As I hugged my high school youth minister, she thanked me for a great week. I currently live in Pensacola, Florida, and I’m originally from the DFW area of Texas. My home church paid a visit to my new church and brought their youth along for a mission trip to serve the Pensacola community. For the trip, the teens were split into groups of about 8 kids and a few chaperones. Each group had a task to clean up a yard for the disabled, work in a local elementary school completing different tasks or a beach clean up. They were here for five days, and it filled my heart to have a piece of home in my new home. My old youth minister served as a chaperone to the craziness and my friend, whom I’ve done several bible studies with, serves as their current youth minister.
The week began in prayer, so much prayer, before the group even arrived. Our local church prayed for each member, volunteer and chaperone. At the beginning of each day before breakfast, together they prayed and participated in morning prayer, reading the good word. Afterwards they separated into their respective groups and served in the community. Each day they shared the gospel and on multiple accounts they fed the homeless. However, a homeless shelter was not one of their service projects. Randomly (God appointed) homeless made their way to where one of the groups was, and our great kids offered them food and a prayer. Truly God was in their midst. The evenings were full of fellowship and dinner which was served and donated by stores in the community and our fellow parishioners. After dinner the participants began an evening of praise and worship, a devotion and small groups. And they ended each evening in compline. Many times during these evening meetings the teens shared the awesome ways God worked in their day.
Furthermore, a unique aspect the youth minister includes in her mission trips are prayer partners for each participant, chaperone and volunteer. Katie pairs each person with a prayer partner volunteer from the home parish who devotes themselves to praying for each servant and writing a note for each night. There is so much encouragement from those little notes and such relief and gratitude when you know someone is devoted to pray for you.
Sure things went wrong. It rained during evening games and work time, kids didn’t feel well, a few meals ran late, and minor issues from here to there, but no one saw these minor infractions as even a hiccup. Did I mention not a single teenager had their phone for five days? But when I asked them at the end of their trip, “How bad do you want your phone back?” Every single one answered, “Meh. I haven’t really missed it.”
So at the end of the trip, as I cried for like the fourth time that week, I sat back and reflected at what a great week it was. A little background about me- I have been on multiple mission trips, and I worked as a summer camp director for years. These “ spiritual highs” we get from Christian service…why does it seem to be so prevalent during organized events or missions like this? How do we transfer our everyday mundane lives to reflect something similarly so great? The Holy Spirit doesn’t just show up for weeks like this and then disappear when we “go back to the real world.”
There are so many aspects of a mission trip or a church camp setting which should transfer to our daily life. Every morning when we wake, we should begin with morning prayer with our family. Then we should go out and serve our mission as a team. Our mission and service may be to an office, hospital, school, business, or raising children in your home. But what if we looked at our jobs through the lense of a service project? What if we saw ourselves as a team at our jobs and worked with all our might to the great cause? Then when we leave in the afternoon, we would come home to rest and fellowship. In the evenings what if we turned off the TV and smart phones and praised the Lord together as a family, listened to devotions and discussed how God worked in our lives today? Think of the beauty and soul cleansing day we would have day in and day out. Our Lord would be pleased.
Another huge aspect of the success of this trip was the community. The group served as a community, prayed as a community, worshiped as a community. Other members of the church who couldn’t join, prayed for them separately and specifically by name. The importance of prayer partners in life is unique and imperative. Our community can be our family, our friends our coworkers. Jesus wanted us to live, serve, and worship together. Don’t be fooled when people say holiness and spirituality are a private matter.
A church I went to in Ft. Worth used to post a sign at the end of every service that read “You are now entering the mission field.” It has always stuck. My task this summer will be to conduct my days and weeks like a mission trip. I need to give my prayer partner a call. 🙂