America just celebrated another free birthday last week and the party was FANTASTIC. The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays because people get so excited to celebrate America! This past election process has divided our nation. Whenever I see people violently protesting, rioting, starting a Facebook war, etc. I immediately think, “How unpatriotic”. I mean seriously, do they really not love our country enough to disrespect others political opinions SO much they cause division in relationships?? SERIOUSLY, how disrespectful! Many people claim they do those things out of LOVE for our country. In my unpopular opinion, there is NO love in causing division which is exactly what these people do. They “fight for love” (yes I’m talking about the gay protests here) but is fighting love?? No. It’s not. It’s okay to have an opinion on the matter. In fact, we are ALL entitled to having an opinion because we are a FREE country. Live your life with your opinion, but don’t force it on everyone else just because they differ from you. How SELFISH is it for us to live in the greatest nation in the world, but still be so defiant in our opinions to intentionally lose focus on the important things, and won’t stop sharing our opinions until we get OUR way? Anyway, Independence Day is fantastic because everyone, for a day, unites and celebrates our love for America together! Key word: UNITE. We are the UNITED States of America. So let’s act like it. Every day. Not just on the 4th of July. ‘merica.
Winshape Camps is another summer adventure I’ve had the amazing opportunity to experience! For those of you not familiar, Winshape is a weekday camp put on by everyone’s favorite fast food restaurant, ChickFilA. A team of 28 members spend 10 weeks traveling around the country leading Winshape at various churches. Our church has been hosting Winshape Camp for the past 6 years! The day is filled with LOTS of energy and excitement. Kids are able to participate in different skills throughout the day, such as painting, cooking, basketball, archery, and SO many more. They also play tons of “easy to learn, hard to accomplish” games outside and, best of all, they learn about following Christ in a super interactive way. The Winshape staff does an amazing job leading and teaching the kids in their group all while having fun. And trust me, it’s not easy. Volunteering for winshape means seeing first-hand what the staffers experience. Our church has always had a huge number of kids (around 400) which means each group has about 20 children in it! Amongst the kid-fights and challenges, it’s not easy. But it is so WORTH IT. The blessing that the staffers receive are amazon to witness. They prove that challenges are worth facing if it means you’ve learned something, or taught another in the process. And THAT is what makes Winshape an incredible opportunity that no child wants to miss out on!
So on our way back to the airport from a week serving in St John, our team stopped at a Subway (sandwiches) on St Thomas to buy lunch to take on the plane. As we’re piling out of vehicles and making our way into the restaurant, a man was coming out of the store when all of a sudden a simple “Good morning” from a team member set him off. And when I say “set him off”, I mean really set. him. off. The man started screaming and cursing us because we were white American’s. As he’s standing outside screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs, the rest of us quickly hurried into Subway and locked the doors. Somebody called the police, and the rest of us just chose to ignore him (after circling up in prayer for him) and continued buying our lunch. Choosing to ignore him, however, was very difficult when the man in all of his rage swung the LOCKED doors open and whipped off his belt yelling, “HIT ME! HIT ME!” As the instant fear set in to most of us, the girls ran to the back of the restaurant and all the men to the front. Now of course nobody was going to hit him first, so in protocol, we waited until he finally went back outside and continued screaming out there. Nobody really knows what happened to him, but he went from cursing us to yelling “I want food”. A man from our team responded and bought him a sandwhich and a drink. He took the meal, brought it outside to Mr. Crazy and said “God bless you”. The man calmly walked away, and we never saw him again. (Mind you, by this point the police still weren’t here. Talk about Island time…) In the midst of shocking emotion, fear, and courage, we very soon realized the power of Christ that was shown in that short moment. This man (obviously on something, or even possessed) never physically touched us. He threatened it, but he never did. He also wanted somebody to hit him. One thing we know is that the Bible tells us to love our enemies, and not to repay anyone back evil for evil. The man on our trip who gave this guy a sandwhich repayed evil for kindness. And obviously that kindness calmed his raging spirit. If that man from our team chose to fight the guy, the story would have turned out completely different. Our witness to him would be negative. So moral of the story is: big or small situation, always choose to do what is right, it will benefit you in the end one way or another!
Beyond sweating in the heat and humidity, constantly having several kids crawling on you while others are running away, craving A/C and knowing it won’t be accessible until you’re back home, being physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted…. there was a greater purpose. I along with 19 others, just got back from the island of St. John where we led a Vacation Bible School for the children that live there. Having been on this trip once before, my expectations for the week were completely different than the challenges we experienced. But despite the many challenges we had this past week, I can honestly say that it was one of the best weeks in my entire life. Our group of 1st/2nd graders had SO much fun pretending to be astronauts all week. We made our own shooting rocket ships, hung out in our space station, and ate candy from our (self) control station. One of the best things about the culture of the island is that no matter how tacky we thought something was, the kids LOVED it. They love the simple things… in fact, they PREFER the simple things. It’s one of the most charming things about the island: they know which things are trendy and modern, but most still prefer to live simply and don’t mind being set apart in that way. As Christ followers, we should be doing the same. To know what society says is right, but to still be set a part and follow what GOD says is right. Not just to physically show people in our lives what it means to be a Christian, but to commit to do what is right in our hearts as well. It is truly amazing that I went into the week expecting to teach kids, but never would I have expected how much was taught to me as well. Our entire team has so many different stories to share but in a nutshell: we all had so much fun spreading love to these precious kids, and can’t wait to be back one day!