Well, 2016 is almost over. Last January, I started this blog as a sort of New Year’s resolution. Like most New Year’s resolutions, I didn’t keep up that well (even including this post, I averaged less than one post a month). But there is one thing from 2016 that I have been meaning to write about for months. So without further ado, here is a post about one of my favorite parts about 2016:
This past summer, I traveled to Spokane, Washington with a group of six high school students (including my sister) and three adult leaders (including myself), on a mission trip with my church. While there, we helped with a week-long Vacation Bible School (VBS) in Spokane, as well as a food drive in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Throughout the trip we stayed with host families who generously provided us with lodging, breakfast, and cars to use each day for transportation.
At VBS, I served as a “Crew Leader,” so I was responsible for leading a small group of children around to each station. Each day when the kids arrived, we asked them about their “God Sightings” (where they had seen God acting in their lives that day). Their answers included things like “I saw the sun come up today,” or “I ate breakfast this morning,” or “I made a new friend at VBS this week.” Although their answers may seem simple, it helped the children see where God is at work in their daily lives, and helped make me more aware of God’s work in my own life.
One morning, one of the children arrived early and I asked him if he was enjoying VBS so far. He told me that it was the best part of his day. He said that his mom was working that day but they were able to find someone else to give him a ride to the church and he was so happy because he didn’t want to miss any of it.
When we weren’t helping out at the church, we took advantage of our free time to explore and sight-see in Washington and Idaho. On Sunday, we saw the Grand Coulee Dam which is about two hours west of Spokane.
On Monday, we hiked on Mount Spokane.
On Tuesday, we went to one of the host families’ homes to swim, ride horses, and ride four-wheelers.
On Wednesday, we went boating on Lake Coeur D’Alene.
And on Thursday we visited the Spokane Falls.
I think this trip has really been a turning point in my life for the way I feel about sharing my faith. Before the trip, I usually felt uncomfortable talking about my faith, even with those who I knew already believed the same thing as me! But throughout the week, I saw the high school students share their faith and insights from our Bible readings shamelessly and confidently and it was so amazing to me. They are at an age where it is especially easy to feel embarrassed or judged; they want to feel accepted. But instead of hiding their faith, I watched them share it and discuss it with each other, and share it with the children at VBS. This isn’t to say that now I am 100% comfortable sharing my faith with every person I meet, but the teens set a great example for me, and it is a stepping stone towards developing that confidence for myself.
This trip also changed how I feel about prayer. I have always believed God has a plan and a purpose and that things happen for a reason, but this week I saw that in action more than ever. I saw numerous prayers answered throughout the week, and I am still seeing Him continue to answer my prayers to help me continue to “live it” as He empowers me to share my faith and my experiences from our trip. The teens were also an incredible example here. They have been brought up in the faith well, and I was impressed by how they prayed and what they prayed for.
The most extreme example I saw of answered prayers happened on Tuesday when we were riding the four-wheelers. Throughout the week, all the teens and leaders started and ended their day with personal devotion and prayer. On Monday night, I wrote out a prayer and I ended it by saying, “give us another good and safe day tomorrow,” without really thinking much about it. On Tuesday, God answered this prayer by protecting us from a near-death experience on the four-wheelers. Without going into too much detail, several of us ended up in situations where we actually could have died or been severely injured, but instead we all walked away without a scratch.
I can’t speak for my fellow passengers, but I know personally that had a huge impact on the way I view my life (especially my faith life). It was kind of a wake up call and in some ways a reaffirmation of my faith. However, if it weren’t for our daily devotions and talking with the children at VBS about their God Sightings, I probably would have told people that we were “lucky” to be alive. But we had all been thinking daily about where God was working in our lives and where He surprised us as we reflected back on each day. So after having one of the biggest God Sightings of my life, I spent hours reflecting on it and the way God was present there. It wasn’t just a lucky break, God has a plan and a purpose for all of us and that moment in the four-wheeler showed me that. God has put me here for a reason and He has a purpose for my life.
As intense as that Tuesday afternoon was, the week as a whole was probably one of the best weeks of my life. And I am still trying to figure out exactly why that is, but one thing I can point to is definitely the people: our welcoming host families, the generous congregation members, the adorable children at VBS, the hardworking and enthusiastic high school students, WELS Kingdom Workers, and of course our awesome team of leaders. 🙂 And I can tell you that given the opportunity, I would definitely do it all over again.