Sabrina, Ilyn, and Clara at the Broadstreet Mission VBS in New Orleans
From Clara Farley, an eighth grade participant on the New Orleans Mission Trip:
Dear Friends and Family,
Thank y’all so much for your support, especially in prayer. This trip was one of the best experiences of my life! I have learned and grown so much; there is no way to put the feelings into words. I am just so grateful to have had the opportunity, as an eighth grader, to go and experience all the things this mission trip had to offer.
I was very pleasantly surprised from the get-go. I was expecting to feel very out of place and self-conscious the whole trip because I was one of three eighth graders out of sixty kids (that includes the teams from Chicago and Canada). But high school kids aren’t as scary as they appear, and they all turned out to be very sweet and accepting. They all really loved the Lord, and man, it is a powerful thing to have sixty kids all worshipping and serving the Lord at one time and truly meaning it.
We had wonderful leaders on the trip. Our worship leader was/is I believe an actual recording artist, and has a huge heart for youth worship. One night we did what he called an “Improv” night. He said that we could do whatever we felt we needed to to worship. If we wanted to sing, sing; if we wanted to pray, pray; if we felt we needed to fall asleep, then he said to go upstairs and fall asleep in our “Daddy’s lap”. It was totally awesome. My friends and I probably prayed for close to and hour and a half. It was amazing.
I was blessed with a wonderful ministry team of six girls and one boy. They were all really awesome; major prayer warriors. We had some great experiences together. There are so many stories that I don’t know which one to tell. A very cool story was one about learning to listen. . . .
On Thursday afternoon, before VBS began, I was exhausted. I had gotten barely over three hours of sleep the night before and I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with a bunch of rowdy kids. I was headed to the restroom, and while I was waiting, I noticed a couple sitting at the end of the hall. I felt a need to talk to them, but I ignored it.
‘He’s talking on the phone anyways,’ I thought as I tried to justify my disobedience. I turned around just as a little girl ran out of the bathroom. (She was adorable!) I smiled and then felt that urge again, that little voice telling me to talk to the couple and find out if the girl was their daughter so that I could invite her to VBS and the family to the BBQ afterwards.
I prayed, ‘No God! Please, I’m tired, I’m grumpy, and I’m the last person you want to be a witness at the moment.’ But that didn’t make me feel any better. ‘Fine’, I prayed, ‘If they’re still there when I come back, I’ll talk to them.’ I took as long as possible in the restroom. I don’t think my hands have ever had a better washing. (The ABC’s thing really works if you’re stalling for time) When I peeked my head out the door I rolled my eyes. ‘Okay, you win,’ I thought, as I saw them sitting on that bench, unmoved, ‘Here goes nothing!’
I took a deep breath, and headed down the hall. I waited politely until the man was off the phone, and then asked if the little girl who had run out ahead of me was their daughter. When they said yes, I invited her to VBS, and told them about the BBQ afterwards. They were thrilled, probably to get the kids out of their hair for a couple hours so that they could find a place to stay.
It turns out that they had driven down from Tennessee a week and a half before, thinking that they could find lots of work in New Orleans, rebuilding, painting, etc. It turns out that there was zilch work, and they had been living out of their car ever since. Well, I went and found the little girl and introduced myself, (Sabrina was her name), and found out that I had just acquired a new best friend, or a.k.a., a shadow.
She followed me everywhere, and I was shocked to see how much she reminded me of myself at that age. Down to the very way she outlined the shape she would be coloring with marker before she filled it in.( If you didn’t catch it, she was from Tennessee, and have you ever heard an eight year old girl with a Tennessee accent? It is love-at-first-sound, I assure you.)
I took every opportunity I could to find out what this girl believed. I honestly don’t remember how we got into this discussion, (my memory left me when I turned 14), but I asked her if she believed she could get to heaven through good works. She said, “Of course,” and it was then I realized why God had not moved that couple on the bench; to give me the opportunity to plant a seed in this little girl’s life.
I snagged a Bible from a friend, and kept it with me, waiting for the right opportunity. Finally, after VBS, but before the BBQ, I got her away from the group, and we started talking. I don’t remember how the conversation went (man that memory!), but I got her to pray, and I think she got it. That was one of the clearest examples I’ve seen of a spiritual battle going on inside someone.
I could tell that she understood, but something was holding her back. She prayed for forgiveness, and she seemed . . . . .well, different I guess, but there was something there that wasn’t letting go. I was really discouraged. I was thinking, ‘Man, this seed is going to die Lord. You see her parents; tattoos, cigarettes, you name it. What kind of environment is that?’
Well, unbeknownst to me, He did see them, and not only that, but at the same time I was praying with Sabrina, one of our leaders was praying with her parents. They accepted Christ whole-heartedly. When I found out, I was overjoyed! Now Sabrina could at least have parents who were attempting to live Godly lives, and could try to help her get past that last barrier. I went and congratulated them, and told them about my talk with Sabrina. They were thrilled, and said they would definitely try to keep the lines open with her.
Right before our group was about to go back to base, a couple hours later, Sabrina’s dad came up to me and said, “Thank You.” Figuring he was talking about hanging with Sabrina for the afternoon, I said, “No prob., my pleasure.” Then he looked me in the eye and said, “No, really, Thank You for everything,” Then I realized he wasn’t talking about Sabrina, but thanking me for taking that inconvenient minute out of my day to come over and talk to them. It literally changed their lives.
On the drive back to base, it hit me hard. If I had been insistent on being disobedient to God’s voice; if I had not taken that inconvenient extra minute out of my day; two adults would probably not know the Lord, and one little girl would never have the opportunity to grow up in a family where her parents loved God. I learned a valuable lesson that day. If you feel God calling you to do something, do it right away, not before it might be too late.
There are so many more amazing stories that I could tell. God is just so good, and I am overwhelmed with the love He has shown me through this trip. Before this, I really struggled reading my Bible, but now my Bible is more highlighted and tabbed than my mom’s! It is such an amazing book, and yes, I know that y’all know that, but I still can’t get over it. I find a new favorite verse every time I open it. And now prayer isn’t a wish list, but a very refreshing dialogue.
Everything I do has a new meaning. Even in ballet class, whenever I feel tired, I just imagine I’m dancing for God, and it doesn’t seem so hard anymore (and it is much easier to keep smiling). School has a new title: the mission field. It shocks me now more that ever to see the lack of love for God in my Christian school. I have a new mission, to bring that love back!!!!
Again, I can’t thank y’all enough for your support. I hope I have many more opportunities like this in my future years. But for now, I’ll just treasure the memories of this one.