Thank you to everyone who partnered with us in prayer for our Philadelphia Mission Trip this past week! I wanted to pen my thoughts while they were still fresh in my mind but my heart is still so full and excited from the trip that it's been difficult to thread together a short summary of my week in Philly. Nonetheless, I begin my attempt in consistent style with our Pastor Sam's message delivery by sharing three things that this mission trip has taught me and how each has impacted my life.
1. God is bigger and greater than our minds could even begin to grasp.
Often times people question how much direct impact we can have on short term mission trips. I questioned that myself while preparing for this trip. The questions in my mind were ones such as: "Should I go?"; "Can I get out of work for that long?”; and “How much can we really do in one week anyway?”
Reflecting back on the state of my heart while I was considering this trip, I am deeply humbled and embarrassed at how small I viewed God and the work he is doing. It is clear that God is moving and working in mighty ways through programs such as Vocatio (http://www.vocatioschool.org/). God is not only using the programs, staff and leadership to provide the community with direct access to supplemental education and Christian education/counseling, but more importantly, he is using these blessed vessels for the transference of his love into the lives of the youth in Philadelphia.
I was so humbled to see how great our God really is and how He is sovereign over all things. He sees and knows every heart, every tear, every child and every pain that we bear. And while we can only mourn and cry at the injustice and brokenness in this world, we sometimes see glimpses of hope and healing in the ways that God moves people to act and live for his kingdom in programs such as Vocatio. It was truly an honor and privilege to join the staff at Vocatio in the amazing work they are doing for God’s kingdom.
2. Obedience in all things.
In one of our daily morning devotionals as a team, I reflected on Joshua and his immediate obedience when confronted by the angel of God [Joshua 5:13-15].
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked,
“Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”
And Joshua did so.
Although there could have been many reasons for his kneeling before God, Joshua didn’t question the angel or ask for evidence of what will happen. He didn’t try to figure things out before deciding if he was going to kneel and take off his shoes on holy ground. Rather, he simply acted and obeyed, turning his ear towards what God was instructing him to do in that moment.
It made me think about how often I delay my obedience to God. Like Joshua, I want to emulate this type of immediate obedience to all things great and small when God confronts me in my life. Even while preparing for this trip, my heart was late in fully submitting to God's call on me. However, throughout the prep weeks and the trip, God spoke to me about obeying His every command and obeying immediately.
I hope that this message will remain in me as I return to my day to day business and life. I pray that God’s will and direction will never be on the back burner or an afterthought, but that my every day would be centered around knowing God intimately and listening for his voice and guidance in all areas of my life. Through this discipline, I hope that I can be reminded of the importance of joyful obedience and can work to always move and obey as God calls.
3. Prayers sowed in faith reap fruit that only God can grow.
We may never see the fruit that will grow from the seeds we planted this past week and that we continue to plant through our prayers. And while it seems natural for one to seek evidence that their labor has produced tangible benefits, we can never let the visible fruit – or results – be the marker of whether we continue to do the work God calls us to do. Rather, we must look out into the world with eyes of faith to see what God is calling each of us to do in our lives for his kingdom while trusting and believing in the faithfulness of God.
I believe that as we continue to trust in Him, God will pour out grace, love and healing not only in the lives of the students, staff and youth in Vocatio and Philadelphia but in your life and mine as well.