Last week, some of our youth members, youth director, children’s ministry pastor, and I went to Atlanta, GA for mission trip. There were fourteen of us. And, until we went, we didn’t know what to expect. Despite uncertainty, a week in Atlanta was peaceful experience with great things that I know were present but seem like they were beyond my understanding. It taught me humility, healing, and maybe a little bit of how God works.
We as a team stayed at a local church and went out to do at least two ministries a day. Homeless dinner, women’s kitchen, communities with refugee kids and others, concrete jungle, and park ministry. We went around different parts of Atlanta where I’m sure people who live there do not visit often unless they intentionally look for them, just like a lot of us do not usually know where refugee communities or homeless shelters are in Charlotte.
It was an amazing week in many aspects. At the end of the mission trip, I remembered the quote,
“God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the call”
I felt like God was equipping us and using us before and during the whole mission. Who was ready and qualified for this mission trip? Not me. There were times when I was distracted in our purpose, inept in what we had to do, awkward around strangers, and just totally not ready. Regardless of all the flaws within myself that I would have found frustrating if I didn’t keep reminding myself that it was God’s mission and He called us to be there, there really were some great witnessing of God’s work, sharing His greatness and love, and fellowship among the believers.
When we went to women’s kitchen and I just stood there, not knowing what to do other than serve food with a smile — when they were leaving, two women hugged me with thanks. The ones that I would have hard time approaching in a normal situation came to me first and showed me deep appreciation that I felt in my heart. Romans 12:9 says that love should be genuine and their love was genuine. I struggle so much to show genuine love everyday while they were showing it through simple hugs to a stranger who served them food. At refugee community, a little girl’s grandmother came to me a second day and gave me a big hug. I really wanted to talk to her the day before about Jesus and I just didn’t know how as she barely spoke any English and she seemed upset about her granddaughter covered in chalk. The next day, she just came to me first and while I tried to strike a conversation just get to know her, she gave me a hug. I’m not sure what she said before, but her smile and love were genuine. When we went to Homeless dinner under the bridge, we met the most sincere, open, and kind man who shared with us his life story, faith, doubts, and struggles. Despite his struggle, he shared with us the faith he has in God. God loves him. I know it. He knows it. He is just going through a valley. All I could do was encourage him, but he encouraged me more in return through his openness, respect, and smiles. And then, there were smart kids, smart lunch where we served local community of kids. They were so loving and open. They embraced us like we were life-long friends and we not only had good time, but were eager to go back the next day to see them again.
Though I thought I couldn’t physically feel His presence at times and often was confused about the circumstances around me, I could see what He meant by “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:27). Where the homeless and the hungry were, people of God seemed stronger in their faith in God. They may be broken, hurt, and beat around by the world and life and have doubts and discouragements every day. Their worries — different from mine and people around me– didn’t keep them from believing in and loving God. They really were no different than me, except if I were in their situations, my mouth and heart would flow out complaints and bitterness; the people we served exhibited gratitude and love that I have hard time showing to people around me, let alone strangers.
In all these, I still hesitated to step out of my little bubble and reach out to see and be an active part of God’s great work and love. There were some people that came into my eyes and heart, but they passed by as I asked God what to do. In all this, God used the other people I was serving with and those who were served to reach out to me and really showed what He does out of His love, and taught me that loving is just small gestures with sincerity, grounded in faithfulness of Christ. There were His great hands working beyond my sight or understanding. In the downpour of rain and flash flood, all I saw with my physical eyes were vulnerability and questions of why. Somehow, someway, however, I still do believe that He did something amazing that afternoon in the park in pouring rain. We were all huddled under a shelter, looking for people who might want our encouragements. There were joy, closer bond, and encouragement within our own team and people we talked to. And, I’m thankful for that.
It makes me have hope in that His greatness cannot be covered or hidden by my weaknesses. And, I have butterflies in my stomach knowing that there will be more growth in me with Christ during YAV year. There will come those moments when I will feel shaken and broken, but I know those are God-given opportunities to be stronger in faith and love. I know it will be just a part of His molding and shaping me as His daughter and His disciple. And, He will never leave me alone to struggle.