The Road: Work Camp 2017
Each year I have the privilege of joining our youth on a mission trip somewhere in the U.S. Last year it was to The Northern Cheyenne Native American reservation in Montana. This year it was to Covington Tennessee, the small rural county seat of Tipton County. Two very different communities that had a few basic similarities. Both were sparsely populated areas that contained people, who although persevering, could also be characterized as having experienced some of the most difficult circumstances that life can through at a person. The purpose of these mission trips is simple – to remove some obstacles (through free acts of service) that prevent people from encountering the hope and grace God has offered them. All the while experiencing the power that Jesus has to transform our very own lives as we encounter the power of Jesus’ presence that is already in us.
The theme for this year’s camp was The Road. It is the story of Luke 24 that take place the evening of the very first Easter. Two of Jesus disciples are walking home to Emmaus, held captive in the bitter disappointment and pain of Jesus’ recent death. As they walk along the road, they encounter Jesus (although they do not recognize him). And as they experience Jesus’ presence with them, they go from Disappointment to Doubt to Hope to Hunger to Joy to Home. Jesus changes them as he:
- Talks to them.
- Helps them to see truth.
- Opens their hearts
- Listens to them
- Weaves their experience into God’s greater story.
- Breaks bread with them and reminds them of the depth of his love for them
Jesus accepts their disappointment and guides them on a journey through doubt to experience first hunger, then hope, and then joy as a result of these painful experiences in their lives. Eventually their hearts burn with so much Joy that they must return to Jerusalem to tell the others that they too had encountered the Risen Lord. It is an impressive story that is made even more powerful as each of us realized that this mirrors our own walk with God.
As seemingly happens every year, the biggest miracle from God does not happen in the lives of the residents whom we serve, but rather in our very own hearts as we are brought closer to God. The encounter changes us by the power of Jesus’ presence as we journey together (for even just a week) down a road to serve God. We learn so much about ourselves and God’s ability to heal us. We are awestruck as God removes the obstacles in our hearts that are preventing us from experiencing God’s hope, grace, and love.
This is a small glimpse of what God’s Church can really be like – Deep relational encounters that change us as the obstacles preventing us from encountering God’s presence in our lives are removed. It seems unfortunate and sad that most of our lives today are too structured, too busy, surrounded by too many barriers and walls, worn with too many masks, and too focused on pleasure to have these kinds of experiences on an everyday bases. Somehow I believe that this small glimpse of what God’s community can be like is what God has intended for us to experience in church all along. One of the highs of the week for me was the chance to respond to an invitation. An invitation to not let the journey end. To seek out Jesus presence in my life every day. To recognize that God is there, waiting to accept my disappointment and guide me on a journey through doubt to experience first hunger, then hope, and then joy as a result of the painful experiences in my life. Would you like to join me?
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