Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
While today marks the beginning of my time in Puerto Rico, the journey to this moment, sitting on this airplane, began a long time ago. The path that led to today was the culmination of many different life experiences.
-Relationship with Jesus Christ.
-Growth in that relationship, rooted in a solid youth group (back in the day!) full of individuals that were willing to pour their time and resources into furthering God’s Kingdom.
-My first short-term mission trips, to NC/Tennessee mountains and then to Mexico; these were life changing.
-More recently, over the last two summers, short-term trips to Puerto Rico.
-Falling in love with cultures very different from the one we live in.
-Knowing God wanted me to be at the camp in Puerto Rico again; actually deciding His will is far better than mine, and worth living in.
-Talking to John, the missionary at the camp, about the possibility of an internship.
-Having John’s family stay in our home for about a week while they were in NC (through a seemingly unfortunate, super fortunate turn of events). We were able to fellowship, and it provided wonderful reassurance that God has plans for this summer.
-Sharing my plans with everyone: family, friends, classmates, professors, fellow pool players, youth group, banker, insurance guy. (I also told my dog. She was a little unhappy.)
-Raising funds. You guys have blessed me. Many asked for my address as soon as I shared my plans. A women’s small group, from which I only knew one person, worked together to raise funds for my trip. Longtime family friends asked questions about where/what/when/why; they were eager to be a part of what is going to take place. Complete strangers from church donated when they saw that a long haired guy from church was going on a summer mission trip. I had the opportunity to share my heart (and a PowerPoint) with a men’s group, and they supported my trip financially and many committed to be praying over the length of the trip. I also mowed a preacher’s lawn, spread mulch, flipped compost, helped with garden setup, blew leaves off of a roof, sold furniture (also moved an 8’ dartboard in the back of a Cabriolet!), and many other odd jobs in return for donations. It has been an exciting ride already, and we’re only getting started. I received financial support from four people in the week leading up to our flight today; what awesome blessings.
I have been so touched already. Here is what has taken place so far:
-I am guilty; I struggle with trust. I didn’t think I was going to raise all the money needed; BUT God provided (as He always has). I saw God work through each and every one of you. Not only were my needs met, they were exceeded. There is money to assist in outreach, to pour into a family in need, or to sponsor a kid’s camp experience. That’s because of people like you, having everlasting impact! Thank you so much.
-This trip has provided me with an awesome opportunity to share the Gospel in everyday conversation over the past SEVERAL months. I’ve had the chance to share not only WHERE I’m headed, but also WHY I’m headed there. I’ve had the chance to share with believers and unbelievers alike. I pray that when I encounter others, they would see a clear reflection of Christ’s love. I want to be a man after His heart.
-God has been growing my heart. I cannot tell you how blessed I am to be used by the King of Kings, my Savior, my Lord. The fact that He would take us and use us…there are no words to describe it other than extraordinary GRACE, extravagant LOVE. He’s been pouring into me through a small group of guys, an entire youth group, and several close friends. It’s amazing to watch Him work. I want to be used by Him. I don’t want to waste my life chasing after worldly, temporary things; I want my life to be well spent, Gospel focused. Jesus at the center of it all. He promises that when we seek Him wholeheartedly we will find Him. He promises to draw nearer to us as we draw nearer to Him. Let’s live in those promises together. Let’s focus on the love He has for each of us.
Growing up I always heard people in the church pray that God would use them “in some small way.” I used to pray in that same manner; I don’t anymore. I’ve learned since then that we are not called to pray in that way. Why do we limit the ways in which God may work through us? Did Jesus not teach that we would do as He did, and then some? My prayer today, right now on this flight, is that God would use me in big ways, in effective ways, in ways that touch the hearts of the people around me with His love. I want to be obedient to whatever He calls me to, using all resources for His glory. I want to give Him the little interactions, because I know that through those instances, those moments, He can do big things. I want to see hearts ignited for Jesus. I want to see a tangible hope brought to people who need it. I want to encourage. I want to see people experience the love of Jesus. I want to be a part of His work. And my prayer is that these two months would not be a “getaway from life” as some have referred to this mission internship, but that it would be but a segment in a life lived for God’s glory.
I can only remember one specific experience from second grade. Each of us had to draw ourselves as a grown up, doing some type of work. I know my best friend at the time chose to draw himself as a firefighter. Someone was a nurse, another a pilot, and another a teacher. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up (or so I thought). It was like they were having me declare my college major that day. As a quality student in a Christian elementary school, I drew a picture of a guy with a big head wearing a sweater; and I called him a missionary (it was OBVIOUS). I find that really funny. And while I’m not wearing a sweater to Puerto Rico, I do have my orange adventure shirt on hand. I’m excited to see God move in Puerto Rico. It’s beginning right now, BIG THANKS TO YOU GUYS!
I seriously consider myself beyond fortunate for the friends, family, church network, and overall support I have in my life. You guys make me smile. Pockets full of money do not make a man wealthy; true friends do. You guys make me wealthy.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE (“They” say repetition works)—Be praying for the missionary family in Puerto Rico, for the children that will be coming into the camp, for the teams that will come from all over the U.S., for the plans of outreach, for those ministered to, and for my friend Matt and I. It means the world to us.
Know Him. Make Him known. That is my purpose, why I’m here. That is your purpose, why you’re here. Bring Him glory today. Give Him your all and nothing less. Live a life, that even at a glance, is unmistakably lived for someone besides yourself. Live for Christ.
Night update: already starting to build some quality relationships with friends from Pennsylvania. Went to youth group tonight and had a BLAST. Enjoyed devotions and time of sharing with an entire college team that is down here. It was great to reunite with friends and family from past summers. Excited for a big day tomorrow. Thankful that God has placed me here. Hope you guys have a great weekend!
2 thoughts on “Gracias, Gracias, Gracias”
Greg, I can’t express how excited I am for you, for the people that you will impact, for those who will impact you, and for the things that God has planned. I am striving to live for God – I don’t want to say it, I want to do it – and your heart encourages me and pushes me. The situation with ‘not trusting’, I felt the same way for the (very short) mission trip to Mexico, but God was there and overwhelmed me with support. I am so glad that you, too, have seen the work that he can do in that aspect. I pray that we can both continue to understand how wonderful He is and teach that to everyone we know…and don’t know. Stay strong, have fun, and keep making those awesome relationships. Know that we’re all missing you here and will be glad for your return in two months, but are also ecstatic about God taking you to PR. Much love – Kristen
The Lord knows! So cool to look back on this…