As soon as we are introduced as a “GOBA”—Greater Orlando Baptist Association, the mission organization we serve—at Fun Spot, it seems we are put under a magnifying glass, and people are just waiting to see what we do next.
What I find most amusing are the questions our co-workers have asked us: “Do you ever curse?” “Have you ever partied?” “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “Do you have a curfew you have to follow?” Or there’s my favorite: “Are you actually into things like the mall and stuff?” This last question was asked when a co-worker of mine ran into a couple of us GOBAs at the mall on one of our off days. He said we were the last people on the planet he would have expected to run into there. He thought we just hung out around the camp all day when we weren’t at work or church. You almost have to laugh at people’s assumptions of what Christians are like, especially those of us labeled as missionaries.
People watch. They want to know how we react to different conflicts and situations. They want to know if our lives are really all that different from their lives and if it’s something worth having. No pressure, right?
But, there is good news out of that. Because of the questions we have been asked, we have been able to share with others our past and a lot of the pain that was in it. In fact, many of our teammates have gone through—and are still going through—some tough times and some real hurt. But, we have come to find out, a lot of our co-workers are going through a lot of that same pain, too. So in these conversations, we have begun to show them that there is hope and healing in this world and that it comes from one solid source. And you never have to go through pain on your own.
One of the hardest things to do as a Christ-follower is to admit your past to someone. But God is so good to use that for his glory. When you reach out to someone who is going through a struggle that you have been through, telling your story to them can be one of the best things for them. We’ve already seen kids and co-workers open up about their past and their current pain. One guy at Fun Spot even recommitted his life to Christ because of our stories! It’s not easy to admit that you don’t have it all figured out and that you do have some real pain and loss in your life. But it is necessary to show others that the one true Healer is in your life and that because of that, you have hope and happiness each day.
Don’t be afraid to open up. We’re not going to always get it right, but when we look to God, you will see that he has everything under control. His sovereignty goes beyond my understanding, but I don’t need to understand in order to believe.
Emily Gerloff, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, is serving with Go Now Missions in Orlando, Fla. See all Students On Mission Blog posts.