“I Got It” Getting Accepted on the Study Tour from the Youth Pastor’s Perspective



Matt Williams, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina

A few weeks ago I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness (sci-fi geeks, unite!)  Like all good citizens, I turned off my phone while watching the movie. As I left the theater I turned my phone back on, and checked to see what I had missed during my two hours off of the grid: a couple of missed calls, some tweets, some other notifications, and a handful of texts.  But in my quick scan of the screen, one text message stood out:


It was from HP Shaw, a young man with the stature to be a varsity offensive lineman and the nature to be a friendly, oversized teddy bear.  I immediately knew what his text meant, and I broke into a big smile as I called him.

As soon as he spoke, you could hear the excitement, shock, and joy in his voice.  He sounded like a kid on Christmas morning that gets a gift they desperately wanted, but never thought they would actually receive.  But on that day, a dream became reality for HP.  Because on that day, HP got the call from World Vision… he was going on the 2013 Study Tour to Ethiopia.

Now, you don’t know HP like I do, so it is easy to think, “Of course he is excited…he gets to go to Africa.”  And while the chance to travel and experience new things create some of his excitement, there is something much deeper about this trip for HP.  He is the type of person who loves being with and helping out other people.  Whether it is teaching kids at Vacation Bible School in Costa Rica, or fixing houses for older people after storms, or supporting friends through grief at funerals, HP wants to be there to help.  That is just who he is.

For the past six years HP helped people he never had the chance to meet by doing the 30 Hour Famine.  In that time he has raised thousands of dollars for World Vision to send wherever it needed to go.  He pushed and encouraged other youth to get involved in the Famine because he knew it makes a difference.  But when you are a big teddy bear like HP, just raising money is not quite enough.

I think that for HP, just raising money for World Vision has been like being a teddy bear on a shelf.  While the room is cheerier because the bear is there, the teddy bear is not doing what it was made to do.  See, teddy bears are made for hugging people.  They cannot do their main job unless they can reach their arms out to embrace and love others.  But now HP gets to go do what he does best…to go give bear hugs to kids and adults half a world away.  He gets to be the loving arms of God, just as God created him to do.  And that is why he is so excited and honored to be part of the Study Tour.

You and I may never get to go on a Study Tour.  We may never see first-hand the people we help through the Famine.  But we can all be like HP…we can all serve other people with our time and talents.  We can all be Jesus to someone else, even if we never meet them.  Because when you give your best to God, you never know where He will take you!  Don’t believe me?  Just ask HP…because HE GETS IT!

PSPlease be sure to say a prayer for the World Vision Study Tour team as they travel to Africa this summer.  Pray that it is a great opportunity for them to witness and participate in the work World Vision does.  Let it be a chance for them to share God’s love with everyone they encounter.  May they travel safely so they can return home to share how the 30 Hour Famine really does make lives better across the globe.  And let this be a trip that continues to reveal God in each of their lives.