Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well, That Was Fun

As the team returned from the fall of 2008 mission trip to Shofar,
they each had something to say about their journey....
• • •
SHEENA: In writing my final thoughts all I can say is I hope there are never any final thoughts of this summer. God allowed our small group to minister full time for his glory for three months. We were able to meet amazing people who made our faith stronger, we were allowed to teach and become friends with Christian disciples, we taught bible stories for children at different schools, and completed many projects. God also showed us areas in our lives where we still needed to grow to become more like him, to be better than we are. My thoughts may now be geared towards Superior, Wisconsin but part of my heart is still in Cebu. Thank you everyone who prayed for us. Please, continue to be in prayer for the people in Cebu. And to all of our friends in the Philippines: you are not easily forgotten. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives. I am excited for the day we will meet again!

MIKE: After three months at Shofar it is hard to put into words what our time spent in the Philippines has meant to me personally. I can say without a doubt that God has used the people we met, as well as my teammates, to teach me and expand my view of the world. It is always amazing to observe how God never wastes an opportunity and works with such efficiency as he ministers in your own life and builds you up while at the same time using you to minister to the lives of the people around you. The thoughts of what we have seen God do and the memories of the people we met will continue to grow and take on new meaning in the weeks and months ahead, but I can already say with certainty that the people and events of the last three months have been some of the most meaningful and impactful of my brief 25 years.

LAURA: Living in a foreign country is like taking your life and shaking it up, then turning it upside down. You have to re-learn how to do things that you are otherwise comfortable doing at home. This pushes you out of the realm of the familiar and into the realm of “Help, God!” There were many points throughout the trip when God reminded me that what I had always done was not going to cut it; I needed complete desperation for Him and total reliance on His Spirit if I wanted any lasting fruit to result from the things I was doing. This summer was a boot camp-style lesson on how to follow godly authority and ultimately how to submit wholeheartedly to God. I was also impacted by the Filipino people that we met, by their genuine hospitality and willingness to share what little they had with us and with those around them. Although now I’m back in a country where life makes more sense, it’s impressed on my heart to never go back to living in the realm of the comfortable and familiar. Living in the realm of “Help, God!” this summer taught me just how amazing it is when you let Him show you what to do and how to do it.

NANCY: I'm having a hard time putting into words my final thoughts regarding this past summer in the Philippines. To have God, the Creator of the universe, pick you out of a group of people and fly you to the other side of the planet to share what you know about Him is something I'm still amazed by. I'm still thinking, "Is this all a dream?" If it is, I don't want to wake up! I met some wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ over there. Language barriers? Definitely yes. Now, several thousand miles between us. One fact remains through it all...I have "family" in the Philippines! The beautiful children (don't get me started), the women we came to know in the jails, the wonderful believers at the churches we work with there. We tend to think that we will be the ones doing the ministry. And, to some extent, we do. I learned LOTS about myself and that knowledge came through the people we interacted with. They ministered to me. God also showed me lots of things. Some not so pretty, some gave me clarity and vision. The phrase I will use: this was the hardest thing I have ever done but at the same time, the biggest blessing I've ever had. We had tons of fun, we laughed, we cried, we were tired, we were tried, we grew, we were stretched and we were just plain goofy. We came to know each other better and now have a bond that will last into eternity. My prayer for us all is that we don't lose sight of what God showed us this summer. That we would stay changed and willing to be changed.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Would I recommend this trip to others? If God wants you to go, yes. But be prepared for God to show you things you could have never imagined. He will blow your mind!

NATE: Things just aren’t quite the same. There isn’t a good or a bad way to put it. The relationships that we built over there are going to be missed. To head over without knowing anyone is scary enough, but the most difficult part, no matter how you put it, is leaving after three months of building those relationships. We were able to head over with a common unity among the believers that reside there, and we left with a unity and friendship that is way beyond. We worked and labored with these people and I miss them. I miss being apart of their lives, but, at the same time, when I was over there I missed everyone here. There is nothing that will alleviate it, nothing here on this earth that is. So, I am left to reflect on the happenings of the last 3 months, and all I can report is the things I saw. I saw God bringing two groups of people together to work for one purpose. I saw God work in ways we thought were impossible and his hand of protection in our lives. What I saw was love. That’s it. That is what I saw. Sometimes we fought against it, or didn’t recognize it, but ultimately it caused us to move. And now I have a list, I can look at this list and see how I was grown, how I was challenged, and through it all say, “God put this together, God gave us the relationships, God gave us the time, God gave us the ministries. I hope through my life and through the teams efforts over there that God gets the glory.” One last thing, which is fitting, we, being the “painting team”, chose which color we were going to paint Shofar with. It is ironic that the “Rain or Shine” label that we went with had excellent descriptive names for their paint colors; the color we chose that worked best with Shofar was named “Bittersweet.” If I could describe my final thought in one word it would be this, bittersweet. Plus, we knew had to go with it since its inventory code number was “777.”

JEREMY: The most amazing thing happened three months ago. I went to the Philippines and was left there for 3 months. The experience was unlike anything I thought it would be. I knew it would be tough, and it was, but it was hard in ways that I didn’t expect. The times taking short showers, or eating very little and staying up late, or having a schedule of pure intensity was tough but it was the inward battle that eventually got me. Taking a trip like this I knew God would test me but when He tested me I wasn’t thinking it would be in showing me how much I fail and pinpoint where I need to change the most. This, if you don’t know, doesn’t feel good, but if we are willing to listen to His corrective voice and move in the right direction. We will grow. I really thought that I was doing a lot before at Jesus Fellowship serving almost everyday, but on this missions trip I found out what “full time ministry” is. There is no stopping and ministry is more than teaching bible studies. Ministry is moving in every direction and in moving you are doing it to further the Kingdom of God. The crazy thing is that even though we were moving to further God’s Kingdom, He didn’t always allow us to move in the directions that we thought were best. In some cases He stopped us cold and pointed us in a totally different direction. I guess if there is one thing He taught me it’s that when you want to serve Him, He will begin to move you. Though it’s hard and frustrating and sometimes you want to give in if we will continue to move no matter how humbling He will bless you with allowing you to build relationships with the most amazing people. Not to mention a relationship with Him.