Reflections on Allendale

This past week, 85 students and leaders served in Allendale working in the local community. Paige, one of our CE Interns reflected on her time there:

This past week, I was able to go on the high school student ministries trip to Allendale, SC. As a Culturally Engaged intern, I had heard a lot about the area and the ways that Grace Church is partnering with people in Allendale/Fairfax.  Having participated in many mission trips during high school and college, I was excited to return the favor and help coordinate a trip for other people. While I trusted that God would work through the trip and in the high school students, I foolishly thought that I did not have much to learn.

My first impression upon driving into the town was “this isn’t poverty.” I had an incredibly hard time reconciling the poverty that I saw in Allendale with the poverty that I had seen last summer in the slums and red light districts of India. This town had houses, stoplights, stores, and indoor plumbing. Rather than seeking to work through this tension, I adopted a bitter and superior attitude. I began doing the ‘right thing’ externally, but internally refusing to engage with the area around me.

Midway through the week, I was able to sit in on one of the student ministry teaching sessions.  Ryan Donell was teaching and shared a metaphor about a monkey. Apparently, there is a type of monkey that is incredibly easy to trap because they are crazy attracted to shiny things. The traps used to catch them are simple: they are boxes with holes large enough for a monkey’s hand to fit through but small enough to trap a monkey’s fist. If you place something shiny inside of the box, the monkey will make a fist around it and be trapped in the box. There are no chains, no snaps, no special tricks. In order to get loose of the box, the monkey simply has to let go of the trash and slip its hand out. As long as the monkey holds to the shiny trash, it is not free. Ryan then asked us what our pieces of trash are, the things that keep us captive and prevent us from fully participating in God’s plan.

My trash? I refused to let go of my own limited definitions of poverty and ministry; I refused to let go of my view of the world; I refused to let go of the idea that I knew what was correct, right, and good for everyone.  Holding on to these things was keeping me trapped within a box of bitterness and superiority. This box prevented me from seeing the work that God is doing in the community and the ways that he is using people from Grace and Allendale/Fairfax to minister to each other. It prevented me engaging the area around me because the area didn’t fit the list of qualifications I was so tightly holding on to.

Letting go of my trash meant admitting to my own brokenness and letting go of my legalistic definitions of who I am supposed to love, serve, and engage.

It’s a sneaky situation, because the box I trapped myself in could disguise itself as a good thing (I was, after all, only desiring to ‘to more stuff’)…but, at the end of the day, my focus was on myself and what I wanted instead of God and what he wants. As I repented, shifting my focus away from myself and back towards God, he began to show me the beauty of Allendale/Fairfax and the reasons he wants Grace church to be there, now. He showed me the ways he was a work in the community, in the students who were there for the week. He began to show me that every place, from my own heart to Allendale to the slums of India to the suburb that I live in, is just as desperately in need of his restoration.

God’s desire for us is to engage and serve those around us, regardless of where we are. What trash are you holding on to that prevents you from doing that?