True to OneLife, we kicked off second semester by jumping right into a trip to The Philly Project. (To learn more about this wonderful mission, visit their site at https://thephiladelphiaproject.com/ ) In three days, I had the opportunity to feed the homeless, package food boxes, assist guests in a food pantry, and walk rambunctious kids from school to the after-school program hosted at the church. I loved the perspective I gained, but instead of intense bonding, I felt intense loneliness. As excited as I was to serve in the city, I had the wishful expectation to come back to OneLife socially flawless. Where I had been withdrawn and hesitant first semester, I wanted to connect with everyone in radical, deep ways second semester. Like an avalanche, I feared the first week would define the rest. I did not feel any closer to my community and I did not feel better than before break.
The end of each day was spent in reverent worship. It was these nights I struggled to understand God’s plan for me while everyone else sang. God designed me as a quiet, introverted person. Yet He called me to live in community. I couldn’t help but feel He played a cruel joke. How could I, someone who rarely speaks, benefit a community? Yet it is the means through which we serve. There was no way I could pack those boxes on the assembly line on my own, or run an after-school program by myself. If we cannot serve on our own, we must serve with community. But how could I first find my role among it? I felt too quiet to even impact the people I live with.
My overwhelmingly negative perceptions caused me to withdraw from others instead of reach out to them. But God wouldn’t allow me to fall backwards. Though His methods for growth are not easy, they are perfect. He used the very Christians I struggled to communicate with to prove His ways are higher. Just as I lost courage, one member convinced me that God calls us together for a reason and explained each person makes an impact on another. God even brought two members from the Three Springs campus to encourage me without knowing the very thing I struggled with was in their prayers. On the van ride home, more members vouched for what God had been trying to tell me the entire time. I do matter to my community.
The Philly Project set the grounds for God to work on His “project”. My perspective needed to change on what it means to not only serve, but serve beside others. My goal for second semester now is not to be accepted, but work on accepting the truth. God has designed me to function to His preferences. He has called me to live in Christian community. He will not leave me to reconcile these two things on my own. As my last semester at OneLife begins, I seek to understand my identity in Christ and within the community that I live that identity out. Through His often unconventional, but always perfect way, God teaches me how to serve His Gospel to myself, to others, and those in need.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.