John the Revelator often wrote of Christ as the Light. For him the topic was one that carried with it deep personal meaning. So when Jesus, during His many public teachings, frequently referred to His followers as being beacons of light (a city on a hill, a light that cannot be hidden, or a virgin with a lamp) it spoke volumes to the young apostle.
This week we travelled 1,833 miles to share that light. We went to share it with people who are not in relationship with Jesus. We also went to share in a combined experience in the Light of Christ with brothers and sisters in the family of God from another land. Late last night we made our bittersweet goodbyes with many tears, and much encouragement. On the ride back to our hotel I asked our team what part of their experience in Santo Domingo they felt shined the brightest. The following is a summary of their responses.
Humility, we travelled to a humble place, and there I saw our young people set aside the ugly pride that so often cripples our ability to love others fully. They washed feet, cleaned up filth, picked up trash, and set aside the need to feel cool or be impressive.
Sacrifice, often the measure of how deeply you believe something is weighed by the personal sacrifices you are willing to make to further that belief. Faith, and belief, is most purely displayed during acts of ultimate sacrifice. For many on our team this week was an incredible sacrifice. They gave up vacation time, work time, and family time. Some missed a week of summer school, placing themselves far behind in their course work. They sacrificed hygiene and comfort, convenience and frivolity, for; an exhausting schedule, weighty humidity, and a soulful vulnerability that many will continue to carry for weeks to come. And everyone gave up time with those they love the most to go and serve He who loved them most.
Hope, seems like a cliche to us a lot of the time, but only because we have become so disillusioned to the plight of hopelessness that plagues our world while we bathe in the gluttonous excess that most people in our nation enjoy even in these somber economic times. For those with less distractions in their lives hope often lies just one basic need away. Sometimes that need is a tangible resource that will quite literally change their life. Sometime that hope comes in the form of deep encouragement that can only be understood within the soul. It was one of my life’s greatest blessings to see young Arkansas college students impart both to perfect strangers over the last eight days.
Love, like hope is a word used flippantly. We don’t really love cheeseburgers or American Idol, but we often say we do. Real love shine bright and far. Its bigger and better than anything else we can understand.
We spent the last semester discussing the idea of HOME as a ministry. I think everyone on our team now has a larger understanding for that idea, even as they come to understand the nature of the global Church. The great Canadian missionary, evangelist, author, and pastor J. Oswald Smith once said, “the light that shines the farthest, shines the brightest at home.”. I know seventeen college students and three campus missionaries that are sad to leave the Dominican Republic, but are excited to get home and shine.
To read more about GO12 see one of these stories.