July 28, 2015
One of the difficulties of being a youth leader is that you don’t get to see your students much outside of the church setting. Occasionally you’ll get to see them at one of their sporting events or other extracurricular activities, but you don’t get to see them at school or in their home where most of their life is spent.
The difficulty about this is that we never truly know how much they are learning and growing in their faith. When Jesus called his disciples he was always with them and was able to teach them along the way. So, one of the joys about leading a mission trip is that we get to spend an entire week with them living life and putting into practice what we have been learning throughout the year. The story that I believe best describes our trip is found in John 6:1-15 where Jesus feeds the five thousand.
The first comparison to this story is that Jesus and his disciples were tired from travel. After a long 23 hour bus ride to Philadelphia and a late night of watching fireworks on the fourth of July our students were exhausted. Staying in a church all week with no air conditioning and sleeping on the floor only made things worse. When the disciples were tired they wanted Jesus to tell the people to go away so that they could rest. As a leader, I was encouraged to see that our students didn’t have this same attitude but instead they were eager to serve each day. The next thing that we can learn from this story is that Jesus was willing to change his plans in order to serve and love others. Jesus brought his disciples to a solitary place to rest but when he saw the people in need he changed his plans to meet their needs. One of the biggest challenges of this trip was that we were not in control of what we did. We were serving with an organization called Adventures in Missions and each day they would tell us where we were going to serve and what we would be doing. This was a challenge as we never knew exactly what we were going to do and couldn’t mentally prepare. Multiple times we had to change our plans last minute and serve in a different way than expected. One example came on our first day of service. We were prepared to help lead a VBS with children in the area but due to a lack of registered students we were asked to help clean up the church instead. This wasn’t an ideal start to our trip as we were stuck cleaning out a dirty closet instead of playing with kids, but it was amazing to see our students step up to the challenge and serve with a positive attitude. The last thing that we can take away from this story is that God can take our small acts of obedience and turn them into something great. In the story a little boy gave up his 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and Jesus used it to feed over five thousand people. Unlike our past mission trips we did not serve in the same place all week, but instead we got to serve a variety of different organizations. This was both a blessing and a challenge. It was rewarding to be able to experience many different ways to serve and use all of the different gifts that God has given us. We were able to sort and package meat at a local food drive, organize clothes at a non-profit thrift store, play with kids at the Salvation Army, and paint rooms at a transitional housing center. The challenge of serving in all of these ways is that we never got to see the end result. We were bouncing around from one organization to the next and we had to have faith that God was going to use our small acts of obedience to accomplish his great will.
It was a blessing to be a part of this group and to see our students serve in such a positive and loving way. As a leader it was encouraging to see them overcome obstacles and grow in their faith. They did a great job and I couldn’t be more proud of they way they represented this community and loved like Jesus all week.
Matt Kenutis, Youth Ministry Assistant