Barbara's Random Thoughts

Monday, August 08, 2005

Wales and beyond

Ok. I've been meaning to sit down and post something more substantial about my trip than just the few photos that went up last week. The days I was away were crammed so full of experiences that I feel like I was gone for at least a month. There's so much to tell, and it's just not going to make it all onto the blog, but here goes (subtext: long post ahead). I kept telling myself that I'd post once I finished my journal from the trip (yes, I'm STILL finishing, shut up), but church today prompted a bunch of thoughts that I want to include. And maybe writing about some of this will help me to sort it out in my head. Anyway, here are some words to go with the pictures below.

It's weird to come home from a mission trip and answer people's questions about how things went. I always feel a certain expectation to report results of a sort. I think that's partly just me, part of the results-oriented mode I so often operate in, but I think it's also a Christian culture thing to a certain extent. Anyway.

I went into this trip praying for big things. The night before I left, my roommate Joyce shared with a group of friends about her trip to Ethiopia, and one of the things she shared was a desire to "pray big" for Ethiopia. She talked about praying one morning that the rain would stop so that the kids could walk to school, and then realizing that she was praying for a "band-aid" solution, not for the bigger picture. That idea really stuck with me, and I went into this trip with a desire to pray for those bigger things, to look beyond just the details of having things go smoothly and instead to expect big things from God on this trip.

Part of that was a prayer to see kids in my class accept Christ. But God didn't answer that least not immediately, not that I could see during my time in Wales. That was a frustrating thing for me. In so many ways, I could see God working, but I didn't see the "results" that I wanted. And I think the phrase "I wanted" is key there...I was looking for the results I wanted, and God's plan is so often different than what I want.

The last day of the Holiday Bible Club, the Bible story was on the crucifixion and resurrection...purely the gospel message. And the kids in my class were the most attentive that day. I was amazed that I didn't have to interrupt the story to ask kids to be quiet. 7-year-olds aren't the most attentive age, but on Friday, they all listened and were interested and answered questions that showed they were taking in what I was sharing. I felt like I was able to explain things clearly, and the kids were the best listeners they'd been all week. But there were no responses, no kids who said, "Yes, I want to know Jesus!" At the end of the morning, I rode over to the church with Heather, and she asked me how the week had gone. The only thing I could answer was "I don't know." I always wonder if I'm doing enough, if I should have done things differently, if I would have been more effective if I had just...etc. And that morning was no exception. I wondered if there would have been more "results" if I had just done or said that one more thing.

It's difficult to not see results in ministry, and I struggled a lot throughout the week with issues of feeling ineffective and wondering if I really am of use to God. Looking back, I see that one of the things that God was teaching me this trip was to just do my part and trust that He would use it in whatever way He chose to, and in His time. It's a matter of doing what I can and trusting that God can and will fill in the gaps that I leave, either now or in the future.

I had a great conversation with Eric on the train to London. He talked about seeing a change in so many of the kids there that we had worked with over the years...seeing how they had changed since the first year we came, and about the longer-term impact that the team has had in their lives. And it was encouraging to look at it that way--results aren't always seen in the short week and a half that we have there.

God kept bringing Isaiah 55:10-11 to mind: "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." God promises that His word will accomplish His purposes--I just need to trust that is true, and speak His word when He gives me the opportunity. part that I'm home. The whole morning at church today was very missions-focused. The Forum (Bible study I usually attend on Sundays before the service) took the whole hour today to hear from the Marshalls, missionaries who are ministering in Pakistan. We also took some time to pray for the Marshalls during the worship service. God was really working on my heart during the worship following the prayer time, with a couple of songs that mean a lot to me when it comes to thinking about missions.

You Said
Reuben Morgan

You said, "Ask and you will receive whatever you need."
You said, "Pray and I'll hear from heaven,
and I'll heal your land."

You said Your glory will fill the earth
like water the sea.
You said, "Lift up your eyes;
the harvest is here, the kingdom is near."

You said, "Ask and I'll give the nations to you."
Oh Lord, that's the cry of my heart.
Distant shores and the islands will see Your light
As it rises on earth.

Missions has been a passion of my heart for a long time, and I've said for a long time that I wasn’t sure what God was going to do with that in my future. But this morning, following my time in Wales and reflecting on all of that, the focus in worship was like God was asking, "Isn't it about time you started figuring that out?" But then the immediate doubts began...what could I do? What gifts do I have, what do I have to offer to God? Can I really be of use to Him? The service ended with the song "Surrender." I'd forgotten that this was the song we'd been closing with throughout the current sermon series.

I'm giving You my heart
And all that is within
I lay it all down
For the sake of You, my King

It was just another reminder of God's sufficiency and my need to lay down my doubts and trust Him. I don't know what this will mean, I don't know what God is doing in my heart, but He's doing something. And I'm excited, and a little scared, to seek this out and see where He leads.
| posted by Barbara | 4:35 AM