Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Glimpse of the Kingdom

So this past Thursday - Monday I traveled to Michigan for Experience Mission's summer staff training. Where do I even begin? The four days of training were jam packed with a variety of sessions to teach us the core values and mission of EM balanced with a lot of team building exercises to grow us closer to our individual teams. This summer, there will be teams going out to 8 different EM communities; teams of 3/4 interns will be in West Virginia, Atlanta, Joplin, Western Navajo, Eastern Navajo/New York, Maine, Jamaica, and Costa Rica. On the way to the retreat center, one of the other interns mentioned that out of 300 students that applied for the program we were the 27 chosen. I was the only one from Texas (yee-haw) and hadn't realized how competitive the EM intern program was. Out of 300 students, I am absolutely nothing special. So to be 1 of the 27 chosen, reaffirms that this is what the Lord has planned for me this summer. God is so good!

And now there's my team. It took me two hours to describe Team Costa Rica to my mom last night, so I don't know if I can appropriately describe our team in a mere blog post. From the start, I knew the Lord had faithfully answered all my prayers over the two other students I would be working with this summer. I met Susie in the airport and we immediately clicked. She's from Colorado and plays guitar, she went to bible school in Costa Rica for a year, and she is super sarcastic and hilarious. After two days, we were already holding hands and talking about how we're soul mates. I genuinely adore her. She's going to be the "Outreach Coordinator" of our team, so she'll be heading up the afternoon kid's clubs (apparently around 100 kids walk from different areas to come to the kids club in Costa Rica- so excited) and she's looking into   coordinating an outreach ministry to make jewelry with the local women, which would be super cool. Then there's Roberto, how does one explain Roberto? One of the other interns once told him "you're not even like a real person to me, your like a character on a TV show" haha. Roberto came late the first night and quickly gained a popularity in the intern group. He has the special gift to make everyone feel comfortable, because he's just so friendly and out there. He's from New Jersey, but lives in Indiana and teaches Spanish at Bethel College. After high school, he backpacked for a year from Mexico to Argentina (jealous). We did a short interview that first night and one of the qualities he described is that he loves "to get people out of there comfort zone." He's very much that spontaneous person who likes to just get up and go without necessarily knowing the destination. I'm definitely the opposite in this, I like "planned" adventure and schedules. Roberto is going to be the "Construction Coordinator" of our team. This is going to be a huge position in Costa Rica, we have three major construction projects: a church chapel, a school classroom, and an office. I'll be the "Trip Coordinator" of our team, which was so evident once I met my team. I'm definitely the scheduled/organized one, and so I'll be the one in charge of seeing the "big picture" of the short-term missions trips coming in each week. I'll be coordinating with the team leaders and will be the point person to connect our host partners and the teams coming in. 

The dynamic of our team is absolutely perfect, we're all alike but different at the same time. We balance each other. From the start we agreed that we would be a team grounded in prayer. So, before every challenge, throughout the day, and at the end of every day we would always come together to pray. It was a huge blessing to hear from Susie and Roberto when we got together to talk about how we would manage conflict, keep each other accountable, and what they envisioned for this summer. In every discussion, it came back to glorifying God in everything. That we would seek first His vision, and make relationships out of His love. We all had an understanding, that this was not about us and this summer would not be by our own ability. In our team covenant, we wrote out these truths and sealed our commitment to God and to one another through hand made team bracelets. I'm so excited to grow close to my amazing teammates, and to see how God works through us and in us. 

I feel so blessed to get to work for an organization like Experience Mission. Their mission and values act as an amazing model on how to go about short-term missions. They seek to first love and establish relationships, to come alongside the local community, and preserve their dignity. EM wants to give the communities hope so that they can make their own vision and create change. They have made partnerships with communities that move past the American notion of missions as mere charity or evangelism- and into Christ-like missions that aims to empower the community to establish their own hope and vision. The coolest part was seeing how these company values were being worked out in all of the staff. They genuinely represent these values in the way they work with one another and within the communities each look after.

Wow, see there's just too much to say! And I'm going to keep going, so if you read all of this you're awesome :)

At the end of the four days, I sat in the airport with a few of the other interns and we reflected on the retreat. One of the interns, Tyler, said it perfectly when he said the last four days was a glimpse of the Kingdom. He couldn't have been more spot on. I've never before been surrounded by a group of students who so genuinely and radically love Jesus. On Sunday night, we got together for a bonfire and a worship service led by some of the interns. We did a shower of prayer over every team and the EM staff- probably the most powerful shower of prayer I have ever been a part of. It was just so evident the presence of the Holy Spirit in that circle, and you could feel everyone else's passion and intimacy with Christ. It was incredible. Afterwards, we stood around the fire and after running out of planned songs people just started singing whatever God laid on their hearts, and everyone would just join in. Then we had a time of prayer over all of the teams, people would call out as they felt led. This service lasted hours, no one wanted to stop praising Jesus - it was just awesome. No words could properly explain. 

After four days with these people, I was seriously sad to leave everyone. When you get a group of students together who are all "people persons" and love being intentional, you form friendships fast. I couldn't help but think how powerful that group would be out on the mission field- all with the same simple purpose of just glorifying God and loving others. It really was true what Tyler said- this is a glimpse of the Kingdom. 

"May the God of endurance and encouragement 
grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 
that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 15:5-6

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