With four of my friends from the University of Texas at Arlington Baptist Student Ministry, I arrived before 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon for Go Now Missions orientation, a weekend of preparation for student summer missionaries. We were so excited to see what God would do that weekend!
My tribe—a group of student missionaries the Go Now staff put together based on trip and location—was made up of seven girls who all would be serving in Texas. Our first activity was to make up a tribe name, motto and build a shield to represent that. To get craft materials, we had to quote a Scripture passage to Go Now staff or the sending-team members. I was glad I’d been reviewing them every chance I got so that I could have Scripture in my heart and get materials to build our shield.
I stood up to present my tribe’s shield to all the missionaries, something I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing even a few months ago at Discovery Weekend. At dinner, I saw my friend of two years, Alex. He told me he was proud of me for standing up in front of everyone. He said he couldn’t believe how God has been working in me and giving me confidence. All I could do was nod. Everyone around me was in such good spirits and sharing hearts and stories, and I am certain that the Holy Spirit was there with us.
That night, exhausted, we all went back to our dorm. Some of us went to use the community bathroom, myself included, and were confronted with signs announcing the (fake) contamination of the water and instructing us how to take a “bucket bath.” I just laughed and headed to bed, resolving to take one in the morning. Several girls took them that night, and I could hear them talking about how “it wasn’t so bad.”
That bucket bath was not the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. But I also must consider the fact I’m in America, we had hot water (thank goodness!) and it was more a fun experience than a necessity. Lots of people all over the world have to take bucket baths in much less comfortable surroundings than a shower stall with lots of soap and privacy. Lots of people are less fortunate than we are, which was a lesson learned again that day at lunch.
Everyone drew a card before entering the cafeteria. The number on each person’s card determined the table where he or she sat, and the color determined what food the lunch staff put on each plate. Some people ended up with only rice and bread; other tables had steak and salad; and others had something in between. I had rice and bread, to be eaten with chopsticks. Most of us left the cafeteria fairly hungry and with heavy hearts after discussing the typical meals of many people in the world—and the people some of us would be going to share the gospel with.
I remember having the selfish thought, “I’m just going to Houston, I’ll have normal food there! This isn’t fair to those of us who are staying in America.” Then I remembered the phrase repeated to us over and over that weekend: It’s not about me. So often, we tend to be so self-absorbed. It’s about my stomach, my needs, my desires. But it’s about God, the center of it all. God definitely softened my heart at lunch that day, and I’m sure many others as well.
Orientation was filled with seminars, shield selfies with our tribes, and stormy weather, the latter forcing us into the dorm stairwells at 2:45 a.m. on Sunday.
The commissioning service that afternoon made things so much more real. We’re going out into the world to share the best news in the world—that Jesus died so that we could know him, love him and make him known.
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As I depart for Houston, I’m beyond excited about what God is going to do through me in the lives of those kids. I also can’t wait to hear the stories from my fellow missionaries about God’s work around the world. This is all about him, as it should be.
Erin Turner, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington, is serving with Go Now Missions this summer at a Christian activity center in Houston.