So when I was 18 years old, I took my first missions trip. Most people see missions and they think, “overseas”. My first missions trip was a month long trip to Atlanta with Teen Mania Ministries. As I look back on that trip, I still remember all too well those feelings. I had never been on an airplane and I had never been away from my family for more than a week. I remember getting settled into my seat, hands shaking as I tried to buckle the seat belt. It was then I realized a boy, no older than 12 years old was sitting next to me. He smiled and said, “Can I help you with that?” I felt a bit silly. I mean I was an “adult” now and here was this kid helping me. Turned out that he was visiting his father for the summer as his parents were divorced and so he was pretty much a “frequent flyer” since he was 10. I remember thinking how brave this boy was to be traveling so far on his own! We made small talk and as the plane took off like a rocket in the sky, he put his hand on my hand while I closed my eyes and wondered if we would ever level out. I was scared and pretty sure that I was making one of the biggest mistakes ever.
We landed in Florida and took an hour long bus ride to the place where we did our training. Regret was magnifying as I realized I was totally alone and knew absolutely no one. Stepping off the bus I got blasted by that famous Florida heat and humidity. We were told to unload the bus and put our bags in “sliced bread” formation and then go stand by our bag till someone came to help us. It was late afternoon and I had been up since the wee hours of the morning, so I sat on my bag and patently waited. A young guy came up and said, “Hey there! My name is Krazy Kevin and I am here to help you with your bags!” He proceeded to talk a mile a minute and rattled off questions so fast it made my head spin. I remember thinking, “Seriously, I am tired, already ready to go home and you’re a little weird.” Turned out, Krazy Kevin was also going to Atlanta.
That summer of 96′ changed my life. Even still, I look back and see the big picture and smile because it was such a life changer. You see, I was always pretty predictable. I was a good Christian girl who followed the rules. I never drank, smoked or experimented with drugs. Up until that moment, the bravest thing I had ever done was ride on a roller coaster…..that also flipped upside down! Oh and I also skipped school one time with a friend…..such a risk taker eh? Yeah, not so much. I am pretty sure I shocked the heck out of everyone when I had this whole idea that I would go away for one month on a missions trip, an idea that sounded perfectly legit at the time of planning. The moment those wheels left the tarmac though, I wanted to take it all back. I wanted the safe summer with my friends before we all went our separate ways before college. I remember calling my mom two days in and saying I wanted to come home. My mom pretty much told me to suck it up. She reminded me that people had given to the trip and that I made the commitment to go. (Later I found out that every part of her wanted to just put me on the next flight home….she missed me.) So I dried my eyes and told myself to make the best of it.
After about a week, I couldn’t believe that I called my mom in tears. I had made a great group of friends (Krazy Kevin was actually pretty funny.) and the ministry we were doing was something I had never done before. We spent most of our time in project areas with the poor and building relationships. In the evenings we would spend time in Little Five Points where I met some of the most interesting and rough people I had ever met. I was challenged more times in my faith and realized that this small town christian girl really didn’t know how to share about her love for Jesus. Those 30 days were just the beginning of living a brave life. The years that have followed have only pushed me more and more to live that life of bravery. Two years after that life changing summer, I married that Krazy Kevin and it was the start of many many many leaps into living a brave life! It’s still scary and it’s filled with a lot of unknowns, but each time that leap gets a little easier. Well, maybe it really doesn’t, but it’s a life that is full or amazing and raw moments. I look forward to sharing these beautiful moments with you along the way.