Near a week before the trip my mom walked into my room and said dad and her wouldn’t be able to support this trip because of future vacations and other family finances. Knowing I couldn’t cover this trip alone, I settled in understanding I wasn’t going to NYC. A couple minutes later, a friend from IWU texted, saying they suddenly had this overwhelming desire to pay for my entire mission trip to NYC. They went on to say how the Lord had blessed them abundantly in their last paycheck, almost too much, and they knew they wanted to bless those around them.
And just like that, I found myself traveling to New York seven days later.
Ministry is not a perfect work field by any means. New York City presented its challenges to the small town girl with a big heart and definitely succeeded in discouraging her in what she thought she was capable of doing. After living in a fairly quiet town all my life, stepping one foot into New York City felt like I had just stepped into another country. The diversity that resided in the apartments and streets slapped me in the face. Each individual walked with such purpose leaving no room for a quick hello or a warm smile. The concrete walls of NY were decorated in colorful, yet sometimes destructive phrases. Conversations overheard in the local coffee shop were polluted with countless words of profanity. This all was not just a quick snapshot of what I would be encountering during my time here, but a quick snapshot of how the world looks when it seeks itself. God am I ready for this?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.   Joshua 1:9
I clung to these words this week. The Lord, our GOD, is walking with us, at all times. Not sometimes or some places, but always. We served in downtown Manhattan through a food truck and gave free clothing to the homeless. Here I learned drug addicts do, in fact, smile. Old guys eating avocados with their hands speak the most polite words, even in Spanish. And sometimes the hard truth is that some may believe in God, but don’t really know anything about Him. In Jamaica, Queens we set up a station simply for prayer. It was here that I was blown away by the respect and love given from believers of Islam, Hinduism, Atheism and many others despite our blatant differences. It was also here that I recognized the value in knowledge of the Bible. In Elmhurst, Queens we face-painted, drew with chalk, played basketball and “The Floor is Lava” with seemingly hundreds of kids in Moore Park. It was here that I was shown the simple joys of blowing bubbles up into the sky and the freedom in being a child of God. We may not have control over much in our life, but this is no reason to become weary, because our Father is all-knowing. In Flushing, Queens we set up another prayer station. Despite the lack of interest in this part of the city for prayer, it was here that I discovered the importance in asking people how they are doing and simply offering a sincere smile. It was also here that I learned the older generation of homeless aren’t as scary as we make them out to be. They have hearts. They have beliefs. They need the love of the Lord just as much as the rest of us do.
And through it all, God spoke.
There were days I came back to the house feeling defeated, broken, and at a loss for presenting God’s love. It was in the quiet that I gave my worries and my cries to God that He moved deep in my heart. You are rooted in me, He spoke over and over again. You represent a tree that has flourished and is seen high up on a cliff for all to see, where you reflect Myself. You’re huge in the Kingdom. But to me, seeing what lies beneath the soil is where My heart finds so much joy. I see the roots of your heart firmly in Me. Don’t be discouraged by this world, they only see you externally, but Me, I know you intimately.

There were days I just wanted be back at the house and flood the rooms with worship, yet I was in a car driving home with my team from supper that evening. Selena, He said, you can worship Me right now.  Coincidentally as I peered out the window looking for something evident of God’s presence in that moment, vulgar graffiti plastered the walls we were driving by, completely destroying the moment. Selena, He said again, this place you’re in right now needs my disciples. I am like a crystal buried deep beneath the dirt of this city. Like a treasure, I’m awaiting to be found. I want you to dig. I want you to dig and find me. And when you find me I want you to show me off. To the people of these streets, the people of your community, your friends, your family, this world.
There were days I was completely overwhelmed by the sea of people flooding the streets of the city. I asked to see how the Lord saw this all, and for a brief moment, He did. As I walked the crosswalk, He amplified the heart and purpose of every person I walked by, showing the love He sheds on each and every individual person. Whether lost or found, we are all His sheep. He pursues us each with such specificity that none wander without Him following close behind. He is here in this world, doing work, dwelling where He loves.
And after all, He is GOOD.
Serving in New York City was an experience that I will never forget. It was one that challenged me to recognize where the world stands. It was one that challenged me to recognize where I stand. God has planted an endlessly growing heart for missions within me, one that I hope never wilts. An opportunity to do ministry in Ireland has come up and I’m praying continuously on that one, so who knows, this could be the next stretch in God’s plan for my walk. As for now, my heart yearns to tell everyone within the church that, in reality, we all are here as missionaries in some way, shape, or form. We’ve committed to the Most High, the All-Knowing, and Ever-Present. Don’t fear, be bold, and follow where this crazy awesome God we serve leads you next with arms stretched open wide.