And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
A week from now I will have been in Haiti for one full day.
As I prepare this week to go on this mission trip, my mind turns back to the first mission trip I ever participated in.
I almost didn’t go that year. Our youth group was going on a mission to Monterey, Mexico to work in the poverty stricken barrios, leading the children in bible lessons, but mostly just showing them the love of God through our work and play. I was an alternate for the trip that year, and when I got the call that I was going – we had to scramble to get me there. I had to expedite my passport. We had to drive to Topeka, KS to get an authorized copy of my birth certificate. I had to come up with the money, fast. It almost didn’t happen, but when my passport came the day before we left, the way was clear and I was gone.
I had never seen anything quite like what I saw that summer in Monterey. I had up to that point thought my family was poor, when compared to the people we met, I was embarrassingly rich. I thought I had faced challenges and trials in life at 15, but I met 8 year old who were living on the streets, scavenging for their meals, and usually looking out for their younger brothers and sisters.
My eyes were opened, my heart was broken; I would not go home the same.
Then the hurricane hit.
Growing up in Kansas, I had seen my share of Tornadoes. We were the kind to go out on the front porch and watch them blow by – we were Kansas tough. The thing about Tornadoes is, they come up quick, blow things around a bit, tear a lot of stuff up, but then there gone just as quick as they came.
Not a Hurricane. Before those hit there’s the rain, the flooding; then the wind comes, but the rain and the flood doesn’t stop. And it it can last for days.
Fortunately, this one only lasted for the better part of an afternoon and evening. As the storm approached, all the youth were gathered into the chapel to ride out the storm. We prayed, we sang, we read Scripture. Windows were broken, the girls screamed, I prayed even harder.
That’s when I knew. I was praying just that the Lord would deliver me through the storm, this was too much for a Kansas kid. But in that time of scripture and prayer, I heard the call to ministry. It wasn’t really an audible voice, I wasn’t hearing things, but there was a call nonetheless. In my heart I knew, “This is where you are supposed to be.”
It took a long time to figure out what that would look like. At first I thought I was called to youth ministry – I never wanted to be a stuffy old preacher. I pursued that, did that, but in the process, and through the support and direction of some great mentors, I discerned the calling to pastoral ministry – and I still reject the idea that I am a stuffy old preacher (though the old is coming despite my best efforts).
“This is where you are supposed to be.” This is where I belong. This is what God has called me to do. The mission I had in Mexico that summer is the same mission I have in Iowa these past 7 years: to proclaim the gospel boldly with love and compassion, living for the glory of God in the fullness of joy.
I am what I am today because of mission. It is my prayer that the same sovereign grace that laid claim to my life that summer will transform the lives of our mission team and our church even still.