Where Should I Begin?
We returned home last night after spending a week at Joni and Friends Family Retreat. This is our third year volunteering at this retreat. I’m not sure how to begin telling you all about this week, so I decided that I’ll just start typing and we’ll see where God takes this. 🙂
I got the privilege of being a small group leader in the Jr./Sr. High program that met in the mornings after breakfast. I’ve been a small group leader for various ages all three times that my family has attended camp as volunteers. Leading a small group at Joni Camp always presents special challenges. This year, some of the campers in my small group had trouble focusing on the subject at hand. This made it difficult to get through the discussions. However, I felt God’s tremendous grace on me throughout the entire small group.
On the second day of our meetings, I decided to completely abandon the questions I had been given and make up the discussion. This was completely counter-intuitive for me, but I know that’s how God wanted it to be. Somehow, and I’m still not sure how, the discussion ended with the question, “Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior”? This was the whole point of the curriculum, but I didn’t expect to get to that place, since I was making up the whole discussion and had no idea what God would lead me to say until I said it. God is so awesome! The biggest lesson He taught me in those times was trust. I would’ve failed miserably if I had trusted myself during those small group discussions. God showed me in the midst of it all that He is faithful, whether we understand what He’s up to or not!
Another lesson God taught me this week is not to take life for granted. As I observed these campers who live with various “disabilities”, I saw a group of people who didn’t let what they can’t do define their lives. Instead, they focused on what they could do and took such great joy in the “little things” in life! Sometimes I go through life joylessly. Sometimes I forget to be thankful when someone does something nice for me. This week, the campers reminded me that I need to be thankful for all of the blessings God showers on me. I need to love my friends and family with renewed love. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. I need to look for God’s blessings in every part of life. He’s always there, and He’s always blessing me beyond what I deserve! So it was challenging and so encouraging to watch the campers love God, each other, and life in general this week.
God blessed our team of STMs (short term missionaries) with incredible team unity. We really bonded together and served with one mind this week. And every single person on our team blessed me a ton; I love them and I love what God is doing in their lives! We had many incredible times together. I enjoyed the laughter, the serious, deep discussions, the randomness, the prayer times, freezing our hands off in the Anchor, sleeping on rock-hard mattresses, staying up until way too late, growing closer together and helping each other grow closer to God. It was so difficult to leave my new “family” of 100+ people. It’s sad not seeing them every day. I praise God that He gave us this opportunity to serve together!
JC team – I want to encourage you not to become like the Ephraimites of Psalm 78. It says that “they forgot His works and the wonders that they had shown Him.” God has done so much this week. As you process all that He has done, I hope you will never forget the lessons He taught you individually. I hope the fellowship and the people you’ve met and the difficult times God brought you through this week will stay with you for the rest of your life, and change you forever. This week will do very little good for you unless you do something different now. I’m still figuring out what that means for me. What do you think it means for you? Anyhow, I praise God for you guys! Thank you for being willing to serve Him and encourage me, fellow STMs, and the campers this week. He is awesome and He is doing awesome things through you guys!
All the glory goes to Jesus Christ for the amazing things He has done this week. “The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.”! – Psalm 126:3