A few weeks ago most of the UMin Staff had the incredible opportunity to go all over the world on different break missions. Missions have a special place in my heart as God has used them countless times in the past few years to challenge me, teach me, and open my eyes further and further to the greatness of his Kingdom.
This particular spring break I went with Becky Riggers and a team of 17 students down to the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean to work with Global Soccer Ministries. Going into the trip, I was excited about all of the things that we would be doing down there, primarily being our work at an orphanage and playing several soccer games with local teams. For me, looking forward to the trip was more about all of the things that we were planning to do and the ways in which I saw that we could serve. But, as the week went on, God showed me that the trip was such a greater blessing than merely the things that we were doing there.
Now, this isn’t to say that we didn’t do some really cool things. Working at Mustard Seed, the orphanage that we served at for the first four days, was incredible. We did a variety of things there, whether it was painting or construction or hanging out with kids with disabilities. It was a great picture of what real, true service was like. Looking at the caregivers that spend time with the disabled children every day was incredibly humbling, and working with the kids myself was a great eye-opener to see how difficult that really can be.
Playing soccer in Jamaica also proved to be a great source of joy for our team. We brought down both a men’’s and a women’’s team, filled out a bit with a few Jamaican’s because we were a little short on players. Fortunately, we held our own in these games against the Jamaican’s, because going into the trip we all had a lot of fear that we were just going to be annihilated by them. But, even more so than the playing, it was incredible to see at the end of the game how our play had actually earned the respect of many of the Jamaican players. This then gave us the opportunity to share about our love for soccer and our love for Jesus. After all this was done, we simply put our arms around each other and prayed, which was a truly incredible experience.
But, for me the greatest way in which I saw God moving on this trip was in the lives of the students that we brought down. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was getting very excited about how amazing all the students going on the trip seemed to be. I would constantly be telling guys to get stoked about the trip, because the people we were going through were simply amazing!
Well, God certainly surprised even me with how incredible everyone was! Throughout the week we all got a chance to share our story with each other, guys sharing with the guys and girls with the girls. This was an incredible opportunity for us to open up to each other, to be vulnerable, and to share with the rest of the team all of the ways in which God has been working in our lives. This, in itself, led to a great sense of genuine interest throughout the team, and it was even more incredible to see how everyone sought each other out on a daily basis as well. It was incredible to see how no two people seemed to sit next to each other on the bus twice in a row, and how all of the people genuinely wanted to get to know the rest of the team and to really hear their story. The community that we built on this trip was unlike anything I have ever seen before, and I am starting to see more and more clearly that it is simply because it was centered around a love of Jesus and a love for service.
The amazing thing that God showed me on this trip was what a blessing Christian community really is, and how I often take it for granted. I saw a lot of students on this trip see that blessing of community for the first time, and I also got a chance to see how much of an impact it made in their life. I remember on the final night one of the students talking about how she knew most of the Jamaica team after one week better than she knew most of her good friends from college simply blew me away. In that moment, I started to realize how incredible it truly is to be in Christian community. We are made for community and we are called to community, and this trip showed me even more clearly how much of a blessing it really is!
Written by Cris Tietsort