All He Gave Us Was A VBS Backpack
My senior year in college I volunteered as a summer missionary with our state Baptist Student Union. God sent me to the desert. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was as I read Philip’s account on the desert road with the Ethiopian eunuch that I knew I had to go. So the desert was the logical place for my assignment.
When I left home I had the name of the county in Arizona where I would live. Google, in it’s early stages of life, had provided me a little information including a map of where this county was located. Other than that little bit of information, I flew into the great unknown looking for adventure at the age of 21.
We’d been in Phoenix training with all of Arizona’s other student missionaries for a couple of days when the director of missions handed out information on everyone’s assignments. Everyone was buzzing about what they were going to be doing that summer, who was picking them up the next day and where they would be serving.
When it was our turn to receive our packet of information I was beyond excited. Finally, we’d have names and details about our assignment. The director missions handed us a VBS backpack and moved on to the next team.
A VBS backpack. The same one you can buy off the shelf at any LifeWay store. No personal note from the churches we’d serve. No name of who would pick us up and take us to our church. No idea of where we would live. A VBS backpack.
I grumbled. It’s been well over 15 years and I know I grumbled. I like plans, organized, day by day neatly laid out plans. I was staring at a whole summer of question marks...and a VBS backpack. Were we really going to do VBS every week for the entire summer?
When the director called us all back together, he said, “Some of you received a lot of information about where you are going. Some of you did not. I want to remind those of you with less information God doesn’t always give us all the directions. He just calls us to follow Him.”
Okay, so I don’t really remember if that’s what he said exactly or not, but that’s the gist of it. And I knew he was talking to me.
This memory has come to me a lot over the last few weeks. I’m waiting on some things to work themselves out. I’m waiting on some next steps while I’m staring at a whole lot of question marks in front of me. I want the details. I want to know my next steps and at least five more beyond that. I’m really not interested in the journey, I want to know where we are going.
God doesn’t always give us all the directions at once. As I look back over my life, I’m glad of it. He’s guided me into a few steps I’m not sure I would have taken if I’d known where they led. Looking back I know He led me in His direction for His purposes. I learned a lot on those journeys and those lessons have shaped me into who I am, but they aren’t what I would have chosen.
That summer on the missions field, God never let us go hungry or without a place to stay. We did say the missionaries’ meal blessing (Lord I’ll get it down if you can keep it down) a few times, and we climbed into the car with strangers who said they were from our next church and trusted them not to abduct us. In fact, we never gave a second thought to it. We did, in fact, lead eight weeks of Vacation Bible School. I still think about the verse from that summer: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7”
While others heard the call to full-time missions loud and clear that summer, I heard God whisper “my child this isn’t what I have for you.” And I was perfectly content to leave vocational ministry to others. I supposed He’s still using that summer to teach me.
So I guess I’ll take what little information about the next steps I’ve been given and do what needs to be done while I wait. He won’t leave me sitting here for too long, although the not knowing seems to drag on forever. Ten weeks on the mission field without a clue as to what we were doing looked like the rest of my life. In reality it was but a mere moment. Soon these days will appear just as distant in the rear view mirror.