Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer's End

Well summer is finally coming to a close: kids are back in school, teachers are back to the grindstone, and the days only get shorter from here on out. Supposedly, summer is supposed to be a time of relaxation, rest, and fun. At least that is what T.V. and movies say. Perhaps the phrase "the lazy days of summer" applies to some, but for this missionary's summer the word "lazy" wasn't even in the dictionary.

My whole summer was spent raising support for this big thing on the horizon called "China". Apparently living in a foreign country for a year isn't free--even if it is communist. So, through the providence of God, I was fortunate enough to book seven weeks of summer camps and VBSes to help raise the cost. I say fortunate not primarily because doing summer camps is a good way to raise support (though it is), but because through summer camps I would have an opportunity for ministry all summer long. Booking 7 weeks of camps was fortunate because it gave me the opportunity to pour out my passion for Christ on others and try to set their hearts on fire for Christ.

Now, one week of summer camp is a tiring jog. A whole summer is a marathon. And so up and down the state of Florida I traipsed my metaphorical 26.2 miles of ministry: Tallahassee to Macclenny to Daytona to Keystone Heights to Lake Wales to Port Orange to Kissimmee--and some of them more than once!

I could tell you about playing earth ball with middle schoolers or teaching the missionary song to little kids or experiencing the Holy Spirit's power as a group of counselors worshipped together; I could tell you about whacky scavenger hunts, powerful messages, funny incidents, campfires, and baptisms--but I am afraid that to write about all that happened this summer would take another whole summer in itself. And heaven knows that none of us has the time (or the desire) to devote that kind of time to this blog.

So instead I will just say this: travelling this summer was such a blessing! To experience the heart and generosity of so many kids and counselors really took my breath away. To look and see first hand that someone is sacrificing for you-- it is deeply touching. I went into this summer with the intention of pouring myself out in ministry, to try and fill others up and love them. But I found that for every attempt I made to pour myself out, God filled me up all the more. Blessing after blessing rained on me this summer through the Church, and it was amazing to experience! Support and love and friendships and community and joy all sprung up like a banner harvest around me.

Now don't get me wrong. It was hard. This summer drained me emotionally and spiritually. I faced trial and temptation in weary desert valleys of the soul--but even these were for my own building up and good. The hardness of things doesn't in any way detract from the sheer Goodness of those same things. In fact I think it makes them all the more joyful.

So I guess what I am trying to say is thank you. Thank you to all who offered their prayers and dollars toward my mission in China. Thank you to all who offered the hand of friendship. Thank you to the Church, the Body, the Kingdom of God for redoubling in me all that I invested in you. And thank you to my God and King, the author and the continuing perfecter of my faith, who has put up with endless wandering on my part and matured me through it all. I will never remember this summer as being easy. But I will always remember it as being Good.

Grace and Peace,

~J.L. Smith~

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