Well, I’m going to go ahead and start off by saying GOD IS SOOO GOOD!!!!!! Day 1 was awesome but Day 2, gosh, it’s going to be tough to put into words how BIG God was at work but I’m going to do my best so just bare with me!
The day started off with another early start and a team breakfast. After breakfast we went into devotional time where we looked into the word “hope” and what that means for us as followers of Christ. Many scriptures on hope were shared from different students but the main verses that stuck out were;
“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,”
It was in these truths from God’s Word that the students were able to journal and mediate on how their hope comes through Jesus and Jesus alone. Also, thinking about “hope” in more a mission-minded perspective, the students learned that we’ve been given this great hope through Jesus and as we work around people with no hope this week, we must embrace the work the Lord has given us. Which is to bring the hope of Christ to lives that are chained up in hopelessness. It was awesome to start the day off seeing what this life is literally all about, our relationship with Jesus and sharing Jesus with the world around us.
After getting fueled up from devotion time, we all set out on the day’s adventure. Today we were given the chance to serve the Dream Center by taking care of different needs around the campus such as, mowing grass, weed-eating, watering plants, trimming hedges, and a large group of the students helped out in the community store to organize clothes, foods and pack up food packs in preparation to give out to those in need. On top of those jobs, the boys doing all the landscaping helped out moving pallets and something a little less fun. They had some mattresses that had been in need of moving to the dumpster but not the resources or man power to do the job so today was that day. These mattresses had been sitting outside for a little bit so with the rain, insects, and tons of smelly nature on them, it was definitely a job that opened us up to continue serving no matter what the cost. Even if that cost is so so nasty! The work day as a whole was a great experience for all the students as they experienced the “hard-work” side of serving on this mission for Christ. After a lot of sweat in the great Florida humidity, the students powered through and heard an awesome report from the Dream Center leader. He took notice of how hard the kids were working and how they weren’t just working to finish but working to excellence as if they are doing this work for the Lord. We are super proud of all the students sacrificing themselves to serve in this strenuous way today and thankful to hear how God is moving them to be the best at whatever they do, even if that is moving smelly old mattresses.
I also want to mention on day #1 the boys group, who have been sleeping upstairs decided to build a fort out of leftover mattresses! To be honest, it may be one of the coolest I’ve ever seen!!! Just wanted to make sure I didn’t leave them out on that and I will definitely be sharing pictures soon so stay tuned to see what the guys have done!
After a little break time, the time gathered up to set up a cookout for the community! While people were going by the local community store to get food packs and clothes, we were cooking hot dogs on the side to give out to all who came by. While some cooked hot dogs, some helped hand them out to people and serve them their food, and we even had a few kids playing games with kids who came by. What was really cool about this opportunity is that it opened up another chance to build relationships with the people in the Lakeland community. It was truly awesome to watch the students begin to understand Jesus’ example of living on mission and serving others.
Just like Jesus would meet people’s needs first, like physical needs, hunger, illness, or whatever it was, then after meeting their physical needs first he would begin ministering to them. The students began to really live this out as they would serve food to people of need in the community, they then stepped out of their comfort zones asking people how they can pray for them. It was extremely encouraging to watch students step out on faith by praying for people they had never met before, seeing a need and then covering the need in God’s love and provision. There was a few students who usually aren’t the types to step out and ask people “how can I pray for you today?” Then laying hands on them and praying over their needs specifically. It was powerful to watch students pour out their hearts for the people but to watch a few step up in that way which was way out of their comfort zone was incredible. God is literally moving students to do things they never imagined doing and on top of all that Gold, there was a couple of girls who were asking to pray over people but received some nasty rejection. The person just refused to be prayed over and as this rejection can be crippling and discouraging. Especially being kids so young in their faith, the girls didn’t react that way though, actually the exact opposite. They hurt for these people, instead of being upset about getting rejected they felt the need to bring up their names to be prayed over. It’s so amazing to watch these students react in such a Christ-like way to a situation that wasn’t easy to handle.The afternoon continued after serving at the cookout, the Dream Center hosts a basketball league on Tuesday nights called “the rock.” The league was actually founded by Pastor Matt and another guy while he spent time serving here years ago so it was awesome to see God continuing to work through this basketball ministry to reach young guys with Jesus. The students were able to serve them hot dogs as well and it seemed for a minute that the students were getting tired, starting to play around some. In that moment a SHIFT happened.
In a room at the Dream Center, while the young guys were playing basketball, there was a worship/prayer service taking place where they were interceding on behalf the basketball players. It was maybe 5-6 people, with one woman playing piano and singing worship songs, men and women were literally reaching to the heavens for the sake of 15-20 young men that were only feet away. It was such a special moment and Pastor Matt saw what was happening then felt the need to ask the students and leaders to go in and join this Spirit-filled environment. What was meant to be 15-20 minute turned into almost an hour of praying, praising God through worship, students getting hands laid on them for prayer, tears shed and so much more. I’ll be honest, coming from a traditional church background I’ve always been skeptical when it came to “Holy Spirit” moments, but this was an experience like none I’ve ever experienced. I have never literally felt God’s presence working in such a real way before.
The time of worship in that room was so real, raw, and personal with the Lord. One student was prayed for by a man over a situation he had going on in his life and in his words, “I felt like this guy was sent from God to say these words over Him.” It was an amazing experience for the students to experience real worship in this way and also experience the power of the Holy Spirit working so strongly on their hearts. That was when the SHIFT took place, and from that moment on things became more real than ever for these students. And big thanks to Pastor Matt for providing such great leadership for our team, seeing the need for us to go in that room and being obedient to lead us.
Going into reflection time, that feeling from serving all day and the time of worship was still so strong in each of the students lives. It’s really so hard to put into words what took place during reflection time, but “Spirit-filled and Spirit-led” is probably the best terms to use. It was obvious from the first moment of reflection time that the Holy Spirit was doing such a work in these kids lives, things were pushed out of their hearts that they had been harboring away getting those struggles and fears to the surface where they can be handled and worked through with the help of others. The main theme of the day was how students continued to open up to step farther and farther out of their comfort zone and these moments were icing on the cake. Student after student began opening their hearts and sharing all that was on them. Some doubts, some fears, some struggles they had been dealing with for quite some time. They were bringing these things out to the open and what made it even more amazing was how the students were so intentional to encourage one another, comfort, and help each other through them. There was a sense of “togetherness” in that time that just left me in awe.
After having so much I wanted to share from serving all day during my reflection time, it just hit me that what God was doing in those moments was bigger than it all. As great as giving reflections from moments of serving, stepping out of comfort zones and doing new things to serve others, that’s the usual type of content in a mission trip reflection time. But the reflections given by the students here were so much more persona and deeper than anything they could have experienced.
My reflection from the night turned into what I experienced watching God work through these students lives and hearts. I sat there in complete awe hearing students continue to open up the deep pains and struggles they face, then watching the group as whole pray for one another, encourage and be the family they need in this time. It was things that had nothing to do with this trip but things that had everything to do with their persona relationships with the Lord. Watching students open up in this way and come together, the years that were shed by students and leaders, that is what it’s all about.
Bigger than the mission trips or anything else in this world, watching God completely change and move in their hearts. God moving them to affirm each other’s gifts and callings, helping one another from their own personal experiences, that is what it’s truly all about. As awesome as the work that is being done through serving and mission work, watching God wreck hearts and change lives. That’s why going on these trips are so huge in each follower of Christ’s life. Moments of being pushed out of comfort zones and learning to lean on God, being broken down and molded back together by the hands of God. Wow. I can’t explain how awesome this is and I just ask you continue to pray for our team this week as we continue to walk in what God is going to do this week. I don’t know what’s going to happen but if these first two days were a hint, it’s going to be something super special in the lives of everyone involved.