|The Victoria missions team with Joe Haynes. I love jump photos.|
Here are some of the themes and lessons that came from our experience in James Bay:
Prayer changes history. We took public transit for much of the trip, so much of our time was spent on the bus. Our first night coming back from serving, we crammed our entire team into the back section of our bus, to the dismay of the young gentleman sitting alone in the corner. Horror and dismay washed over his face as laughing teens surrounded him, forcing him to break out his ear buds and avoid any eye contact. When we sat down to debrief the day, I asked about the guy on the bus. What would it have looked like to be good news for him? Share the gospel with him, right there on the bus? Avoid him altogether? Sit in total silence (a near-impossible task for 16 teenagers)? Then I asked the question: who prayed for him? The question set the tone for the rest of the trip. Prayer walks, spontaneous prayers for members of our team, surrounding the Beacon Communities team and praying for them--prayer became our knee-jerk reaction, and it began to transform lives as students saw God respond in action. Continuous and proactive prayer changes hearts and lives; it is a humble invitation for God to act in our world.
Teens want to go deeper; any shallowness is connected to fear. I had so many great conversations with the youth about Jesus, church, theology, Scripture, and how to live out one's faith. This latter subject came up most often. Many of the team members had grown up in church and/or attended prominent Christian schools, yet still remained frustrated and confused: how does someone actually live out this kingdom-of-God stuff, not just hear it and memorize it and nod in assent? They also admitted that the reason they don't ask about this sort of stuff is that it feels like they could be judged for it, they've been scolded in the past for sharing doubts or questioning God, or it's simply not expected from them by the adults in their lives. Yet when given the opportunity to share in a genuinely safe place where a practical theology could be worked out, the teens opened up eagerly. Providing an environment of love and belonging means students can share their doubts and questions and foster a lasting faith, one that goes beyond the Christian talking-point answers.
|Sharing communion in the Haynes' kitchen|
Listening is central to discipleship. Often our concept of discipleship in the North American church has to do with programs, Bible studies, and teaching. We bestow the right doctrine, theology, or lesson plan upon the learner, giving them more information and data about God. Yet some of the most life-changing moments in discipleship happen when we are listening, not speaking. We must listen to the stories that disciples are sharing, discerning their hearts and desires through their words. We must listen to the quiet voice of the Spirit as He stirs inside of us. It's much easier to tell someone quick-fix answers; it's far more difficult and life-changing to listen and pace alongside someone in their spiritual journey.
|Singing songs and performing skits at the retirement home|
As a team, we read and journaled through the book of 2 Timothy throughout the week, and this verse in chapter 1 stood out to me:
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.I'm not ashamed. The Haynes are not ashamed. The Beacon Communities core team members are not ashamed. The twenty people from NLCC who went to James Bay are not ashamed. We know Jesus and believe He's invited us to be on mission with Him. I'm praying this experience hasn't been a five-day missions trip, but a launching pad for a lifetime of missional living.