Last week, a few other staff members and I led a team of nearly 40 high school students from Student Journey on an 8 day trip to the Mission of Hope in Titayen, Haiti. It was a week of “firsts” for many of the students involved. For many it was the first time to fly, first time out of the United States, first time to touch the ocean and first time to sweat non-stop for 168 hours. haha
Our church has an intentional partnership with the Mission of Hope and if you’ve been around for more than a week you know our heart for the people of that nation. The Mission of Hope is an amazing ministry that has been used by God to impact thousands of lives both in Haiti and the United States. The mission provides food for nearly 53,00o people a day, operates a school of 2,500, currently houses 60 orphans, runs a fully operational outpatient clinic and a prosthetics lab, are in the process of building 500 homes in a nearby village, and hold church services on Sundays and Tuesdays. Needless to say, there are plenty of opportunities to serve and it was an incredible thing to witness our high school students seizing the opportunity to step up and carry the torch for our church and pour themselves out on the Haitian people.
Throughout the week we participated in many different service projects and ministry opportunities. Our days consisted of loading our entire team into an big, yellow school bus and bouncing our way down rocky roads and into various villages in order to serve the local people. As we climbed out of the bus we were bombarded by waves of local children looking to play with the visitors of their town. Our team would play games like simon says, duck duck goose, and soccer with the children before corralling all the kids together in order to tell them a Bible story through a translator. They loved laughing and watching as our team acted out stories like “David and Goliath” and “Daniel and the Lions Den.”
We had the privilege of spending Tuesday and Thursday painting the inside of two Haitian houses and the outside of the boys home at the Mission of Hope. There is nothing quite like painting projects with high school missions teams…. the paint usually ends up on the wall, but it is not a pretty process. The final product looked great, however, we did not. Faces, shirts, and the floor were common landing places for paint as the day progressed. It was a powerful moment to watch our team circle around the families of the houses we painted and pray over them. There is something unique and captivating about hearing your prayers translated to a mother and watching her face light up as she walks into her freshly painted concrete house.
Part of our purpose for being in Haiti was to participate in the “Lead 222″ conference. This is a week long leadership initiative for high school students that is strategically partnered with the Mission of Hope. Nearly 150 students come from all over the country with their various youth ministries to participate in service projects during the day and leadership teachings in the evening. We would spend time in worship, prayer, and listening to speakers such as our own Pastor Tim Mannin and Arizona Cardinals Kicker Jay Feely. There were many remarkable moments that occurred during our evening services and it was a joy to watch as God moved in the hearts of every student.
The biggest thing that happened over this week wasn’t the painting of houses or playing games, but the perspective shift that occurred in the lives of our students. Within the culture of the United States there exists an unwritten rule that says “your life is for you.” However, when a person steps outside of their comfort zone, what they know and what they have previously experienced, there is a shifting that occurs within their thought-life. This happened to me in a dramatic way on my first trip to Haiti and I watched with an expectant heart throughout the week as I witnessed this same shifting take place in our students. It is that ultimate realization that “my life” is bigger than “my life.” That who I am is not just about me. The reason I exist is not just to make tons of money and be entertained. The reason I exist is to glorify the Lord and serve Him in any way I can.
When this perspective shift occurs, it is as if we have spent our lives with our faces in the dark corner of the room, only to turn around and realize we are standing in an open stadium of endless possibilities. At this moment we realize the magnitude of God, how great His world is, and how much He loves His people. As we lay down the selfish, inward focus in the corner of the room, we sprint out into the stadium of blessings through service to our God! It is on trips like these that one sees a perspective that will forever change their reality. From that point forward the world we live in is the same, but our view and approach to it is forever changed. Out of this change, the phrase “Lord, I’ll go wherever you send me” becomes more than words. It becomes a realization that He is worth it and our life is only truly alive when we give it fully to Him.
I invite you join this shift and begin praying for opportunities to step out of the reality you know and into the possibilities of the Lord. Whether that is by joining the next trip to Haiti or paying for the groceries of the person behind you at the store. Whatever it may be, my prayer for us all is that the Lord would continue to turn our focus out of the corner of the room of our selfishness and into the stadium of endless possibilities through service to Him and others.