FIRST OF ALL,
I’d like to thank every person who offered donations, kind words, support, and prayer. Prayer during the preparation and funding process may not have seemed like much, but it helped far more than you know. I truly am speechlessly grateful for all of you who helped me in this, you are a blessing.
Quick note to Christians reading this:
I’m not putting my writing on a pedestal, and I’m not stating that this is going to be the most spiritually wise thing you’ve ever read, but I am going to say this: I, along with many other Christians, carry misconceptions of the church, and what it means to be a Christian individual. I hope that what you are about to read opens your eyes to a few things within the church, and what it is to live as a Christian
How could I possibly write something to justify how incredible my missions trip to Ireland was? I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t – but I can most definitely try.
If I could describe Ireland in one word, it would be beautiful. As cliche as that sounds, go there yourself and try to find another word to describe it. It may rain immense amounts there, but everything is green. No dead grass, no dying, brownish plants, it definitely beats the GTA (Greater Toronto Area, not the game)
The people there are so kind, and not just within the church. I would walk the streets downtown and people would say hello with a smile on their face. It may sound like too small of a gesture to acknowledge, but it was different than back home, it was very heartwarming.
THE SCENERY! Hate to break it to you Scarborough Bluffs, Webster’s Falls, and whatever else the GTA has to offer, but compared to Ireland, you really suck.
Here’s a few reasons why I say that:
The moment I walked into the church in Ireland, I felt welcomed. I have never been to a church where I sensed the feeling of community so evidently. I suppose that’s a wonderful thing about small churches: everyones knows everyone. Portico, which is my church in Mississauga, is so big that it’s hardly possible to know everyone’s name . Don’t get me wrong, I love my church – but the small church was a wonderful change.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across such talented, spirited, witty, and loud teenagers in my life. I thought I was a loud person, but apparently not.
Their talent. What an incredibly talented group of youth. Yet, they still doubted themselves. I don’t think that it has ever hurt me so much to see someone doubt themselves. It truly made me realize that every teenager doubts themselves, and I never realized how important it was to encourage until I witnessed this.
And they may be a small youth group, but you see them support each other in every action. I spent the week seeing these teens encourage, joke, and laugh with one another, and God just revealed to me that this was what a youth group was supposed to look like.
With all that being said, here are 3 major things that I learned with Ireland.
IT’S NOT ABOUT BUILDING A HOME, IT’S ABOUT SHOWING THEM HOPE
One year ago, if you were to ask me what I think a Missions Trip is, I would have told you that it’s where a group of privileged people went to a poverty stricken country and built a church, school, or home – and somewhere in that experience they took pictures with a group of kids. As horrible as that sounds, I know that I wasn’t the only Christian who thought that.
I really struggled at first to believe that Ireland was a missions trip, they aren’t in poverty, they don’t work in factories making an income of 11 cents an hour, there is no water shortage or food shortage – I saw them as privileged.
The riches of the world could never add up to the riches of Heaven.
A person doesn’t have to be in poverty to desire a greater hope. Despite how privileged a person is; a roof over their head, food on their table, water in their cup, surrounded by a loving family – if they don’t have Christ, they are lost. It truly is unfathomable how much God mends broken hearts and broken identities. I realized that I was not called to help build a home for a family, I was called to help build a hope for a community of youth.
IT’S OKAY TO SPEND TIME ALONE
If you know me, it wouldn’t surprise you if I told you that I was loud, because based on my laugh and the volume of my voice, you already know. I love learning about people, knowing who they are as a person, making new relationships. I also love using my obnoxiously loud voice to get people’s attention, that may make me sound like an attention seeker, and that’s because I am. I’m the youngest of 5, common; it’s my best quality (sarcasm). But in all seriousness, I learned that I’m an introvert.
“But Elysha, those are the signs of an extrovert” Hear me out (This is the nice way of me saying, “educate yourself”)
Introvert is to spend time alone to become re-energized
Extrovert is to spend time with others to become re-energized
This is not a matter of how loud a person is, or how quiet a person is, but a matter of how they become re-energized or recharged.
Just as Carl Jung says (who, by the way, popularized the introvert/extrovert matter), “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
Now that I’ve justified what an introvert is, let me explain how I figured that out.
Every day I would spend time with not only the team of 13, but the youth group as well. Each day starting at 9:00 am, the team and the students would do devotions, from then on it was a day of either cleaning up Wexford (painting benches, cleaning parks, cleaning up garbage downtown, pulling weeds), evangelizing, and simply building relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. I loved being with the team and the youth group – in all honesty I wasn’t overwhelmed until the sixth day.
The smallest things began to set me off on the sixth day, I became easily irritated (by the dumbest things), I became far more sensitive than usual, and I kept to myself. Eventually I had a small (big) breakdown in front of my youth pastor. Luckily, he understood and I got some sweet alone time (thank you Daniel).
During that alone time I realized that during the week I was burning myself out. I thought that I wouldn’t be making any difference if I spent time alone – but foundation is always needed to build a home, and I just felt that at the moment, I had a very unstable foundation. Then it hit me – it’s okay to spend time away from the crowd, I mean, Jesus did right?
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,” Matthew 14:23
Jesus needed to spend time away from the crowd, even from his disciples, and be alone to recuperate. When feeding other’s it’s important that you’re feed yourself, or else your body will become too weak to even offer food.
In other words, if you’re teaching others about the Word of God, and showing them who He is, but not taking your own time to learn from Him, and understand who He is more, you’ll become weary, and begin to ‘act’ like Jesus, rather than ‘BE’ like Jesus.
It’s okay to spend time alone, He did too.
THOUGHTS CAN BE LIES, BUT HE IS ALWAYS TRUTH
In preparation for this missions trip, my thoughts were always scattered. Truthfully, during the months of fundraising $1,700, 90% of my thoughts towards meeting this goal were doubtful, fearful, and anxiety bound.
Externally, I did a phenomenal job making it look like I fully trusted God to provide, and that I was fully at peace with the situation. But internally, my mind was running through all of the “what if” scenarios: “what if I don’t get enough money?”, “What if I become judged for asking others to give me money to go to Europe?” , “What if I get the money but the trip isn’t worth it?” (don’t worry, it was).
My mind was constantly filled with doubt, and every once in awhile I’d firmly believe that He was going to provide. I think the best part about this was that during this time period God would constantly whisper, “Don’t worry, I got this.” And there I was, worrying – wondering if He had the situation together.
My thoughts became lies, but He continued to share His truth. During times of doubt, He was providing. During times of anxiety, He was providing. During times of tears alone in my room, He was providing. Until I accepted the truth that He wanted me to go on this trip, I was shackled in lies. But the truth… The truth will set you free.
And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t pay a cent.
Another big lie I had to overcome was this: That I’m a better Christian than others.
My pride consumed me inside and out. I struggled to ask people for help, prayer, and donations because I simply thought, “Who are they to help me. I can do this myself.” What a burden I placed upon my shoulders; to firmly believe that I could raise $1,700 by myself, without encouragement from others, without prayer, and without God.
Pride is an absolute virus that continuously gnaws at an individual’s heart until they become consumed in narcissism. Pride is such a difficult thing to overcome strictly because it causes one to think so highly of themselves that they can easily believe, “I’m not prideful, I’m just that important.” and see no flaw in their character.
But it must be acknowledged that everyone struggles with pride. Every Christian struggles with pride. But greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world. The selflessness of Jesus dwelling within me is such a peaceful, wonderful, and undeserving thing. So here I am, stepping off the unstable podium that I built myself, as I watch Him stand on His podium, inviting me to stand with Him.
I apologize that this is a month overdue.
I seriously could not think of a way to fully express how transforming this trip was.
I can’t comprehend how thankful I am for everyone who prayed, encouraged and donated.
Christianity is about building people up through love, not a home or school.
It’s okay, infact it’s encouraged, to spend some time alone.
Doubt and fears are simply lies, we can choose to believe them, or we can choose to overcome.
He has invited us into His kingdom
He is good, and His plans are good.
I am thankful. Thankful for this trip, the students, the pastors of Portico, the pastors of Wexford Christian Community Church, my friends, my family, and my God.