Whenever we can hear from our interns, that's the BEST! Giving them a transformative encounter with God's mission is our primary reason for existing. The following comes from two of our QuadW Kansas City interns. Check out their mid-summer reflection on what this experience is opening up in them so far... they're real good!
When Tony asked us to write about our experiences in Kansas City, he gave us three seemingly-simple questions to answer, each in three sentences:
What is the summer teaching you about God;
What is the summer teaching you about God’s mission and work in the world;
What is the summer teaching you about yourself and who you’re called to be?
We confidently sat down to write but quickly realized that our allotted three sentences would be far too few and that, perhaps, one question could not be answered without the others.
So instead of three neatly-condensed, well-organized responses, here are our thoughts that attempt to answer a question we’ll spend the rest of our lives contemplating:
How do I fit into God’s vision and mission?
During the first week, it quickly dawned on me that the QuadW internship is perfectly designed to take the world you thought you knew and turn it completely upside down. I applied for this internship wanting to stretch the limits of my comfort zone and embrace the unknown. I hoped that by the end of the summer I’d have this whole faith thing figured out. And while I learn every day to find comfort in the mystery and push the boundaries with myself a little bit, I’m unsure if I am any closer to figuring out all that God is. Four weeks in and I’m just now learning to lean into it.
To simplify it, I’m mostly learning about the real definition of community and mission.
For a long time, I believed that God’s mission for the church is pretty simple: love your neighbors. However, I continue to discover there are so many facets to the gem that is God’s calling for His people. C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.”
This means loving my neighbor requires openness-sharing the damaged parts of my heart. And the Bible empowers us to love as Jesus did, who humbled himself by “being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7b). His example shows me that the greatest way I can love others is to admit that brokenness is the truest form of the human experience. Practicing vulnerability in this community reminds me that even when it seems hard, I’m not the only one broken here.
I also think in the past I learned to let this fear of vulnerability and awkward encounters deter me from the call to love others, and in turn I became complacent in my comfort zone.
I’m now learning that I can’t just wish for opportunities of mission to come to me; I am a missionary.
This means if I want to love my neighbor as the Lord sent me, then I cannot wait for them to venture out and knock on my door. Instead, I need to joyfully and intentionally travel this neighborhood we call the world and be the opportunity knocking on the front door of my neighbors.
If I operate under the assumption that God meets us where we are, at whatever point in our journeys, then aren’t I, too, called to meet others in this same way?
Our discussion of the Resurrection initially inspired the thought process which led me to this basic conclusion: our mission is not working to get to some mystical, fantasy after-life, but rather make Earth look a little bit more like Heaven. In the Presence of God. Right now.
So how does this apply to God’s mission in my life?
It means I still have work to do loving the people of this Earth, whoever it is and wherever I am. And it’s not something I feel like I should do. It is a strong conviction-something I must do.
And I am not finished.
My understanding of heaven, of God’s dwelling place, of the Kingdom of God, of God’s vision is being completely redefined.
Like many, I grew up imagining heaven as a golden-gated neighborhood in the clouds where the spirits of believers would go when death separated them from their earthly bodies. After considering the writings of authors like NT Wright and studying scriptural references to heaven, my understanding of heaven is now closer to home; I believe heaven is not a far-away dreamland but a perfect reinvention of earth where our bodies will be resurrected to live in complete harmony with God.
This summer is transforming my vision of God from one who is simply observing and waiting in the sky to a God who is actively seeking, creating, and reforming God’s perfect creation.
With this new understanding of God, my identity and purpose is likewise being reinvented.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21
My primary identity in the church has typically been determined by the activities in which I’m involved, like “Sunday school teacher,” “church council representative,” or “worship leader.”
But by saying that I am sent as he was, Jesus gives me his own label: “missionary.”
I used to believe that missionaries only operated in far-away lands and was terrified to accept a call to missionary ministry.
Now, I’m learning that being sent by God is about a lifestyle choice, not a location change. I can still teach classes and serve on committees, but to truly live as Christ, my identity must be that of a missionary, sent by God to make earth a little more like heaven with love.