7 weeks, 7 words.
I arrive in Sunderland, England after a week of the best worship experience I have ever gotten the chance to lead. I said goodbye to my new family of 60+ and said hello to my team of 6. It was time to work hard and walk worthy with these people.
I fell on my face in my room at my new host home and began to worship the Lord, thanking him for bringing me this far. About this time two years ago, I had no money and was fearful of having to sleep in my truck to survive. But I just led worship in France and was about to serve in England for the summer. I am not worthy of that. I began to weep in my room because of the faithfulness of God.
Within that time of thanksgiving, God spoke to me and gave me seven words. I was guessing it was one for each week I was serving in England. Each week, I pondered on this word and centered my experience around each one.
Week 1 : Love
Really? Love. How basic is that? “God I know what love is.” …boy was I in for a ride.
I began realizing that I struggled with loving myself the way I was. I hated the way that I looked and was always trying to change it. So I prayed, “God, I want to see myself the way you see me.”
“How could I be so selfish? Im supposed to be loving others God! Not focused on ME!”
Then I remembered Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Mark 12:31.
That sounds to me like loving others starts with loving yourself.
My eyes were not only opened to how God views me, but how he views everyone around me too. That pushed me closer to accepting myself the way that God sees me. Now, I am the most confident I have ever been. This overflowed in how I began to love others.
Week 2 : Patience
Love is patient. Its the first quality of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Why is that? I think we need to all ask ourselves that question. If you ask God to teach you patience, he will give you opportunities to be patient. I succeeded, but I failed also.
I was in my second week of ministry. Am I really making an impact? Am I being patient with everyone I am around? How much of a difference am I really making?
God is patient. I struggle to be. Many christians want fruit and results now. But God’s timing is not ours. I learned that the gospel moves at the speed of relationships. That takes time and patience.
Love is patient.
Week 3 : Virtue
Now this one confused me. So I googled the definition.
Virtue - n. behavior showing high moral standards.
I went the entire week asking myself, “What are my moral standards?” “What are my statutes?” That’s another blog post in itself. I know that I want to strive to be like Jesus. That goal is extremely tough to achieve. Nonetheless, I pray everyday for God to make me more like His son.
I tried living out my morals and standards. Being a ‘good’ example, praying enough, journaling, loving the people of Sunderland and pointing everyone I connected with to Jesus.
Then it hit me, “What are God’s virtues?” I encourage you to study that question in your own walk with the Father.
To be honest, Im still discovering that one today. There are so many.
Week 4: Experience
This was one of my favorite weeks. I was coming up on a month of going into schools and teaching kids about Jesus.
But, this week, I decided I wanted to transform the church garden.
As a 15 and 16 year old kid, I worked for a landscaping company in the summers to pay for my first car and to have the freedom to pay for what I wanted. I never thought I would use those skills in ministry.
I worked with two guys from the church who didn’t have jobs, yet they worked on this garden with me and together we transformed how the entire front of the church looks.
I used my past experiences to shape and create something new. I learned that the best way to do missions is to be practical in your approach. Help people where physical help is needed. Give them clothing, mow their grass, cook them food, listen to their story. Thats how you build relationship. And we know that’s how the gospel is moving in 2019.
I get to take all the experiences I had this summer with me for the rest of my life.
Week 5: Respect
The first day of this week, I got to lead a “lads” group on whatever topic I wanted. So I chose my word for the week.
I asked the lads what respect was. There were some great answers. My favorite was from a lad named Derek. “Respect is looking past the persons difficulties, and seeing them as a person. Not as their flaws.”
I ended with the question, “How do we respect ourselves?”
The next morning I was tested on this.
I walked to the bus stop with my headphones in and my coffee in my Yeti mug. It was going to be a good day. My monthly bus pass just expired so I was just gonna use cash.
35 minutes goes by and there is no bus. I am now late to the office (I hate being late because I hate when people think that I’m unreliable) so that puts me in a mood of frustration. The bus finally shows up. I put 1.90 pounds in my pocket for the bus fare, because that’s the amount it was before I got my bus pass.
I get on the bus irritated since he was 40+ minutes late. Subconsciously, I assumed that this man doesn't deserve my respect since he sucks at his job and made me late.
“One way to the bridge.” The driver responds, “2 pound 10, please.”
I immediately got defensive. “No sir, I’m not paying that, it’s 1.90 and always has been.” Then we argue about the amount. I get more and more frustrated to the point of me saying, “Give me my money, I will walk.” I was so upset and was not friendly to this man. He responds. “Well mate for 20 cent I’ll just spot ya.”
I finally get on the bus and what do I see? A sign that says “RESPECT OTHERS WHILE YOU RIDE.” Yes, respect was in bold.
I had failed. I disrespected this man and didn’t even apologize. When I got off the bus, I felt terrible for the assumptions that I had made about this poor guy I disrespected. He did not deserve that.
I learned from that moment forward that no matter who I face, how i’m feeling, or what the circumstance is, I need to “Look past the persons difficulties, and see the person. Not their flaws.”
Everyone deserves respect.
Week 6: Perseverance
This was the most exhausting week I faced.
We hosted a missions team from Pennsylvania this week. We went into a school called Northern Saints in the mornings to play with kids during their recess time until lunch. After lunch, we worked a “Camp of Champions” at Southwick Primary School. Camp of Champions is a sports camp where we invite all kids from the school to come and have an incredible time of playing sports, friendly competition, and learn about Jesus.
Our days were jammed packed from the time we woke at 7:30am till we finished at 9pm. We worked hard. But by the end of the week, we were exhausted. I prayed that we would have 5 kids start a serious relationship with Jesus. The Lord answered that prayer.
By the end of the week, we had made an incredible impact on the lives of students in Northern Saints and Southwick Primary. We gave away 20+ bibles to kids who never had one, but wanted “friendship with Jesus.”
The pastor of the church we worked for told us that in the last 5 years he had probably given away less than 10 bibles to kids. We just gave away 20+ in a week.
We were exhausted, but we worked hard and persevered for the sake of making Jesus’ name know to his children in Northern Saints and Southwick Primary. Incredible.
Week 7 : Joy
My last week! Look at all God has done! My joy should stem from that! Right?
Ironically, I faced the hardest week emotionally that I ever had in my life. We were coming to a close of serving in schools, after school clubs, our churches, and the community.
I remember waking up that Wednesday and facing the hardest day emotionally I have ever faced. I tried prayer, worship, journaling, talking to my mentor, eating good food, listening to sermons, but nothing seemed to shake the way I was feeling.
I then remembered that I prayed that week, “God teach me to love those who struggle with depression and having joy.”
I had no sympathy for those people. Crazy right? In todays world, a vast majority of people are dealing with mental health and how to cope with the negative. Yet, I had no sympathy because I had never struggled with it. I learned really quick. I learned that sometimes joy is not a choice. Sometimes, you have to love people while they are in their darkest places and can’t seem to shake the darkness.
Since I was working hard all summer, I felt worthy. Week 7 significantly slowed down as far as work load. I found my worth and joy in what I did, not who I was in Jesus.
What I do is important, but who I am is way more important.
My joy comes from who I am in Jesus. Not my circumstances. God taught me that not everyone thinks like I do. I need to love and have sympathy for others in their lack of joy, just like He does.
7 words. 7 weeks.
I walked away thinking that I was going to change the lives of everyone around me, yet I walked away a completely different person. I know that I planted seeds. I worked hard and walked worthy. Yet, God did more in my own heart than I saw him do in the heart of everyone around me.
What I do is important, who I am is way more important.