myMISSION Collegiate Blog

Just Being Present

During my freshman year, I went on a missions trip with my church over spring break to Haiti. As I prepared, my team leader, Matt, called me to discuss the logistics and clarify any of my questions. I remember immediately asking, “What does the schedule during the trip look like?” Matt casually replied that we didn’t have a schedule because our main job was to be with the children at the orphanage.

No schedule, no to-do lists, just being.

Uh, excuse me? I signed up for a missions trip. In my mind, this should involve a lot of doing. I was ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus and do some serious serving in Haiti. I didn’t understand how being present with the children equated to the missions part of a missions trip. I wanted to be doing. And just being present did not feel like missions to me.

A few weeks later, my team finally arrived in Haiti. As I surveyed my surroundings at the orphanage, my first impulse was to look around and see what I could do. I saw so many needs and things that could be done. But then I remembered—be intentionally present.

Mission: Involvement

Get involved.

This was my mission going into my freshman year. I can remember everyone telling me the college experience is what you make it, so I was determined to give it everything I had by getting involved in anything I could. I just knew that “involvement” was the key to having a successful college career.

So when the very first week of college arrived, I hit the ground running with my mission. I registered for a full load of classes, signed up for student government, pledged a sorority, joined a small group, volunteered, and planned on attending multiple campus ministry services throughout the week. My schedule was packed, and I was pumped for the amazing college life I was about to experience through all of my involvement. Mission accomplished.

Or so I thought.

Although my schedule left very little time to be alone, I felt incredibly lonely. The positions I held were draining and I wasn’t passionate about any of them. Despite the multiple Bible studies and worship services throughout the week, I felt spiritually parched and useless to God. Somehow, my mission failed.

A Taste of Boldness

A few semesters ago, I befriended two Chinese students in one of my classes. We could not be more different, but we had great conversations and I was able to begin to share my faith. When they suggested I experience authentic Chinese cuisine to celebrate the end of class, I was eager to continue our conversations while doing something I love: eating.

A few days later, I prayed continuously as I drove to the restaurant, asking for boldness to share the gospel clearly. By the time I arrived, I still didn’t feel the boldness I had prayed for, but I felt comforted by the smell of fried rice. Unfortunately, this feeling quickly vanished when my friends met me and said, “We already ordered for you!”

Soon an array of dishes came and covered our table, revealing various kinds of meat and organs. I looked at the table and felt like a contestant on Fear Factor. But then the Spirit reminded me to pray. I asked if I could bless the food, and then the conversation flowed naturally as I shared my faith and put unidentifiable meats on my plate.

Don't Shrink Back!

Sometimes it’s hard to start something when you don’t know the end result. Specifically, building relationships with unbelievers can be intimidating when you don’t know how the story will end. You may pursue a friendship with someone for a season, and then you may drift apart. On the other hand, this person could come to know Christ and become one of your closest friends.

For those of you who shrink back with fear of the unknown, there is good news! It’s not our responsibility to make sure that an unbeliever accepts Christ.

John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” It does not say, “No one can accept Christ unless you convince them that the gospel is true.”

Toward the end of the past semester, I ran into one of my non-Christian friends on my way to class. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and I felt bad for neglecting that relationship.

The Least Likely Listener

In high school, I was part of the Vacation Bible School team during my church’s missions trip to Latvia. In America, I could do VBS backward, forward, and practically in my sleep. However, I didn’t know how VBS would work in another country since the children spoke a different language and we had to use a translator.

I could tell so many stories from that trip, but I’ll tell you about Olaf. Olaf was the cutest kid there ever was. He was three years old—really too young for our VBS camp—and he was a mess. He could ransack an entire classroom in less than a minute, and he loved to wrestle with anyone and everyone.

We quickly realized that we needed someone on “Olaf duty” almost all the time. We kept Olaf with the other children as long as possible, but if he became too distracting, we had to take him to a separate room.

Although we loved this adorable child, he did present a barrier to the effectiveness of our VBS “system.” Was he even old enough to understand what was going on?

Let It Go

Have you ever listened to a song that completely changed an everyday phrase?

For example, now you can barely say “Hello,” without someone breaking into song. (“It’s me. I’ve been wondering . . . ”)

You get the idea. Or what about, “Tell me what you want.” (“What you really, really want!”)

Perhaps my favorite phrase to sing is “Let It Go,” from Frozen. While Elsa’s song is quite dramatic, “let it go” is a statement that applies to multiple areas of real life.

One of the hardest things for me to “let go” is attempting to control the future. College is full of big decisions that lead to big life changes. Sometimes the world makes us feel like we should already have a 30-year life plan. Meanwhile, we’re just trying to make it through a tough semester.

Jesus has some practical advice for us. He said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:27 NIV).

Big Potential from a Simple Invitation

If you’ve grown up in a family that regularly attended church, that’s amazing. It’s also not the norm for many children across America.

I live in the Bible Belt of the South, where it’s easy to assume that everyone goes to church and knows about Jesus. However, this is so not true!

I have been babysitting for a sweet family for about a year. The more I babysat, the more I realized that I didn’t see any biblical-based items around the house—no children’s books with Bible stories, no cross decorations, and no Noah’s ark toy sets.

However, one day in December, I noticed a candy cane with a piece of paper tied to it. The paper explained how the candy cane represented the shepherd’s staff from the Christmas story, and it also looked like the letter “J” for Jesus.

“Where did you get this?” I asked one of the children.

“From the after school Bible club,” he replied. “I go once a week.”

When There’s No Extra Present

Sometimes the best kind of selflessness is unplanned. We often define selflessness by scheduling time to teach a Bible study, volunteer, or help someone in need.

Don’t get me wrong—all of these things are important, and they are selfless! However, the true state of our heart is tested when God throws us into a situation where we have to act fast. Will we choose to satisfy ourselves, or will we humbly give of ourselves to put others first?

One of my favorite stories of selflessness comes from a high school youth trip several Christmases ago. My church had bought toys and wrapped presents for children at a daycare program in a poor, rural town in Alabama. As the program director called the children’s names to receive their gifts, the children were ecstatic.

However, we soon realized that not all of the children there got a present—only the children who were enrolled in the program for five days a week. Had we known this before, we would have wrapped extra presents for the other children, but it was too late.

Bigger Than Me

In 1953, Dr. Wana Ann Fort arrived in Zimbabwe, where she and her husband became the first doctors at the primitive Sanyati Baptist Hospital. In addition to serving as a doctor, Wana Ann was a cook, Sunday School teacher, hospital correspondent, language student, and mother of five sons.

Life on the missions field was difficult to say the least. The Forts not only faced physical and environmental challenges but also encountered a culture deeply rooted in witchcraft. The more the Forts understood the people’s tribal religion, the more they desired to show them the light of Christ.

Wana Ann tells incredible stories about how God changed the lives of the people in Sanyati in her memoir, A Thousand Times, Yes. I love this book and encourage my friends to read it, especially those who are interested in medical missions.

One day I loaned the book to my friend Annie, who is studying to be a physician’s assistant. A few months later, she called me and said, “Rachel, you’re not going to believe this!”

When It’s Easier to Give Up

I can think of many situations where I’ve wanted to give up. They vary from finishing a paper to working out at the gym, or even trying to mend a relationship.

When things become tougher than we originally expected, it can be tempting to quit. However, God often uses these moments to teach us an aspect of the fruit of His Spirit: patience.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t give up on us? Philippians 1:6 (NIV) says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I wrote this verse on a sticky note and put it on the front of my study Bible, where it stayed for nearly two years. Every time I opened that Bible, the verse reminded me that I was a work in progress. The Holy Spirit is my teacher, and He will never give up on me.

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