team time: day one.

February 18, 2010

one of the greatest joys of being on INN staff has been the role i’ve had of creating, coordinating, and participating in mission trips. it has meant spending hours out of my week working to shape trips that [hopefully] meet peoples needs [those we are serving] and provide students with the opportunity to experience God in relationship, service, and potentially new & strange surroundings. for me, shaping spring break mission trips has been a holy thing.

march 2004 was my second year on senior staff at the INN, my first year as missions coordinator, and the year i got to travel outside of new orleans with an incredible group of students and seth spangler [intern and co-leader]. i don’t think it would have been possible for me to know just how significant this trip was going to be – for all of us. it was on this trip that i knew i wanted to keep creating these weeks for people. it was on this trip that i discovered a deep yearning to travel the places in this world i was unfamiliar with. it was on this trip that i fell in love with college students.

each night our entire team [approximately 30 of us] would squish into one standard size hotel room. we would situate our bodies wherever the most comfortable spot could be found. for our first 10 minutes, with one guitar accompanying, we would sing. together we would sit, crammed and tired, and we would sing. and when the singing was over, we would endure the muggy heat, the lack of air-flow, and the unpleasant odor to sit with one another and listen. at the beginning of the week i had challenged the team to consider sharing how God had worked in their lives – in the last day, the last month, or throughout all their years. each night, a handful of people would choose to share, and the rest of us would listen.

[i’m not going to lie, or even try to downplay it…evening team debriefing is my most favorite part of these trips. it’s where i see people think about how God has worked in their lives and it’s where i watch people choose to do something incredibly brave – share that with others]

andrew was a freshman and andrew was quiet all week long. he listened, but he remained quiet. each time i asked who would like to go next, i hoped andrew would raise his hand or speak out – but he never did. i began to wonder if he would ever choose to share, or if he would simply choose to stay quiet. our very last night together, after a really intimate and unique week together, we gathered as we had each night. we talked of the week, we sang together, and we opened up a a time of sharing. there were five students who had yet to share. slowly, each one of them shared until only andrew remained. i asked if he would like to share, he stared at the floor. i waited a few moments for him to respond, but not wanting to make him too uncomfortable, i began to conclude our time together. i was mid-sentence when i saw him look up, tears in his eyes, and i heard him speak – quietly and steadily – “lisa, is it too late to share?” no, it absolutely was not.

andrew began to tell his story. he told a spiritual story of pain and confusion and joy and hope. he trusted a group of ordinary people [hot, sweaty, tired people] with his story. as he spoke he cried, not dramatically but with humility and grace. this freshman boy, not sure of where he was headed, unsure of how to tell his story, unsure of how others would receive it, mustered up the courage to share it. this freshman boy trusted others in a new way for the first time. this kid andrew gave God’s work in his life shape and color by choosing words to offer it with. and when he was through he looked up, our eyes met, and all i could think to say was “thank you.”

i have heard hundreds of student stories. each one perfect. each one a testament to God entering the world and meeting his children. but i will never forget andrew’s. i will never forget what it felt like and looked like to see him choose for the first time to give his story words. i will never forget the power i felt as i listened to him share – the power of God’s story entering that room through him. i will never forget his tears. i will never forget the way his face moved as he spoke. i will never forget knowing that God was with him and in him.

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