This is the only trip I was willing to lead. In 20 years of ministry I have either served college students or in organizations working with people in crisis/addiction/homelessness. When I was asked to lead “a trip” I had no interest. When I was asked to lead a trip to LA, I jumped on it as long as I could contribute some to the plan and layout of the trip.
This trip and this team has combined two of heart strings in a way it has never been before. Both heart strings strummed together for a beautiful influential chord. I did not expect to have a team of all women, but I would not have asked for a better team than I have had this week.
These women have engaged the people and the experiences around them in ways that are making enormous impacts on the kingdom, on their own hearts, and on the lives of each person with whom they interact. This is not a “service project”. This entire week has been an encounter for each person on our team; an encounter with God’s intentions for each of us. Each of us has had something that has marked us forever. It may be a person, a literal moment, a personal encounter, an experience, a reflection.
My most marking moment was yesterday, our last full day at the Mission, when our Volunteer Coordinator and Host said goodbye to our team with full tears in her eyes.
I have been a Volunteer Coordinator for similar organizations, having provided opportunities for many groups to serve and engage in the past. I always disliked having most groups come through with a specific project they wanted to do in “OUR” ministry space…and it was generally the same thing last group already did (ie painting the same room, cleaning the same space, trimming the same bushes, etc), but groups rarely want to come engage the people we see and serve; hear their stories, share your story with them…BUILD RELATIONSHIP AND CONNECTION.
The pastor of the mission met with us yesterday and said “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection.”
The reason our host said goodbye with tears in her eyes is because this team dove into relationship and connection all week. They connected with people who are overlooked and live [barely] in the darkest shadows. These women on my team have gone to the gates of hell and met people there with hope, relationship, and light.
The reason I was most marked by watching this goodbye is because I know we came here and met God in all the places, people, and moments we were supposed to. It marked me because I could not have been more proud of this team. It marked me because I may be the leader, but I have spent most of this week swimming in the wake of these strong and influential women.