GYC 2011 in Houston, Texas was my eighth GYC, and I think it was the one at which I had the most fun. What made this GYC drastically different than any of its predecessors? This time around, instead of attending the conference, I was volunteering. I’ve volunteered in the past, but not to the extent that I would miss most of the meetings and seminars. This time, I really volunteered. And I don’t remember ever being so refreshed returning from a GYC conference.
My favorite part about volunteering at GYC was the part where I could work together with like-minded young people, with my favorite people in the world. I’d do any project with these ones. And not only I could work together with them, I could work together with them physically in one place. There’s nothing that can replace the synergy of a team other than being together. And the team that made up the Presidential Hospitality Department (PHD) at GYC 2011 was top notch! I’ve never seen such seamless and efficient execution of both planned and unplanned tasks.
Since I’m located in a place far away from most of my spiritual peers, this ability of working in a team is something I highly crave. It boosts my mood and quality of my work when I can do them with people. It is even a source of spiritual struggle when this doesn’t happen. In fact, this was the case the last few months of 2011. I was simply tired, not of working, but of working alone.
With that background, volunteering for PHD fulfilled perfectly my spiritual need. I needed to work more than I needed to sit in sermons or seminars. Being involved in service is the practical aspect of spirituality and it is equally (if not more) important than the theoretical. In fact, this practicality suited my day-to-day existence. Being in a working cycle, where I cannot rely on protracted amount of vacation time anymore, I can’t rely on breaks to get spiritually charged. I need to learn to find spiritual refreshments during the intense demands at work.
Most times, at least for me, when I think of spiritual needs, I think of the need to be fed through prayer, Bible studies, sitting in seminars or sermons, or being spiritually nursed by older and wiser mentors. And when I think of service, I think of it as a less important and optional aspect of my spiritual life, because in this case I am on the giving end instead of the receiving end.
I’d like to submit that service is a spiritual need. Working, getting physically tired from running around doing errands, taking care of other people – all of these are spiritual feedings. I experienced it first hand this GYC – gaining more refreshment by giving.
So, for all GYC attendees out there, I highly recommend volunteering at GYC, or anywhere, as a matter of fact. Volunteer at church, in the local communities, and engage in service. You need it!
There are a few meta-narratives of my trip to Honduras, including true education and service. This is another one.
One of the reasons why I wanted to go on a mission trip was to experience discomfort. A perspective on how varied the life paths of humanity on this earth is always a good antidote against insularity. We need reminders that the daily trials and difficulties we face, especially in the modern world, are usually petty ones. They are often luxurious trials, meaning that we get to experience them because of the tremendous privilege and luxury that come with them.
Interestingly enough, ten days in rural Honduras did not bring me to a point of discomfort. I was, in fact, completely comfortable with all the logistical arrangements throughout the trip, as well as the slightly unexpected occurrences. No electricity – absolutely liberating. Cold showers – no problem. I still showered twice a day. Damp bed, water dripping from the roof during your sleep – didn’t kill me. Washing clothes with hands – tiring, but I could get used to the exercise. Fruit flies crowding your breakfast – fine. Professional ants crawling up when you sleep and leaving many bites – annoying, but I’d trade everything else with that. Visiting people – loved it.
Moreover, the people there are very friendly. Life works, even without the conveniences of modern lives, because “a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” I admired how much they work with their hands and I’m close to coveting their lives when I think about my much more sedentary lifestyle. The smiles and waves people give when you pass them by made me think what a luxurious life actually means.
Basically, I was not uncomfortable at all during this trip. I enjoyed every moment. Of course, it was a short one. But I’m beginning to wonder if I would be uncomfortable if I lived there. Perhaps being Indonesian helps, since I’ve seen and experienced worse.
I was wondering about what was going on. Was this a bad thing that I was comfortable? Shouldn’t something be pushing me more? Then on day 3 or 4, Raquel opened up to this text during worship:
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor 1:3-4.
How interesting. The source of comfort is God, and it is possible to be comfortable in any kind of difficulties. Then, because we have that comfort, we can comfort others who are in trouble. If that’s so, then I wouldn’t want to ever be uncomfortable.
Every good thing comes from God, and I believe it was a gift that I felt comfortable in the given circumstances. Perhaps my work was to comfort others who might not have been as comfortable. From that day, I stopped worrying about seeking discomfort and shifted focus to, as I could, comfort others.
As the trip went on and I was becoming more and more appreciative of the lifestyle there, if that was even possible, I realized that the discomfort that pushes me out of my boundaries does exist. But I wasn’t going to find it in this mission trip.
I realized that I actually am more uncomfortable in the life that I live now than in Honduras. It’s not about physical discomfort. It’s the mental and spiritual discomfort of being where I am right now, waking up pleading for God to give me strength to face each day. Perhaps that’s why God puts me in school. This is where my character is being grilled…
With that thought, the burden returned and I felt the heaviness on my shoulder. But Christ too drew near and assured that His yoke is easy and His burden light. He would be with me still and the same comfort can remain with me as the trip drew to a close and I returned to the US. Being on this mission trip was actually a relief from my discomfort and I felt eternally grateful that God let me experience a breather there.
Tasks uncommended, labor without recognition, is the lot of most of the world’s toilers. And in such a lot many are filled with discontent. They feel that life is wasted. But the little rill that makes its noiseless way through grove and meadow, bearing health and fertility and beauty, is as useful in its way as the broad river… The lesson is one needed by many…What we need to learn is faithfulness in making the utmost use of the powers and opportunities we have, and contentment in the lot to which Heaven assigns us. Education, p. 117.
The VIDA staff did a series of devotions based on Luke 4:18-19. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Naomi did the first one on Sunday morning. It was powerful.
When Jesus started His ministry, He began with words that pronounced blessings to the poor in spirit. ” Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:3,5.
The reason why we minister to those in need is not because we are so rich and they are poor. The Laodecian church is also poor and blind and naked, except that it doesn’t realize its desperate condition.
We minister because we need to realize that we are poor in spirit. I need to realize that I am poor in spirit and that the kingdom of heaven is for me too. I need to learn meekness, to be like Jesus.
Naomi read a powerful passage from Testimonies for the Church Volume 6, under the chapter titled “The Church’s Need.”
While the world needs sympathy, while it needs the prayers and assistance of God’s people, while it needs to see Christ in the lives of His followers, the people of God are equally in need of opportunities that draw out their sympathies, give efficiency to their prayers, and develop in them a character like that of the divine pattern.
It is to provide these opportunities that God has placed among us the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and the suffering. They are Christ’s legacy to His church, and they are to be cared for as He would care for them. In this way God takes away the dross and purifies the gold, giving us that culture of heart and character which we need.
The Lord could carry forward His work without our co-operation. He is not dependent on us for our money, our time, or our labor. But the church is very precious in His sight. It is the case which contains His jewels, the fold which encloses His flock, and He longs to see it without spot or blemish or any such thing. He yearns after it with unspeakable love. This is why He has given us opportunities to work for Him, and He accepts our labors as tokens of our love and loyalty.
In placing among us the poor and the suffering, the Lord is testing us to reveal to us what is in our hearts… The culture of the mind and heart is more easily accomplished when we feel such tender sympathy for others that we bestow our benefits and privileges to relieve their necessities. Getting and holding all that we can for ourselves tends to poverty of soul.
The purpose of mission trips is character development. Not that the poor needs us and that’s it. We need them for the purification of our character.
So then, what about God’s work and hastening His coming? It turns out that our character development does hasten Christ’s coming as well.
“When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.
Christ calls us to His work so we can experience His joy and His pain, that our hearts would beat the same beat as His.
God could have reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ’s, we must share in His work. In order to enter into His joy,—the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice,—we must participate in His labors for their redemption. Desire of Ages, p. 142.