08 Oct A Family Trip to Allendale
While I grew up going on church mission trips, I have always wanted an opportunity for my entire family to go on one together.
Recently, that goal was accomplished. Now I can say my family has officially gone to Allendale—twice—and survived!
During our week in Allendale, we served at Camp Impact, a summer camp for kids in the community. In all honesty, serving the kids at camp can be challenging sometimes. In the midst of a child telling us off, walking away, or completely ignoring us, it’s easy to get frustrated and hard-hearted towards them. We had the chance to keep going back, keep pursuing the campers, and continue to love them where they are, despite their consistent rejection of us. As it turns out, I’m most thankful for moments like these, as they serve as such a clear reminder of my own unloveliness and God’s relentless pursuit all the while.
During my most recent trip, I had a little girl in my group whose dad had been murdered just a couple of months before she came to camp. I was privileged enough to have her share her story with me, and I was able to empathize because I had lost my father a couple of years ago. My heart broke for this beautiful little girl.
The next day, the message was on forgiveness. It became clear that my new friend was upset as she wrestled through difficult questions. While fighting back tears, I heard her say “There is no way I can forgive the man who shot my dad. Why does God say I have to forgive him?”
In those moments of talking with her and praying God would give me the right words, I felt that he did. I was able to speak of God’s love for her, explaining God wanted her to forgive the man because he knows what harm unforgiveness and bitterness can do to a heart when left unresolved. I reminded her God is not punishing her but truly loves and cares about her. The bible doesn’t say that forgiveness will be easy, but it does say we should move toward it for the offender and for ourselves.
“In those moments of talking with her and praying God would give me the right words, I felt that he did.”
Now that my family has returned home and we are processing all that we learned, I’ve thought back to when Grace began to advertise for the Allendale mission trip. I mentioned it to my kids, and all three (let me emphasize, ALL three, who all have very different personalities) said: “let’s go!” When I asked why they were so eager to return, they included a variety of reasons like wanting to see their old friends or because it is fun. However, I would argue there is more to it than they realize.
As a family, we would end the exhausting days with a challenge for the next day: at least once a day, we would try to show Jesus to a peer, whether through our actions or words. They loved this and couldn’t wait to tell me all about their experience the next day. After one week of this simple challenge, my family came to understand that we can do mission work wherever we are. Allendale, for us, served as a practice field, to show us we can love those in our own schools and community by serving others.
This opportunity modeled for them how to live out the gospel. They were able to watch as all the parents and kids from Grace were trying to do the same thing, in each person’s unique way. The adults on the trip showed my kids what it looks like to sacrifice by taking time off work, to get hot and dirty and spend time with others when it isn’t easy or convenient, and how to continue pursuing and loving those who may at first seem hard to love.
“Allendale, for us, served as a practice field, to show us we can love those in our own schools and community by serving others.”
Aside from an opportunity to serve as a family, the reason I personally enjoy going on mission trips like this one is having the chance to be reminded of how BIG God is and how little I am—to be removed from my day-to-day schedule, circumstances, white middle class deafening hum, and to remember this world is not revolving around my set agenda and schedule. You would think after 40 years of living, I would be able to reach this understanding quickly, but that’s not always the case. Upon being faced with circumstances that help me come to this realization, I am reminded that God is constantly at work, not just in my life or the lives of those around me, but in everyone’s. I love seeing his hand working in every race, ethnicity and socioeconomic class. It is a clear reminder God doesn’t have favorites, but he loves us all as if we were his favorite, and he uses simple acts of obedience like a continued pursuit of a child or a simple conversation to do so.
-Tara Posner, Downtown Campus