What are your expectations for this summer?
This was a question I asked each Serge summer intern over and over again for months leading up to his or her actual internship. Why?
Because it takes time for an expectation to rear its head. It usually happens when a need is unmet and “hangry” – you know that feeling when hunger and anger meet?
I knew, whether they admitted it or not, there would be some hungry subconscious expectations for what mission work is like, what the Lord might do, and how He does it. How did I know? Because of the mountain of expectations I’ve had.
After two years on the field as a Serge Apprentice, my expectations were exposed, flushed out, shaken up with a bit of reality thrown in.
I recently accepted the role as Serge Internship Coordinator, which has (to my delight) meant entering into the lives 20-somethings who desired to follow the Lord’s will, but are uncertain about what that means. Choosing an internship in mission work clearly will answer that “what is the Lord’s will for me?” question, right?
In reality, interns often come away with a grander vision of God’s Kingdom, exposing them to more options and questions than they were already considering – and this is a better result than you might expect. Let me explain.
As I walked with these interns from support raising to deployment, I was welcomed into their different stories, stages of life, discernment questions, and perspectives of what the summer could hold. The interns were diverse. There was the senior in college who had been pursuing a global mission major and was taking a first step toward a long-term goal. And there was a freshman who’d never left the country. There were also those who’ve been working and took precious built-up vacation days to see if God was calling them to radically change their current path to pursue missions. One intern came because of a conversation with a long-term worker and then felt God call him on the spot to say “yes” to go and see. The stories range, but the heart of uncertainty, fear, excitement, and trepidation was a common thread throughout.
Before stepping onto the plane full of those emotions, we asked them to imagine what the Lord could do and is already doing. We did this in order to help them be honest and real with expectations for their own lives, while challenging presuppositions of how God works. We wanted them to consider how their expectations may be re-defined, re-imagined, and surpassed not only by what God will show them, but also by how they will see God Himself. We wanted them to consider how parts of their culture have defined their practice of Christianity, practices which others might not hold, and how to wrestle with that conflict. Finally, we wanted them to ask and see how God is bringing His Kingdom around the world through the mundane, the ordinary, the different and the broken beautiful relationships.
Two months later, they stepped back off the plane. They were jet-lagged and still very emotional. Yet, there was a slight difference. Within the fear existed new courage, their excitement was grounded in different insight, their trepidation held more boldness, and their uncertainty still remained but coexisted with a bit more peace.
Muddling through some jet-lagged quietness, the stories that surfaced revealed a beautiful picture of God’s handy-work around the world and in their lives. I heard story after story of God using broken people to love other broken people; not as a job or obligation, but as an act of gratitude toward God’s love for them.
In this new place the interns had a new thing they were most concerned about. They didn’t want to return back home where they sensed they would fall into the habit of not depending on God like they did where they served. Their daily need of God became tangible when in a new place, culture, language, and country. They wondered what may happen when returning to the familiar and known. They knew there is a temptation to rely on self, peers, stuff—yet still need God just as much as ever. I was honored to see this desire.
Were some of their expectations met? Yes! Did some of their expectations only surface when they felt disappointed? Yes! Were all of their lives perfectly planned out for the next 10 years? Not so much. (But where is the adventure in that?)
As I said goodbye to my first group of interns, I was struck by how my own expectations were not met, but changed. God actually brought me to a similar place when I ran a Tough Mudder a few years ago. I signed up on a whim with about a week notice which made it quite difficult to say the least, but it was achievable since I was already in the practice of working out and running. However no matter my fitness level, getting over a 15-foot wall, or climbing out of a mud pit would’ve been impossible if someone else was not above or below literally pulling or pushing me up. This was not a race. It was a feat of strength in teamwork. I fell many times, earned many bruises and cuts, was completely exhausted, but not defeated.
God gloriously challenges us—in the midst of community—to do things that might seem disconnected or random in order to sharpen gifts and talents and shape you and me into the piece that fits into His mighty puzzle. While serving as a Serge Apprentice in London, I had not expected to one day be the Intern Coordinator at Serge. Yet after serving with this first group of interns, I am more expectant to continually see that He is not done with them or me. There are still many paths full of challenge and struggle that He calls us all to, but never alone or without reason.