My mom gives her life for others. That’s just what she does. Anyone who knows her would agree.
One way she gave over 20 years of her life for others was as a volunteer youth minister at our Episcopal Church. She served and loved and served and loved and played and laughed and loved some more, investing her time and faith into the lives of hundreds of young people in our community.
As a youth minister, her desk was constantly piled with fliers, newsletters, magazines, and brochures for youth conventions, and organizations planning teen summer mission trips. I would browse the magazines, looking at the pictures of faces and places that moved me. And the more I looked, the more I felt that “going” on the mission field was what I was made to do.
In the winter of my 7th grade year, the first year I was eligible to apply, I grabbed one of those brochures, and asked my parents if I could go (probably more like begged them) that coming summer. I didn’t have a clue who I’d actually be traveling with, or where I’d go- I only knew I wanted to GO.
So the following summer, when I was the bold age of 13, my parents said YES to the unfolding of another small chapter of my destiny and calling. Their support surrounded me as they helped me pack my bags, drove me an hour and a half to the closest airport, and watched me walk down the jetway to board a plane headed for my first “mission trip”. (My understanding of living missionally in my everyday life would develop after this trip, but this experience of “going” was an integral step that helped form my worldview and perspective.)
In my little heart and mind, I was determined that to be a missionary (which was my childhood dream) meant to go overseas. And in my immature, yet good-hearted zeal, I wanted to go to the most “unreached” and under-served places in order to serve God. (Think images of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, half-naked natives, and language barriers.) But my wise mom set a boundary. She said I could do a mission trip, only if it was within the United States.
So, obviously, as a passionate young girl from eastern North Carolina, I chose Alaska to be the location of my first mission trip. Alaska turned out to be more than just a trip across the country; it was a catalyst for much of what God would do over the next five years in my life.
In Alaska, I learned how to share my faith with confidence. I prayed for a man to be healed, and he was. It was on that trip that I began the discipline of journaling prayers and spending time with God everyday (which has become a lasting part of my spiritual journey). On that trip, I met other teenagers who were hungry for God, committed to living for Him. I learned that God was doing something big in my generation, and that I was not alone in my yearning for Him and in my desire to see the world impacted by His love.
In the summer of 1997, my parent’s “yes” opened the door for me to catch a passion for living for something bigger than myself; and that passion has been motivating and inspiring me ever since.
And I am forever grateful for the gift of letting me “go”.
(More coming tomorrow on the gifts my parents gave me…)