Our mission experience last week in Philadelphia was hosted by Adventures in Mission (AIM.) Marcus, Kathy, Maddie, Melissa, Doug and Sara were wonderful guides, teachers, cheerleaders and partners as we sought to serve the community and grow closer to the Lord while we were in Philadelphia.
At some point early in the week, Marcus said something during one of his talks with us that really resonated with me and continues to do so. In fact, I would venture to say that this one sentence encompasses the power of what we experienced in Philadelphia last week. Here is what he said:
"Prayer and relationship are the currency of Heaven."
I invite you to ponder that sentence for a moment. Prayer and relationship are the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven. Prayer and relationship, relationship and prayer. Prayer and relationship are the currency...the medium of exchange...that draws us into the Kingdom. The Kingdom comes into focus as we invest in prayer and relationship. Our experience of and participation in the Kingdom is intimately connected to our experience of and participation in prayer and relationship. While I don't think this is new information to me, something about the simplicity of the sentence struck a chord with me.
One of the parts of this mission trip that I particularly enjoyed was the emphasis on prayer; not just talking to God, but truly creating the space to really LISTEN to God. Every morning, before we did any activity that could be called "ministry," we were asked to spend a significant amount of time in prayer. We prayed individually and we prayed collectively. We invited God to speak to us about particular scriptures and we invited God to speak to us about where we should serve that day. Although I would consider myself a person of prayer, I realized through our experience in Philadelphia how hurried and limited my prayers often are at home. If I'm honest, back in Virginia, I often make my to-do list and schedule my "ministry" activities and then ask God to be with me as I run, run, run. Here's my plan, Lord, please bless it! By contrast, in Philadelphia, we were invited to enter into an ongoing conversation with God each day and ask Him to show us where to go, step-by-step, opening our eyes along the way to see Him powerfully at work. In Philadelphia, we asked God to surprise us and allow us to do things we could only do through His power. As I consider the lessons from our time in Philly, I am beginning to think maybe my "Virginia" prayers are much too safe!
The other facet of this "currency" that draws us closer to experiencing the Kingdom here on earth is relationship; our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Through seeking the heart of God and taking time to really connect to the people He places in our path, we experience life as we were designed to live it. A return to the Garden, if you will. While we were in Philadelphia, and even before our departure thanks to the sermon we heard the morning we left, we asked God to give us "people eyes"...eyes that REALLY saw the child of God that was standing, sitting, playing, walking in front of us. As we prayed together and worked together, we experienced a deepening of our relationships with one another and a strengthening of the bonds that brought us to this place as a team. Without the distractions of our busy Northern Virginia lives (including cell phones and computers,) we all had the opportunity to share at a deeper level and be better listeners with one another. As we grew closer to one another and to God, we were filled with His love and the confidence to risk a little more in our relationships with the strangers we met...the strangers who became our friends. The children at day camp, the lady in the neighborhood, the homeless man at the coffeehouse on Kensington Ave....all part of this greater Kingdom that expands and grows as we open our heart to a bigger, deeper, better Love and offer ourselves to be used as agents of God's healing. Connected to one another, strengthened by our bonds in Him, we are stronger and better equipped to go out be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I say this every time I get back from one of these mission trips with our youth, but I am just blown away by these kids. I signed up for my first mission trip as an adult in 2007 because both my kids were going and I thought it would be wonderful for us to share the experience. Since then, I go each year because I am completely inspired and awed and humbled by seeing our students in action. It is a privilege to partner with them in this Kingdom work; our future is in good hands if these kids are a reflection of the next generation. As one of my favorite songs from the musical Wicked says "because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
Prayer and relationship are the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thanks, Marcus!