About a month ago now, which seems crazy that time has passed that quickly, I had the pleasure of taking 10 of our students and 3 other chaperones on a mission trip down to Houston. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few things:

I was incredibly humbled by our congregation’s generosity in making sure we had all that we needed to go. Your support made all the difference, and I am grateful beyond words.

The students were incredible. On day one I told them that it was each of their jobs to make all the rest feel included. They truly took it to heart. I watched our older students make the younger ones feel special and a part of the group. I watched them have each other’s back and take care of each other. Walls were broken down, and the students shared their hurts, concerns, and joys without holding back. I was in awe all week.

I was in awe of their work ethic. The two oldest guys were up on a roof the last two days and were determined that their crew was finishing the work that had to be done. They were up on the roof long past the usual cut off time because they wanted to leave it finished. The students on my site didn’t even flinch that we would be muddy and dusty all week. They just made sure the job was done well. The students on the 3rd site worked hard and got to know their homeowner. I was even told by the Next Step Site director that our teens went above and beyond every day in every way and they were a joy to work with. Next time you see one of our students, congratulate them on being incredible examples!

I also learned a few things as the leader! It’s okay to take time for yourself–in fact, it’s imperative! God is growing you and those around you even when you don’t know it! I need good people around me who fill in gaps in my wisdom. I am incredibly grateful for Wayne, Judith, and Marianne, because they did exactly that! Vulnerability builds trust and so does knock out (the basketball game)! Lastly, I learned that we serve a huge God who does amazing things and gives me the opportunity to speak on his behalf. I am truly blessed to serve alongside these students and chaperones.

When I look back over that week, these verses come to mind:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:13-16

I know what you’re thinking, that was an odd turn. However, it fits beautifully with the mission trip. Each person on the trip was knit together in a certain, specific, unique way, and then God placed us in each other’s lives. He knew long before we existed that this community would form and gave us tools and personality traits to do it well.

Jason is silly and wild and never fails to make us laugh. Leyla is gentle and kind and makes sure people feel good. Cally is outgoing and inclusive and makes sure you feel welcome. Maya is caring and determined and makes sure we take opportunities. Emma is artistic and quiet and makes sure we take a moment to appreciate beauty. Cody is fun-loving and steadfast and makes sure we enjoy different things. Lillian is thought-provoking and silly and makes sure we are thinking deeply. Cade is analytical and thoughtful and he makes sure that we have thought all the way through something. Julia is bright and strong and she always brings joy to the room. Tony is goofy and loving and makes sure everyone knows how much they matter. Wayne is our get-there-guy and makes sure I don’t go into overdrive. Judith is our planner and resident wise mother! Marianne is our idea gal and a great listener. I’m the organizer and I make sure each of them know how important and valuable they are and how amazing my life is because they’re in it.

It’s evident to me that while God was knitting each of us he knit this community together under the grace of his son and the eternal love he brought us. My prayer is that you recognize in your own communities how God knit them together and how he is growing you! Amen!