Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. Next up we’ll hear from Luke Thompson who is an upcoming senior at Samford University.
This summer I chose to serve with Life Romania, a ministry that organizes camps and shares the Gospel with kids ages 6-19 all over the country. For the past three years, I have been working with middle school and high school students but never in a camp setting. I didn’t really know what to expect. I only vaguely knew what I would be doing. I knew I would be in charge of the finances and sports/recreation activities for one of the camp locations along with preaching occasionally.
Prior to arriving, I wasn’t given a lot of detail about how those jobs have been done in the past or the expectations for my roles at camp. Even after arriving in Romania, meeting the team and officially going over details, I have had to learn as I go. That can be even more difficult when not everyone speaks the same language. But as with any mission trip you go on, it requires a flexible attitude. Things aren’t always going to go according to plan or instructions might not be clearly communicated. That can be discouraging at first, but if you don’t allow yourself to let go of the control and let God use you then you’ll miss out on what all He has in store for you.
Forsaking My Own Strength
I like to think of myself as a laid-back, easygoing guy, and yet week after week I have been challenged by the flow of the camp. I have been here for three weeks, and two of those weeks we’ve had camp and they could not have been more polar opposite. I remember after the first day of camp sitting down and being so discouraged. I thought, “How am I going to get through four more weeks of this?” I was angry and frustrated for being here, annoyed at how chaotic things were. But throughout this experience, God continues to teach me two main things. The first is to rely on Him every single day. He showed me that before I got here, I wasn’t relying on his strength and power, but that my tendency was to do things on my own. I had to rely on His power. There is no way I would have made it this far on my own strength. I would be bitter and angry if I tried to fulfill all of my responsibilities on my own.
In Mark 10:13-16 people are bringing children to see Jesus and be blessed by him, but the Disciples get angry at the people for bringing them to Jesus. They think that children are unimportant and not worth Jesus’ time. When Jesus sees this happening he gets angry at them, and in verse 15, Jesus says that those who don’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Jesus is saying is that those who don’t rely on me like a child don’t truly know what it is to follow me. As humans we have the tendency to shoulder all the responsibility, yet Jesus calls us to rely on him. It’s an insult to Him and His sacrifice on the cross when we try to go through life on our own. It’s easier at camp or in tough times to rely on God’s strength to get us through, but as followers of Jesus, we are called to rely on Him in all circumstances, both the good and the bad. When things are going good we think we have everything under control. Yet slowly but surely as we rely on ourselves we distance ourselves from God.
Finding True Satisfaction
The second major lesson God has been teaching me is that He is so much greater than anything in this world. True Joy is found in Him and not in this world because God is the only one that can sustain us. The big question is, “Am I living for the heavenly kingdom or for this earthly world?” And too many times I choose the things of this world over the Kingdom of Heaven. It can be so tempting to choose this world and all it offers, but in the end it leaves us empty and unsatisfied. Every day we have the option to pursue our own desires or to surrender to God and allow Him to use us and be satisfied in Him. And that is all God asks us to do, surrender to Him every day to be used by Him and show His love to others.
I have seen God use broken sinful, exhausted people to pour into the lives of kids that have never heard of Jesus only because they surrendered and allowed God to use them. I have seen counselors pour out the love of Christ to some of the most frustrating campers, and in the end are crying when they leave because they’ve never seen love like this before. I have seen God use something as simple as a ping-pong game to open the door for a conversation about how God’s love never runs out and that it’s never too late to follow Him. Allow yourself to be used by God every day, rely on His strength, and live for the Kingdom. Because God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. And when we allow Him to use us, we experience what God has designed for us. What God has in store for each person is much greater than anything we could ever come up with on our own.
Integrating What I’ve Learned Next Semester
Even though camp is still chaotic and challenging, I know this is where I need to be and I wouldn’t trade this experience and what God is teaching me for anything. My challenge to myself is that I will surrender to God every day and be found completely in Him, choosing the Kingdom of Heaven over anything the world has to offer. And there will be struggles and temptations, but we serve the God of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth. There is nothing to big or too small for our God.