A Reflection on Youth Missions Week
A Reflection on Youth Missions Week
Things don't always go according to plan. Something I’ve learned about God, in my five years of walking with the Lord, is that He has a habit of giving us an idea, letting us form a plan around this idea, and then tearing up our blueprints and giving us step by step directions instead. This is an aspect of God that I think we’ve all had the opportunity to see at work in the chaos that has been the year of 2020, and it's one that we, as the youth group at Waypoint, got to experience firsthand in regards to our missions week this summer.
There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding our mission trip this year, and honestly, a lot of anxiety amongst us youth about what was going to actually happen. Due to the pandemic sweeping the globe, all of our original plans were thrown into question, and we had no idea what we would even be allowed to do. But how faithful is the God that we serve? Not only did our youth group get to have a mission trip, restructured as a “missions week,” I genuinely believe we had a week that was more spiritually edifying than any of our original plans would have been.
Instead of serving in Charleston, South Carolina, we found ourselves operating out of the fellowship hall of our very own home church. We had opportunities all week long to serve in preparing for our church's Vacation Bible School program, recording bible studies, practicing skits, preparing crafts and such. We also had opportunities to spend time going around the city of Durham. We went on a prayer walk through our community and handed out welcome cards for the church, we went on a guided tour of Durham with our very own Matthew Markovitz, in which he taught us about the history of black wall street, Saint Joseph AME church, and the effects of gentrification in our city. We also spent time with Joy Mikhail as she taught us about the difference between refugees and immigrants, how our church does refugee ministry, and what kind of mindset we should have as we’re building relationships with people from other countries.
At the center of all of this service and education were daily sessions of study and discussion, in which we would watch a video detailing the specific topic for that day and then take time to open up honest and admittedly difficult dialogues. The overall theme of the week was digging into this concept of the intersection of history, race, and the Gospel. As a group, we dove into a number of difficult topics as we discussed the relationship between our faith and the deep-rooted racial issues of our country.
We took a day to look back at our heroes of the faith and their shortcomings. John Piper helped us lay bare the often-unrepentant sins of our theological forefathers, and we wrestled with how we should view these figures in the light of their painfully grievous transgressions. This led into a painfully honest self-reflection on how our legacies will be viewed, and what sins will be highlighted by generations to come.
We spent the rest of our week looking at a more modern context. Over the next two days, we reviewed an interview of Bryan Stevenson and Rev. Tim Keller, in which they discussed a number of topics pertaining to race relations within the church, the history of racism in America, and how Christians should take these things into account in our current settings. We discussed the difference between geographic racial proximity and real interracial societies. We talked about the dangers of gentrification and the absurdity of domestic colonization. This led into wider ranged conversations about, how as missionaries, we should be spreading the Gospel, not a western worldview, and what it actually looks like to differentiate between the two.
Our last group session centered around a sermon given by Pastor Bryan Lorrits, focusing on the idea of pursuing multi-ethnic engagement in the body of Christ. We listened to the real experiences of a black man in a predominantly white world of ministry. We listened to his struggles as he sat through seminary studying exclusively the writings of white ministers. He told stories of the importance of black minds in forming much of our popular western theology and detailed briefly how these black minds have been hidden behind whiter names and faces. I recall specifically a quote from Pastor Lorrits saying, “Being a black man in American ministry seems to just be a life of saying ‘Here I am! Someone notice me! I’m here!’”
Despite his blatant trials as a black pastor, the thing that shocked me about Pastor Lorrits’s sermon was his seemingly unending love for the ministry. None of these trials or challenges had seemed to turn him off from the ministry or embitter his heart at all. If anything, he seemed to have an increased passion for the mission of God because of it.
There was something so significant that this sermon, and all of our discussions and resources this week, did in my heart personally. Opening my eyes to the struggles of a black minister and the deep-rooted struggles of black people in America, but also encouraging me beyond words about this specific ministry of racial reconciliation that seems so enormously daunting. There was a very definitive acknowledgement that this ministry, while in the hands of the Church, is not a ministry for the Church to accomplish in its own strength. This mission is one solely in the hands of God. One that only He can bring to completion. Seeing that truth, being able to hold onto that truth, was game changing for me this week. Being able to let go of all of the weight that I’ve felt on my own shoulders, all of the work that I’ve felt I need to do towards this goal, and realizing that the entirety of the energy behind this work needs to be provided by the Holy Spirit, gave me so much peace.
Check out the videos mentioned in the blog: