The Holy Spirit is moving in Georgetown, TX. Youth Mission Trip is a tried and true tradition in the United Methodist Church and it dually serves two purposes: loving our neighbors through acts of service, and building community in the churches on mission. God plays a role in filling us up with an abundance of joy and grace.
I had an opportunity to teach about abundance on Tuesday evening at worship. The idea is that God gives abundantly, and even over-abundantly, as we see in the scripture when Jesus feeds the 5,000 and more. The trick is to approach Jesus with open hands, so that you can freely give and freely receive.
It can be easy to get caught in the mindset that we’re coming here to do a job or to help the needy while we venture out for a few days from our ivory tower. I’ve corrected quite a few adults and students with this mindset and there’s still so much to do to address that mission culture, but for now, our adults and students are starting to see and feel God’s grace through the hands of our clients.
My favorite story is from Team 4, led by Jorden Martz. Our students on that team include Riley, Julianna, Sydney, and Jesús. Their job was to repair a roof over a large shed, which turned into a complete roof replacement. Their client, Lupe, was a grandmother of 13 grandchildren and great-grandmother of 13 great-grandchildren. She was a Spanish speaker with limited English and she exuded the spirit of hospitality, immediately making us welcome in her home and with her family.
You would not believe how spoiled this team was at Lupe’s home; I’ve never seen anything like it. Everyday she made some sort of lunch for everyone and had them sit around the dinner table and soak up the air conditioning before sending them out again. Being a grandmother of so many, she gave abundantly. She shared that she’s used to feeding so many in her home and it was only right to feed the team that was helping with repairs on her home. She would not accept no for an answer.
On Tuesday, Lupe prepared a feast for the team – steak, rice, beans, vegetables, and tortillas fresh off the comal. Keep in mind that all the other teams were in the sun with blistered necks eating sandwiches. I learned real fast that Team 4 was the place to be at lunchtime.
At lunch, we do a devotion each day. Lupe joined Team 4 for devotion on Tuesday. While she understood a little, Jesús graciously translated. She asked lots of questions. Lupe’s only grandson passed away a month before and she wanted to know if he had made it to heaven. I won’t share the intimate details of the conversation, but know that our students and Jorden spoke with wisdom and grace and provided assurance and comfort in a vulnerable moment for Lupe.
Our theme for mission trip is Community. At church, we’re doubling down on community and focusing on being with our neighbors. One thing I’ve learned about community is that community can only happen when you come to the table with open hands. With open hands, you can both freely give and freely receive. It’s communal living. We can do nothing with clenched hands. We cannot give nor receive when we cannot let go.
This youth mission trip was a new thing in a lot of ways but one thing our adults and students did was come to the table with open hands. With open hands, we’ve been able to freely give to our friends in Georgetown and we’ve been able to freely receive grace in abundance from those we serve.
I know many of us will return Friday with tired eyes but it’s through these tired eyes that we’ve witnessed the character of Christ through folks like Lupe, Jorden, Jesús, Riley, Sydney, and Julianna. If you see these kids around church on Sunday, ask them about what they learned from Lupe and from each other. You might also give them a hard time for coming to mission trip and getting spoiled rotten.