Day 5: Defying Expectations
Hello ladies and gentlemen! I am Jonathan DeFreeuw, a junior in Computer Engineering. I have been a part of Wesley for a little over a year, and this is my first Spring Break mission trip, and I have to say, it has blown me away. It has defied my expectations in so many ways, which has been on my mine a lot recently. My previous mission experiences left me with a narrow vision of what it meant to be missional, and this week so far has broadened that mindset.
So a little backstory. My experiences in the Church have occurred fairly recently in my life; in high school, I joined a Methodist church about 45 minutes from my house because of a friend, who went because of another friend. And as soon as I got there, I understood why: the people. Before I even recognized and accepted the love of God, I experienced the love of the people of God. This environment became a place for me to be accepted and loved, and allowed me to push myself to serve others. My home church was part of a larger mission team, called Y.E.S. (Youth Exalting the Savior). It was on my first mission with this group that I experienced the full force of the love of Christ. Serving others in mission pulled me closer and closer to the God that I know and love today. In service to others is where I feel at home, it is where I feel significant.
This mission team had a very strong focus on the work that we were doing. We enjoyed being in service for others, and improving the lives of everyone we met. But in hindsight, I don’t think it fulfilled my cravings for service quite the way that I needed. The mission team had about 50 people with a mix of youth, college students, and adults. But while I was one of 50, I didn’t feel like I quite fit in. There were very many cliques and exclusive groups, and it was very difficult for me to feel significant while I was not on the jobsite. The days were easy for me; I could go out, fix a porch, and feel like I had done my part. But when it came time for me to sit down and relax with the team afterwards, I felt out of place.
I came into this Spring Break with my previous mission experiences in my mind. I expected to work hard during the day, come back tired and broken but satisfied, and then awkwardly attempt to find my place amongst the many groups and cliques that I expected I would find. But that’s just it. It is Wednesday night as I write this, meaning I have spent the past five days with the Wesley community, and I don’t think I have ever felt more at home in mission. I don’t feel like there has been any awkward stumbling, no fumbling for words in an attempt to be included in some group, nothing. I feel loved. I feel wanted. And I don’t have to question any of it.
I believe Bret was the first person that I heard mention it, but I finally understand how service FOR others is different than service WITH others. In the five days that I have spent in Charleston with Wesley, I have felt closer to God than I think I have in my past four summer missions combined. And that’s not to talk bad about the trips that I have been on; I enjoyed every minute of service. But it’s the absolutely wholesome and satisfying feeling of being undeniably loved by those people around me that has made this trip so much easier to enjoy.
I was in a worship service one night when the speaker mentioned something that I has stuck with me ever since. He said that there is a “significant difference between what people need, and what people crave.” Needs are fairly conscious; we recognize that they are present. Cravings, however, are a little more subtle. They are that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you can’t really explain, and sometimes you don’t even notice. You just tend to act on them because you feel like you NEED to. For the past few months, I have felt a need for mission, a need to go out and serve others. This is where I feel closest to God, and I think it is easy to say that most people who know God have the need to be closer to God. I acted on that need by signing up for Spring Break, and devoting a week of my time to serve the needs of others in Charleston, SC. But it is in this week that I have recognized my craving: a desire to be in service WITH others.
I hadn’t seen this craving because I was too focused on what I felt like I needed. But what I think I need and what God knows I need are often times two different things, and this week was no different. I have spent so long trying to be the hands and feet of Christ that I stopped paying attention to what it meant to be a part of the Body of Christ. I believe that God has taken this week to help me slow down, and teach me what it truly means to be spread His love through mission.
I pray that this week is as God-filled and mind-opening for you as it has been for me. May God open your mind to the cravings of your heart, and that you experience the love of others in the same magnitude I have this week. God bless, and good night! - Jonathan DeFreeuw