For the second year in a row, I had the opportunity to go with our youth group on a mission trip to Atlanta to serve with Frontline Response (formerly known as the Atlanta Dreamcenter). This is a ministry that is on the front lines serving the homeless and trying to help them get off the streets; helping rescue women caught in sex trafficking (which is the biggest illegal business in Atlanta); and ministering to children in need. We went with 8 youth and 4 adults, and as before, it was life shaking and powerful. Here are a few of the things that I learned and would like to share.

Let go of your expectations and be willing to be vulnerable.

Because I had done this trip last year, I had certain ideas of how it would go, and the role I would play. However, this year was not like last year. For one thing, it seemed like more ministry happened within our group than out on the streets. There were moments when I struggled, and briefly sharing that gave others permission to talk about the burdens they were carrying. Another difference was in the outreach ministries. God showed up in unusual and unexpected places and times. For example, there was one man living on the streets who was strong in his faith. I asked if I could pray for him, and he said he was all prayed up. So, I asked him if he would pray for me, and the Holy Spirit poured out powerfully from him to me.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 AMPC

Look for the good, and speak words of life.

One of the things that is part of this trip is a time that is set aside and designated as Team ministry time. It is called Words of Life. One person sits in the middle of the group and each person goes around and tells that person the things they see and appreciate in them. (This year I wrote them down so there would be a record for each person of what was said.) Because we want them to be authentic and deep, we encourage the kids to watch each other and notice the good things about each other. This was so powerful to speak and hear! Many tears of joy were shed, and hearts and relationships were strengthened.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

Worship God and be changed.

Each of us has a unique way we can worship God with our life. It is not just about doing something because the actions without the heart are meaningless. Being in the presence of God is the key. We do best when we operate from this focused center. This requires an intentional mindset to seek God in all we do, to live a life of worship. There are many different ways to worship God. Some of the typical ways we think of are through music, singing and speaking out praise. Another way to worship God is by using your gifts and talents to serve Him. Some in our group organized a mobile clothes truck so those in need of clothes could come in and easily find beautiful clothes in their size. Others played football or Uno with kids, spending quality time with them and valuing them. Some prepared meals, handed out water bottles and, asked each person their name. There were encouraging cards made and given out, and there were times when prayers were offered up for the hurting. Because we were doing this: serving with a purpose, the work we did was empowered and transforming. This helped me realize that I want to live like this every day.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.

Romans 12:1 The Message

(Jesus said) “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship.”

John 4:23 The Message

One final lesson I learned this year.

Trust God to work all things for good, even the small things.

For the second year in a row, the vans which had been reserved for our trip were not there when it was time to leave. One of the leaders going with us kindly offered both of her family’s SUV’s for the trip. When we stopped for lunch, our youth director and I were talking, and I was telling him that I would be glad to help drive. He told me I had not been approved to drive by our conference insurance. My driving ability is a well-known joke among those who know me, and I really do not enjoy driving, yet I was embarrassed that I was not able to help with that. However, God’s grace redeemed even that. I was able to put aside my pride and see God’s greater plan. I was not able to drive, but I could interact and engage with the kids. And I was able to get to know and encourage those driving. Not having to focus on the road gave me the opportunity to focus on the people with me, and to play, pray and worship with them.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV

May God comfort and strengthen each of you as we remember and celebrate our Savior’s death and resurrection this Easter. And may we all let go, trust, worship, and serve Him in spirit and in truth. God bless you.

Betsy O’Callaghan