In 1997 my little church’s youth group went to an event by the group Teen Mania that did youth mission trips all over the world. I wanted to go to Alaska. My little church helped me raise money for the trip, they gave me money, they helped me do a car wash, we sold food. My grandparents, the same ones who took me to the little church, gave me a loan and I was on my way in the summer of 1998.
Going to Alaska for almost a month changed my life. I got focused. On that trip I ate peanut butter and jelly almost every day for lunch. I talked to Jesus and read my Bible every single day. I was surrounded by God’s beauty and traveling with a group that loved God. Some of the friends I made on that trip are still part of my life even today. In Alaska I was awestruck by how much God loves everyone.
So many things happened during that trip that made it clear to me that God is real. A friend was healed of major back pain for the entire trip. We prayed with runaways. We prayed with strangers on the beach. We saw a baby humpback whale and it rocked our boat. We saw a glacier up close and saw blocks of ice fall into a lake. We climbed a mountain. We saw God working. We walked around praying for cities and people and sharing God’s love.
In those days Jesus became my very best friend.
I have been thinking about what I am going to “give up” for Lent this year. I’ve decided that I am going to write down different circumstances that I am thankful for every day for the next forty days.
Above my television there is a 20×30 photograph of a mountain with six birds flying in the sky. I took the photograph in Alaska in the summer of 1997. It was the first time I had been away from my home, my friends and my family for any length of time and I went on a month long mission trip to Alaska with Teen Mania Ministries. For a month we traveled to different places doing a drama that was the story of Jesus, only with a king, his crew, pirates, and mimes. That month changed my life. I grew deeper in my personal faith. I made some wonderful friends, who I still keep in touch with today. I started journaling my prayers. I witnessed a miracle. I didn’t watch t.v. for an entire month. God gave me a heart for runaways. I prayed with strangers.
I’m thankful for that trip to Alaska and for all the things that I learned on that trip!
I am shocked at how much Miss Danielle has learned to do this week. She was sitting up while leaning on one arm and doing an army crawl for a couple weeks. Then she was sitting up on her own and crawling on all fours the next day. The day after that she pulled herself up onto her knees and yesterday she pulled herself up to stand next to her toy piano and the couch. One thing will lead to another and soon she’ll be walking, running, and jumping on her own.
Although I wish I could slow the growing process down for my kids I want to help them grow to be their very best. I think it’s the same way with God and his children. God wants to help us grow to be our very best.
I look back on my life, at my past, and I see how I have gotten to where I am right now, and how God helped me grow all along the way. I stayed up late one night reading through one of my prayer journal from my last years of college. That year was a turning point in my life. There were so many different people’s names were found on the pages of my journal. Most of the people in my prayers are people I still keep in touch with now via Facebook and e-mail.
My cousin wrote about the birth of her son the other day and it reminded me that it has been 14 years this month since I went on a mission trip to Alaska! I am blessed to still be in touch with many friends that I met that fateful summer! That summer 14 years ago changed how I see my relationship with God in that it became much more personal. I learned that Jesus wants me to talk to him 24/7, and to include Him in every part of my life, because He is walking with me every single step of the way since I decided to follow Him.
This quote from Oswald Chambers’ book “My Utmost For His Highest” fits nicely with what I have been reflecting on,
“A spiritually vigorous saint never believes that his circumstances simply happen at random, nor does he ever think of his life as being divided into the secular and the sacred. He sees every situation in which he finds himself as the means of obtaining a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he has an attitude of unrestrained abandon and total surrender about him.”
God has been with me and He is always with me. He never leaves me. God knows where I am right here and right now and He knows how I need to keep growing. He’s always had a plan for me and He’s not finished with me! What I have been learning about most these days is love, but I’ll share more about that in another post. How are you growing?