Fruitful & Full Summer
It has been a fruitful summer so far within our student ministry. We have sent student teams to Atlanta and Montreal. Sandwiched in the middle of those two trips was VBS, for which the students poured themselves out during that week. We also had several teens go on our church mission trip to Guatemala. Twenty-three more are leaving for North Carolina next week to serve in an elderly home during the day and attend camp worship in the evenings.
We have students spending time on their own or in a group reading the book of John.
A group of high school guys are still meeting on Tuesday mornings for encouragement and prayer.
There is a mature group of older students being trained to mentor younger students starting in the near future.
When I step back and consider what God is doing here among the lives of our students, I cannot help but be thankful to Christ for his lavish love on us. At the same time I am so proud of our students. They are mature. Smart. Thankful. Submissive. Growing. Not complainers. Respectful. Joyful.
How do you explain this? It is the grace of God working in them to will in and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). It is the fruit of the Spirit growing in their lives he transforms them into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18, Gal 5:22).
This transformation continued in the 10 students that went to Atlanta in mid-June.
The following story will provide a glimpse of our trip.
On Monday night of the trip, in downtown ATL, we were given a unique assignment. We were given $25 for our whole group. We had to go to the local grocery store and got to purchase three dry and sustaining meals for three separate homeless individuals or small families. We split our group into three smaller groups and they each got to assemble one of the three meals. This means that each meal needed to be under about $8.33.
So we went to the Piedmont Publix right in the middle of downtown, in the Midtown neighborhood. We did our shopping. And we stayed within our budget, even having about 50 cents to spare. We bought 3 meals that included loaves of bread, peanut butter, Vienna sausages, gallons of water, bananas. We even got plastic wear to spread the peanut butter on the bread (very essential!).
We brought all the food out to the minivan and we had planned to load it up to take to another place to distribute it to a few homeless people, in order to demonstrate the love of Christ. As we were finishing loading the back of the minivan, Sara Davis noticed a woman approaching the car (they had seen this woman earlier that day in another part of the neighborhood while out prayerwalking). Coincidence? A Sovereign God does not do coincidences.
Right as I was about to start the van to leave, Sara looked at me and said, “Mark, there is that woman we saw this morning. She is coming to talk to you.” I turned around and engaged this woman who was clearly in need of nourishment. She asked me first for a couple bucks, to which I told her I could give her actual food instead—food that we had just purchased, just for her!
She looked skeptical. I told her. “We have Peanut Butter, fresh bananas, full loaf of bread unwrapped. You can have it! Here, let me show you.” She then looked interested. I grabbed one of our meals and gave it to her. She started glancing through the grocery bag, and her skeptical face changed to a beaming smile. She was thrilled.
As she was walking off, she went about 20 yards away and shared some with a fellow homeless friend. He was delighted. Well, what happened next is what happens when you start throwing bread to ducks in the park and the other ducks notice. Well, the ducks saw and started coming to get their bread. Not in a bad way. Not in a scary way. Not in a “leave me alone” kind of way. It was a wonderful thing. They were hungry and we had purchased fresh food just for them.
There was a small band of homeless people standing under some trees about a stone’s throw away, and at least three from this group came up to our van within moments, one after the other. So, we divided our meals among them. The last man, Ricky, stayed and chatted a moment as we explained why we were doing this and shared that we wanted to display the love of Christ in a practical way. We prayed with him together for his need. He left thankful and saw the love of Christ in us.
Within minutes of shopping, our food was gone. All of it. Given away to people who were so hungry for it. Our group was full of joy to experience this and do this for others. This is true faith working itself out in love.
James 2:15-16 says, “If a brother or sister poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
This verse gives a snapshot of our trip.
Light Will Not Be Overcome.
Our group served among several different ministries which already exist in Atlanta. The students did things they had never done before. They were stretched. They learned about gentrification and witnessed the difficult reality of it taking place in a city. They had gospel conversations. They asked people, “What’s your story?” and they actually listened. They felt better able to share Jesus with others in everyday life. They met adults and children who were refugees from across the world. They were given compassion toward people different from them. We even had one of our seniors say that he feels a desire to be used by God in vocational ministry.
Our team was light in a dark and broken, diverse city. We looked around saw brokenness everywhere, but we are hopeful because Jesus’ promise that the darkness of sin will never overcome the light of the gospel. The same is true in our city of Richmond and in our own neighborhoods.
“The True Light has come into the world, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Be the light of Christ where God has placed you.
Stayed tuned for a report on our Montreal mission trip!