known

How many people know you? I’m not talking Facebook friends, or Twitter followers…I’m talking about being known by others. What you favorite food is…how you take your coffee…the true passion of your heart…your dreams…not a lot of people, right? We like to hide. A lot, actually. Walls are thrown on a regular basis, and we don’t know how to take them down. Mostly because as Americans we don’t trust others enough to share intimate information.

But…that’s now how God intended it. He created us for community with one another…and to crave to be known not only by him first, but by those around us. God knows us. Read this from Psalm 139:1-4:

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”

What a beautiful thing that could be creepy if you don’t have a real relationship with Abba. For me it’s not creepy, it’s what I love most about God…he chose me just as I am, and knew exactly what he was getting into.

At the end of last month, I was with the Woods Chapel Senior High mission team in Denver, Colorado. It was a full circle moment for me, because Denver was my first mission trip…ever. Crazy, I know. And we were at the Denver Rescue Mission at night to help prep dinner or serve, the same place I was 13 years ago…

What I love most about the mission is they stress conversation and 3 second eye contact. Why? How many people do you know who look a homeless person in the eye? Do you ever think about how small, belittled and disrespected it makes those feel who may have had no control over the situation that put them on the streets? How many people do they feel known by? Not many. Every time I looked into the eyes of one of the men getting a hot meal…I was blessed with a smile back. Who decides the worth of a man? Certainly not me…we are all equal in God’s eyes.

Our team for Russia is forming now and we get the incredible pleasure of spending time with the kids. Some of us have spent 4 years building those relationships through trips, and writing letters…one of the things the kids we see every year crave the most is being known. I hear a lot, ‘Please remember me.’ ‘Write me!’ ‘Take this to remember me by…’ And that last one is normally something we have given them…so they are gifting back, because it is the only thing they have to give, all so that they feel assured that we will remember them. And year after year, when we reference something from a previous trip, we are always given a look of surprise that shifts to a look of excitement…because we know them and love them.

I will never forget the conversation with one young boy one year when I compared a photo of him from the year before with how he looked them. As I told him how much older he looked and how much he had changed, his postured changed before my eyes to confident and assured. When you are an orphan…there are not many people who have known you long enough to compare how you have looked physically in previous years. Most of the kids don’t even have photos of themselves before they were in the orphanage.

There is also a young lady who plays basketball with her brothers outside the church. Every single time, I call her by her name and know the flavor of bubble gum she likes the best. It’s not much, but it’s an effort and that is what God is asking for…effort…not perfection, he gets to be the perfection and we get to strive to be better.

God’s mission is formed around community, and that community thrives on knowing each other. When that community steps outside of themselves to touch the lives of others…it is the act of making someone feel known that will guide the incredible love of God into the heart of another.

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molding me

Sometimes I cannot help but relive things that have shaped me. Events sometimes send me in that direction and as God molds us, it can be so very painful…but in the end and looking back things have done so much to make me into the woman I am today. So…I have a story, about the first time I was ever on a mission trip.

It was 1999…crazy, right? I was a freshman at Drake University, and little did I know…I was on God’s radar. Life was new. Life was awesome. Then I got a phone call. It wasn’t a good phone call, and when I heard the person on the other end my roommate was so concerned that she ran to get our R.A. Catherine hadn’t known me long, but she knew I was never rendered speechless and I rarely cried…and I was both. The person on the other end of the phone shared that a mutual friend of ours had been in a car accident. And it was not looking good.

It’s so different when someone dies that had their entire life ahead of them. You cannot help but imagine what could have been…needless to say I was completely rocked when the next phone call was he didn’t make it.

I was in such a different place. I hadn’t bought in to the whole ‘Jesus’ thing yet, and my world was truly turned upside down. I honestly don’t remember much from that week…we sang ‘Season’s of Love’ at his funeral. We had done it our Senior year of high school, so it meant something to sing it at his funeral.

The very next week I’d been planning on going on my first mission trip. Just take a second to think about what state of mind I was in as we left, then let me say that’s when God got to work. My college friends so took care of me, we were really good at that…taking care of each other. When I think of Christian community in action, I think of every single person in our community who allowed Jesus to guide their actions.

God formed bonds on that mission trip that I hadn’t even know could exist. There is the bond between believers, and then there is the unbending, unconditional tie between those that have been on a mission trip together. Two of my very best friends were on that trip…and 9 years out of college, we still have tabs on each other. I’m actually texting with Rep as I type this.

We worked at the Denver Rescue Mission on that trip. What an amazing place. I’d never seen anything like it, and my idea of a homeless person was the stereotypical old man on a street with a beard holding a sign. God was getting ready to rock my foundation of whatever inkling I had of what ‘mission’ was in this world.

The most impactful moment of the trip was one of the days we prepared and served a meal. I don’t think I’ve even close to peeled the amount of potatoes I peeled on that trip in the years since I was there.

I was standing behind the counter and walks in a family…a parent and 2 kids. I don’t even remember if it was a mom or dad, because I was so focused on the kids. Homeless people weren’t supposed to be kids! Small people who cannot defend themselves, feed themselves or any semblance of taking care of themselves. They shouldn’t be on the street…but they were.

It was in that moment that God’s heart for the hurting in our world was brought to life in me. It was nothing to do with quoting scripture. It had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God’s heart hurting for every single person on this earth and us ignoring those that fall under the Bible’s justice issues. Growing up in suburbia never prepared me for what true injustice exists.

I think this came to mind today because I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days how things scar us, change us and God’s unconditional love. It also came to mind because of the inhuman ties that bind us to those that we work so closely with to see God’s Kingdom on this earth.

I am so blessed to be able to point back to where God’s heart and my heart collided. It is why I am pulled to God’s kids in Russia. It is why my heart cries when I think of the kids orphaned in Africa because of AIDS and war. It is why I have felt called to Haiti. It is why I have been to Joplin 7 times since May. How can you ignore all of those things when God implores us to act when we see injustice?

I write this to honor a friend who had so much potential, and whose death pushed me the final steps to choose Jesus. I also write this to honor my God who had a good and perfect plan for me to work in missions…

//Stephanie//