By Shawn Kiger
I love Brian Mateer’s blog post from earlier this week, about his trip to Haiti and experiencing God’s grace. He wrote, “Grace is God’s gift of FREE love and it extends to all people in all places. The awareness of grace can be experienced anywhere, but this has most frequently be revealed to me on mission trips or through programs like the 30 Hour Famine when I have a greater awareness of the blessings of my life.”
This statement sums up why I love taking youth on mission trips and participating in the 30 Hour Famine. When we’re taken out of our comfort zone I have found we tend to be more open to and aware of God’s love around us. I think this is because we’re joining in the work that God is doing in the world. When we’re in our normal everyday lives we frequently have blinders on, only focusing on the next task at hand. But somehow those blinders are taken off when we get outside of our routines and comforts while on a mission trip.
Last summer I witnessed this on a weeklong mission trip I led with youth in Washington, DC. We worked at many soup kitchens and visited organizations working to end hunger. One of the teenagers that attended was an 11th grade boy that I didn’t know really well. His brother attended our youth ministry, and I had seen him a few times, but he was not active in the program. I could tell at the beginning of the week that he was very uncomfortable interacting with homeless people. But slowly, throughout the week, something was changing in him.
During our closing worship at the end of the week, the young man told the group that he only came on the trip to get the community service hours he needed for school. He had never talked to a homeless person before and was normally scared of them. But that the week taught him that they are people too, and they deserve love and respect. He is still up in the air about his faith but I could see he was experiencing God’s grace and love, both to the people he was serving and for himself.
As Brian wrote in the previous 30 Hour Famine blog post, “In Haiti I was once again reminded that whether you live in the United States, Haiti or anywhere else in the world, God’ grace reaches all.” When we take youth on mission trips we help them see just that. God loves homeless people and the 11th grade boy who’s not sure how he feels about God. God loves them equally. And whether that 11th grade guy knows it or not, he has experienced Jesus saying “I love you right up to the moon and back!”