Reflection on Passport Camps

   Over the course of the week of June 23rd, I had the opportunity to attend Passport as an adult instead of a camper. Before departing on our journey to Greensboro I was a little concerned about what I would be facing in the next week; I didn’t know these kids very well and I hadn’t spent much time with Middle School this past year. It had been 6 years since I had gone to Passport and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was astonished by just how amazing Passport was. I forgot how special the worship services are, how fun the energizers can be, how much work goes into choices, but most importantly the relationships built between campers from different churches and the same church

   Everyday I made it a point to ask my campers how their day was and what they did. Each day I would get a new story about a friend they had met or an activity they had done in choices. Their faces lit up with the different parts of the story being told. I had never experienced such joy for someone else as I did listening to their experiences. Every day my love for these kids grew stronger, and in turn grew stronger for God. 

   God knew that going to Passport was going to strengthen my faith in more ways than one before I even had the chance to recognize it. The relationships I built with these kids showed me that no matter the age, there is always someone who loves God just as much as you and is willing to show that with you. At the ripe age of 20, I never expected to learn from a group middle schoolers that the only way to truly experience God’s love in the mission field it’s to forget all the technicalities of age and experience, and just look at it for what it is, a chance to show God how much you love Him and His kingdom. Passport may not be a traditional mission experience, but it is a chance to give everything you have to God without worrying about judgement or ridicule. The love you share with God is enough to reach the highest peaks and the farthest people. Passport is an experience I would never change for the world and I hope to be able to return next year. 
-Victoria Argento, Junior at Appalachian State University

Puerto Rico Reflection 2

     During the past week, I have had the absolute pleasure of working alongside some of the best people in serving the communities of Puerto Rico. Carolina is a beautiful city just outside of San Juan and has some of the sweetest, funniest, God-loving, and most positive people you will ever meet. Throughout the week we were able to go to the beach, serve in the community, learn some pretty fun dances, and see God work in some amazing ways. During these 8 days, I worked in one of the VBS groups and got to meet some of the kids who were at the bible school.

     Upon arriving to Iglesia Bautista Del Lago, we were greeted with open arms by Pastor Lillian who gave us a rundown of the plan for the week. We had prepared crafts and bible stories to do with the kids, however we soon found out most of that stuff was not needed as the church already had their own plan for the week. All of us were so so excited to meet the kids and help in any way we could! On the first day all of us high schoolers were split up to be with different age groups which each had their own teacher. The kids also overwhelmed us with their love and fascination of older kids who spoke another language but who wanted to be there with them. It was awesome seeing God flowing in all of them while they were singing, praising, and learning more about our amazing Father. The love and patience shown by all the teachers at the church was definitely somewhere else where I could feel God’s presence in that place. I could tell that God had spoken to all of those volunteers and that He had called them to be in those kid’s lives.

     As the week progressed, I could feel that God was speaking to me through all of these beautiful people who in the midst of political struggle still praised God and trusted in Him and His plan. I was inspired by how much hope and joy all the people in Puerto Rico acted with, saying that they would just keep praying because they knew that God would provide for them and make sure they were taken care of. Being in a place as beautiful as Puerto Rico, the ways you see God working are quite incredible. As we visited places like the beaches, El Yunque, and the church, we were able to experience some of the beauty that God has blessed us with on this Earth.

    Going to Puerto Rico was an experience that I will never forget and one that I am certainly thankful for. It has brought me new friends and a new place to call home. I learned so much about not only serving, but also about myself and the ways that God can use me to glorify Him. Thank you Trinity for giving me some of my best friends and for allowing all 96 of us to go to a new place to serve our incredible God. 

-Tori Strickland, Rising Senior

Puerto Rico Reflection

I am so very blessed to be part of an amazing church that believes in being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ! This past week, I was part of a mission group of high school students and chaperones who traveled to Puerto Rico to serve. You may be aware of the myriad of issues facing Puerto Rico which erupted into massive protests in the streets while we were there. A decade-long recession, a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans to the US and the recent charges of corruption against Governor Ricardo Rossello and many high-ranking officials in his administration have all led to the island’s dire circumstances. And, dire is no exaggeration. Already in distress, the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. It’s hard to wrap your head around all the things that are going just so, so wrong for people on the island and it’s hard to imagine how they will ever regain what they have lost. The decline is palpable. But it’s also clear that the people of Puerto Rico are resilient. They are joyful, when to be honest, there’s not a lot to be joyful about.

I believe that God has something for each of us and that when we step out in faith, we are rewarded beyond what we could have ever imagined. I believe God wanted me to see His ability to transcend circumstances. That He wanted me to see that it is possible to find impossible joy if you have faith. That He wanted to reassure me that the relationships my son has built through this student ministry will carry him through college. That He wanted me to see, if I just slowed down, I could witness Him at work.

God was on the move all week in Puerto Rico. In big ways and small ways. Our group of 96 performed demolition, replaced roofs, installed soffits, scraped, painted, cleaned, prepared fields for planting, fellowshipped, shared testimony, sang and gave praise to the Lord. It was a powerful experience and one I will not forget.

It has been my privilege to come alongside so many passionate and talented leaders in this ministry to serve our students. To see the love that Christian, Rebekah and Ashley pour into these kids is downright inspiring. It has been my absolute joy to watch these kids grow from awkward and gawky middle schoolers into poised and articulate young adults. I think anyone would tell you that when it came time stand up for the seniors, I fell apart. I am so in awe of who they are, every single one. Each one stood up and spoke about how thankful they were to be a part of the student ministry and how it has shaped who they are. They are unafraid to be bold about who they are and  whose they are. These kids – freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors – are going to change the world.

If you are a parent of a middle or high schooler who has not yet attended our student ministry, I encourage you to get your kids to church on Wednesday nights, on Sunday mornings and on Sunday nights. I know they may not want to go, that they might have practice, that they don’t have friends that do ministry, but can I tell you that it will change their lives? And, yours.

-Becky Felton, Mother of Davis Felton (12th) and Sarah Tate Felton (8th)

Lenten Reflection: Week 5

The “Lectionary” is fancy word for a collection of scripture readings from the Bible. It follows the Christian Calendar for 3 years, organizing scripture into groups that compliment the different seasons of the liturgical year. By the end of the three year period, almost all of the Bible has been covered. Many congregations and denominations follow the Lectionary texts every week to ensure that they are covering most of the Bible over a few years and that they are following the Christian Calendar. One of the Lectionary texts from this past Sunday, for example, came from John 12:1-8. Since next week is Holy Week, the week leading up to it uses the text where Mary anoints Jesus for burial.

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor? (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The power of Mary’s witness here is that she acts without being told. She knew how to live out Jesus’ commandment of love before he ever gave it. She offered something of great value to her, despite all the other ways she could have used it. She embraced Jesus’ departure from her before he ever explained the full meaning of it. Mary was so overwhelmed with love for Jesus that this act of service just poured out of her.

Being disciples of Christ means that we are seeking out ways to show love to others and deepen our connection with Jesus. We are not just waiting for opportunities to come to us. For the remainder of this Lenten Season, let yourself be overwhelmed with love for Christ. Like Mary did, let this love pour out of you. Let Jesus know just how much he means to you.

Lenten Reflection: Week 4

Lent is a wonderful time to create space in your life for prayer. As you do, prayer can start to become a habit–something you do every morning, meal, car ride, or evening. These small moments can draw us away from the chaos of our days and into a sacred space with God, even if only for a few minutes.

The Book of Common Prayer is an old book, originally published in 1549, created by the Anglican Church as a product of the English reformation. The book is used today by Christian churches all over the world. The different forms of prayers and liturgies are meant to set rhythm to the Christian day and year. It contains morning, afternoon, and evening prayers as well as special prayers for events and seasons throughout the year.

Each short prayer listed below is from The Book of Common Prayer. Find one that speaks to you today and make it a priority to work that prayer into your routine each day for a week. Every day, take a few moments to read the prayer aloud several times. Then, observe how God can speak to you in those moments.

Give us grateful hearts, our Father, for all thy mercies,
and make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bless, O Lord, thy gifts to our use and us to thy service;
for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lenten Reflection: Week 3

We’ve made our way through a big part of the lenten season. At this point, many of us may have slipped on the practices we promised to do, or stop doing, this lenten season. We tend to be people that make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep working hard to spend time with God this season. Nadia- Bolz-Weber made a list of things we can do to “Keep Lent Holy.” If you’re feeling disappointed that you haven’t made enough time for God during lent, take a look at this list. Pick a thing, or two, that you can do this week to keep lent holy.

Pray for your enemies

Give $ to a non-profit of your choosing

Take 10 minutes of silence today

Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before

Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill

Do someone else’s chore

Read Psalm 139

Read Psalm 121

Pay a few sincere compliments

Tell someone what you are grateful for

Light an actual candle

Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher

Donate art supplies to your local elementary school

Pray for peace

 

Lenten Reflection: Week 2

Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the most influential preachers of our time. She is an American Episcopal priest, author, and professor. She has a way with words that makes you confront your own truths, and start to see things very differently then you did before. Some of her sermons on the season of lent do just that. The following is an excerpt from her lenten sermon, “The Wilderness Exam:”

The problem for most of us is that we cannot go straight from setting down the cell phone to hearing the still, small voice of God in the wilderness.  If it worked like that, churches would be full and Verizon would be out of business.  If it worked like that, Lent would only be about twenty minutes long.

What we have instead are forty whole days for finding out what life is like without the usual painkillers, which is how most of us learn what led us to use them in the first place.  Once you take the headphones off, silence can be really loud.  Once you turn off the television, a night can get really long.  After a while you can start thinking that all of this quiet emptiness or, worst case, all this howling wilderness, is a sign of things gone badly wrong: devil on the loose, huge temptations, no help from the audience, God gone AWOL–not to mention your own spiritual insufficiency to deal with any of these things.

But if you remember to breathe–and say your prayers–then nine times out of ten you can make it through your first night with no extra bread, power, or protection.  You can get used to the sound of your own heart beating and whatever it is that is yipping out there.  You may even be able to sleep a little while and wake up gladder to be alive than you can ever remember being.  So there are thirty-nine days to go.  So don’t count.  Take it one day at a time.

BBT makes a really good point here. There are so many things in our life that we use to just fill up the silence…to fill up the time and the spaces that scare us. We think that we could not live without it, whatever it may be. The tv. The phone. The app. We think that we could not live without it, but we are wrong. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus spends 40 days without food because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

This week, when you think you can’t make it without that thing you gave up. When you think you need to fill all your time with sound. Stop and re-read these words from BBT. “Breathe and say your prayers.” You may like how it feels to slow down and make room for the Holy Spirit. “Take it one day at a time.” You make like how it feels to check in with yourself and with God every single day–no exceptions. “You may even wake up gladder to be alive than you can ever remember being.”