But God "knocked my socks off" that night and throughout our time with The Noise on Sheppey.
Charles and I arrived on the island about an hour before I was due to speak, but with all the jet-lag, I hardly felt the energy to feel nervous. What a blessing jet-lag was! hehe.
|Looking good and grubby after days of serving together in the heat and grime :)|
But when she called me to explain what she was hoping for-- a sort of testimony-type talk answering the questions "Why God?" and "Why mission?", basically just sharing the story of my journey with God, I felt Him convicting me. I had just written a post only a day or two before encouraging all of you to share your story-- that it was what God wanted from each and every one of us; that He is reaching out to each of us through one another; that we can show one another that we are not alone; that we all have stories and that His plan is to redeem every one. So... I had to say yes, and trust that He meant to speak through my faltering words, however they came out.
And He has always been faithful before. Why am I forever shocked when He does indeed take my efforts, however feeble, and use them for His glory and for my good and for the good of anyone else He means to touch?
I just shared a bit about my journey to God and with Him. I shared a lot about my teenage years, as I was talking to teenagers, and I let them in on my personal stories-- my search for my identity and the wanders I took down the wrong roads to that end. And how He came after me and offered a hand out. And some of what He's done since I took that hand...
I was not prepared for how much the people I was speaking to would be affected or how the Holy Spirit would move in that room. And it totally blessed and encouraged my heart to see. Who am I to decide for Him what is worth being said and who is meant to be saying it? It was encouraging to me if only because as I was telling these kids about how He's moved in my life, I was reminding MYSELF of how He's moved in my life. My God is beyond incredible just in my own story, let alone all the stories of others! And how quickly I forget His faithfulness and how readily I live as if He is so much smaller than He is!
Charles and I stayed on for the rest of the week and worked alongside the youth of The Noise, doing service projects around the underprivileged community in the name of Christ's love, and putting on a sort of community fair in a rough neighbourhood in the afternoons each day. It was such an honour to get to know the youth a bit, and to get to share with their thirsty hearts in one-on-one conversations in the rest of the week what I've experienced of my Jesus. It was such a humbling privilege to get to feel that sense of purpose and being right in the centre of His will. I wish I could put it all into words.
One of the people in the community that my team did some work for really touched my heart. She was elderly and suffering with severe arthritis. She needed us to come in and do things like yardwork and changing some light bulbs (I also got to trim my first ever hedge and it felt like an initiation into true British life :)). I got to sit down with her for a few moments while we waited for my team and hear a bit of her story. She was an artist with a backyard studio in her shed, and had lived in Spain for 13 years. She admitted without my asking, that she was confused about God because of all the suffering in the world, but that she had adored her now deceased husband and because of him and how wonderful he was, she thought there just must be a God. She was darling and funny and invited me back for a cup of tea any time I was back on the island. I hope someday to take her up on that offer :) It is people like Rita whom Jesus came for, died for, and whom still haven't quite discovered this life-fulfilling hope.
And it's people whom have yet to discover this hope that The Noise on Sheppey exists to be a beacon to. And it's people whom have yet to discover this hope that we MUST share our story with. Somehow, after seeing how He moved in the youths' hearts that night I shared mine, all the heartache that went along with the things I was sharing about all became worth it. I saw in a tangible way what it means to know that He is a Redeemer. My darkest nights were redeemed in that moment, turned over into something good, because of how I can point to the hope He's given me, and the way He's changed me, and maybe give a bit of encouragement to someone who finds themselves in their own dark nights.
A few of the youth were inspired and encouraged to tell their own testimonies after that night, some of them so powerful that I can just see how God will use them every time they're told. I hope you'll be convicted to start to think about, understand, and tell your own. We all have one. And He will redeem it if you'll let Him use it...
We carry this hope in jars of clay, to a world dying to know it...
Let Him use it. As many times as He will.
Thank You, Lord, for what You are doing on Sheppey through The Noise, and also in my own heart through being encouraged by my time serving with this particular ministry. You are good, You are good, You are good. And your love for this entire world is faithful and unfathomable. I love You. Help me to have the courage to keep telling the story You have given and are giving me. And help anyone reading this to do the same. May we not let any of it be wasted. May You change this world through us. Thank You, Lord. Amen.