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Thoughts & Inspiration

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

This was an interesting trip with a diverse group of people.  There were 5 different groups represented with a total of 13 participants and 5 adult chaperones. Most of the team was open to God’s leading and genuinely wanted to grow on this trip. Unfortunately, one of the groups had the trip misrepresented to them, and some of their participants were uncomfortable with heavy focus that was placed on God during this trip.

However, God knows what he is doing, and each person was present on the trip for a reason. This trip was as much about the team ministering to one another, as it was about ministering to the community. In looking back at the participants reviews of the trip, most of them talk about the new relationships they made, and about how much they enjoyed watching the team interacting and working together.

This team did good work in Fairbanks! They packed a ton of food at the food bank to provide for families in need. They made tremendous progress working on a space in the Rescue Mission that is going to be converted from storage, to a medical clinic. They ministered to the aging community at the Pioneer Home, walking and talking with people who don’t have family nearby to visit them. And they ministered to the people of Fairbanks on prayer walks.

Many of the members of this team were struggling with various personal issues. We had teens searching to find their identity, teens who were timid and uncomfortable opening up in group settings, teens who didn’t know how to talk about their faith, and even one teen who had endured emotional trauma at the hands of a supposedly Godly person. Every one of us at a different place in our spiritual walk, and never has that been more clear to me than working with this team in Alaska. But what was also clear to me through working with this group, is that God comes to each of us where we are. He is calling out to us all, we only have to respond.

This group did an amazing job of responding to that call. They ministered to the people of Fairbanks, and to each other, in amazing and powerful ways. Some of the victory stories from this trip were people who were previously uncomfortable praying out loud, volunteered to do just that. People who didn’t like talking in groups, got excited to share about what God was doing through them on this trip. People who weren’t sure how to talk about their faith, prayed with strangers in a park. And the young lady who experienced religious trauma when she was young, told us how much she enjoyed watching the group work in their ministry. It may not seem like much, but my big prayer for her on this trip was that she could see people of faith, acting in love rather than selfishness. By her own admission she did get to see that. It is my continued prayer that she will start to change her opinion of “religious people” and come to understand that the religious man who hurt her, was not representing God, and that there is a God who loves her and wants a relationship with her. Healing trauma takes time, but I am glad that I was able to be a part of this first small step for her on that long road.

Some of you may know that Sophia Sensenbach, a member of First Baptist Church Port Angeles, was able to join on this trip as well. Sophia had expressed to me a desire to go on a mission trip, and this trip seemed like a good fit for her to tag along, and the group leader was willing. Sophia fit right in and made a ton of new friends quickly. It was truly a joy to be able to watch her intentionally spend time with different members of the group in an effort to build new relationships. According to Sophias team leader, she was the most bold and outgoing when on their prayer walks, and that her enthusiasm was infectious for the people around her. I hope and pray that Sophia retains that enthusiasm and is able to continue to be missional in her daily life, and that she will have further opportunities to exercise that boldness either at home, or on the mission filed on future trips.

But, the group was not the only place that I saw growth. God used this diverse group of people to further grow me as a leader. We teach people that when they are doing prayer walks (or street ministry) that they should never make assumptions. When handing out food, you don’t say “Hey, are you homeless?”, or “Are you hungry?” because you have assumed, based on their appearance, that they are in some way in need of food. While you may be correct in your assumption, it doesn’t feel good for the person you are trying to minister to. Instead, we teach people to say “Hey, were giving away food, do you know anyone who could use it?”. This allows the person you are speaking with to ask for it for themselves, without feeling judged. It also gives them the opportunity to be generous by directing you to others who are in need. However, I have been guilty of making assumptions about the groups I am leading. I have assumed that because you are on a mission trip, that you are ready to go out on a prayer walk and tell strangers about Jesus. I have assumed that because you are an adult, leading teenagers on a mission trip, that you are strong in the faith, and ready to lead and teach others. I have assumed that because you’re on a mission trip, that you have a personal relationship with Jesus. And all of these assumptions have proven wrong at various times. This trip taught me the importance of not making assumptions about my teams, just as I teach them to not make assumptions about the people they are ministering to. I need to follow Jesus’s example, and meet each person where they are at, and help them to take the next step in their faith, whatever that step might be. While this can be difficult on a mission trip where everyone is participating in the same activities, I learned on this trip that it is possible, and that I need to release my own suppositions and plans, so that I can listen and follow where God is leading.