I know some in the youth ministry world are against short term mission projects. They say things like the people don’t need your help, or if you don’t have a long term relationship nothing really changes. Going to some far off place is nice but you have needs in your community that should be served first. I have a different view on these types of trips.
About a week ago I spent 8 days with students, parents and 300 other kids I had never met before to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community of Prince George, Virginia. This is my 12th week long mission trip as a leader. I did 4 as a high school student and one trip for 3 weeks in high school as well. I can say without a doubt I am a week long mission junkie. I love it and honestly the couple of summers I didn’t get to do it my whole year felt off somehow. You may be thinking how can one week of service really do that.
For the last 13 years I have gone on these trip through an organization called Group Mission trips. They are a fantastic organization to work with mostly because they do two things really well. First the work is all set up. They screen residents, plan the jobs we will be doing, and provide directions for all the projects. This is no small task. I have never in 13 years had an issues with work not needing to be done or trivial. We make a real difference in the lives of those people we come in contact with. Second they help my students and I get out of our comfort zone through breaking us up into crews of kids we have never met before. It is a brilliant system because if doesn’t just get you to meet other students. By taking you out of your comfort zone it helps students and adults to have confidence to get to know others in their own youth group. I cant say enough about the system and what they do.
Lastly Mission trips like this put everything into perspective for me as a follower of Jesus. You see when you get to know a resident for a week you get to know them and their life story if you are willing to listen. You often hear stories of brokenness, death, and sin. You meet people who have never had anyone to listen to them, people who have never heard anyone care for them for no other reason that this guy named Jesus. It is truly a powerful experience. These experiences help put life in perspective for me. It helps me walk back into my community and have empathy for my neighbor. They help me see all people as if they were Jesus.
So today as you walk around, take the time to hear your neighbor, hear the person who is next to you in line at the grocery story and care for them. Ask how you can help. Share about this Jesus guy who helps you get through this life.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25:34-35 NIV
Over the 12 plus years I have been serving in ministry I have been amazed by many different peoples generosity. This Sunday was one I really needed. You see this past weekend I was sick. I mean dog tired sick. I have run my body ragged between a trip to Disney, VBS, Hosting a day camp and strategic planning. My body has literally been saying to me “Steve just STOP IT or else”. I was sick all weekend and Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed. I had been literally coughing all night and hadn’t slept except for about 2 hours from 8 AM-10 AM. I was miserable when I walked into St. John but I was there to help lead the service. In all honesty I should have stayed home, but God had another plan.
To open the service I made a few announcements. The most important one to me was a need we had for donations for a couple of our students who needed help to be able to attend the mission trip this summer. Throughout the service Jesus gave me the voice and allowed me to avoid coughing uncontrollable during the prayers and other parts I had to lead. It was truly a miracle that I made it through the service. Praise God He is faithful to me and got me to the other side so I could see His great goodness. I am so glad I was there because I got to see Jesus move.
At the end of the service I had three people I come forward and ask what they could do to help. One even wrote a check for the amount we needed for two of the students. I was amazed. I know I shouldn’t have been amazed but God brought those people forward to help reach a need for our young people. I should never be surprised by the generosity of Gods people for His mission. I am so glad Jesus brought me to that moment. I got to see Him work.
Today as you may be feeling down, or tired, or broken be reminded that Jesus is continuing to work in the lives of His people. He is working to bring about His good and we are blessed often when we can see it. My prayer for you today is that you see Jesus work his miracles working in your lives.
I love VBS. Now that I have that off my chest… For some people VBS is a painful experience they have to live through. For some youth workers VBS is some of the hardest times of their lives. That is not me. I love VBS. I love those 15 hours of pure joy over five wonderful days. I love the laughter, joy and Jesus we get to share with students for that week. It is some of the best times in the world.
I probably love VBS so much because it taught me something about Jesus that I will never forget and still love today. You see I came from a Church that did VBS over the top awesome. For a Church that worshiped 300 on a Sunday we had well over 550 students at VBS. We packed the place to where we had kids everywhere and adults had to stand because you couldn’t sit is a pew. (Luckily the fire marshal never showed up because I am sure we broke fire code) But seriously, VBS to this day still brings me back to some amazing times in my faith journey and I learned some amazing things about Jesus those weeks.. We are now 20 days from VBS here at St. John and I can’t wait.
I learned one very important thing at VBS growing up that I pray is something I teach kids every year. I learned Loving Jesus is fun. Knowing Jesus is fun. Singing and dancing for Jesus is fun. Jesus brings us joy. Once when I was a teen at VBS serving in music leading I was walking in late to the morning program because I was picking up my friend. When we walked in the kids were singing and the walls were literally shacking. Not the speakers were cranking… The kids were singing so loud you could see the walls shake. To this day I cannot get that image out of my head. I want my kids and all kids to sing so loud for Jesus the walls shake. I want them to know him so much that the joy of His grace spreads to our community and world. I look forward to sharing in the joy of the Lord in a few short weeks. I am almost giddy with excitement.
Today as you walk with Jesus remember the joy we have in Christ. Share that Joy with others. Maybe you aren’t in that season of Joy but I pray you can get there. I pray you can see the walls shaking because the joy of Jesus is being shared….Oh and if you are in Rochester Michigan come join us as we share Jesus with some amazing kids. I promise you will hear a joyful noise!!
I am tired. I have been busy these last few months. I haven’t written a blog post is over 3 months. It has mostly been due to being busy and tired. I often forget about how tiring ministry can be. We can be tired because we are overworked, or struggle to find purpose. Most of all I think we are tired because we grow tired of sharing Jesus. We forget our joy in sharing the story of Jesus and his forgiveness. We do this because we lose focus on what we are doing in ministry.
yesterday however was a fun and exciting day. I am a Star Wars fan. I really enjoy the fun of the light sabers and music, and the wonder we see in those films. I had the joy of leading chapel yesterday. I handed out light sabers to the ushers at chapel and I had them play Star Wars music for chapel as the kids walked in the room. It was a great moment watching many of the kids come into chapel excited to see what would be done today. We of course didn’t put our primary focus on Star Wars. We focused on Jesus. We used Star Wars as a way to share Jesus with students. We used light sabers to foscus kids on the light of the world. We had so much fun as a group. What I noticed most today was the joy I had in sharing Jesus with kids. Too often we forget about this joy because we are so focused on work to be done, or the projects to be completed. We focus on the conflicts in our churches or the pain being caused to us by our sin.
Those things above don’t go away when have are good days but when we can focus on sharing Jesus we see God working in the lives of people we can have joy. So let us instead focus on sharing Jesus. Let us never grow tired of sharing Jesus.
For those of you who are reading this and aren’t full time ministers. I would challenge you in your daily life, when you are feeling tired, to focus on the joy of sharing Jesus. We all are busy with life but if you can focus your time on sharing Jesus in our work, family and daily lives we can find joy. We may be tired today but let us all never grow tired of sharing Jesus with everyone we meet.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV
Sunday night I decided it was important for our Jr. High students to pray for our world. So for about 45 minutes we prayed. We broke into groups and walked around the building praying for people. We prayed in both worship spaces for the people who will worship there. We prayed for the guests who will be with us for Easter and Holy Week. We prayed for the leaders who lead worship, that they may point us to Jesus. We went to the Atrium and looked North and South of the building and prayed for the lost, the Muslims, Jews and other unbelievers. Then we walked to the east end of the building and prayed for those at Crittenton hospital, for the sick, the doctors, Nurses and other staff. After those 25 minutes we headed back to Luther hall and prayed for a specific person in our lives who needed to hear about Jesus or who was struggling with things in life. It was a neat experience.
Hearing students pray out loud for those they never met was a cool experience. It was amazing to me how well the students in my group prayed out loud for those who need Jesus. They spent 45 minutes praying for others. They prayed for the lost in this world. They want them to know Jesus.
We ended the night in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. We focused on the importance of sharing Jesus and Him crucified for us. You see I think we try to make this witnessing thing way more complicated than it has to be. My goal last night was to remind those teens and myself, we don’t have to know all the answers about Jesus to share him with others. We just share Jesus and him crucified for us and let the Holy Spirit work on the hearts of others.
In the next couple of weeks, we are going to meet others curious about Jesus. They are going to wondering about this Jesus person. As Easter approaches you will have opportunities to share Jesus. Point them to Jesus’ work on the cross. Focus on him crucified and raised for you.