This summer, over 150 students and young adults were supposed to fly off to Europe to serve alongside missionaries, build relationships, and share the gospel. Due to COVID-19 none of us boarded a plane to Europe. However, we were all sent out. We were sent into our local context to serve those around us. In Acts 1:8 it says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The writer of Acts was speaking to an audience whose home was Jerusalem, then Judea which was a bit further from home, then Samaria which was even further, and to the ends of the earth which was much further. This summer has been all about our “Jerusalem.” I would be dishonest if I said I was not disappointed when I got the news that the Ten2 Project would be virtual and not overseas. I was disappointed because I was unaware of what God was going to do in my “Jerusalem.”
Six years ago when I was in college, I needed to find someone to drive home with me to split gas expenses, so I found a random girl at my university through Facebook. It might have seemed sketchy, but being at a Christian school I assumed all would be well. And it was. We had a great road trip and ended up becoming friends. We kept in contact during my freshman year, but in my sophomore year, we lost touch. Until one day, I saw her in the hall looking defeated. I asked how she was doing and she explained to me she had just gotten kicked out of school because she came back to campus drunk, which was against the rules at our university.
In the next four years, we kept in touch on and off. I knew she struggled with substance abuse and alcohol, so I would check in on her from time to time. I wanted her to know she had someone in her corner that would listen and love her. We had countless conversations about the gospel, but each one she would shrug off.
A year ago, she called me crying about how she was ready to get clean and go to rehab. So, I drove to her hometown and took her to rehab. She made it 153 days sober until this summer when she relapsed. The hardest thing about having relationships is they can come with hurt. Love means loving people when it’s hard. It’s not about only loving them when it is easy. Anyone can love someone when everything is good.
She relapsed during the first week of Ten2. During the Ten2 training week, God reminded me of His grace in my life. I have tried to help her countless times, but at times she doesn’t want it. I do the same thing to God. It is all too easy for me to turn my back on Him or become apathetic. Yet, He keeps pursuing me. He never turns His back on me. In Genesis 3:9, it describes God pursuing Adam and Eve despite their sin, “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘“Where are you?’” God knew they sinned, but He called out to them in love. God also pursues us despite our mistakes. He loves the sinner. Therefore, we too, should love the sinner.
I cannot save my friend, and it is not my job to do so. But it is my duty to show the treasure inside the broken jar of clay. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).” It is not about me. It is not about you. But it is about God, and only God can touch someone's heart.
For people to see God in us, it takes a deep relationship built on trust. Building a solid relationship takes time. After six years of friendship, my friend and I have finally brushed the surface of why she struggles to fully follow God. She has not decided to follow Christ yet, but she is wrestling with Him and God is working. God has used my brokenness over the years to show my friend who He is. I cannot help but wonder if I would have been having these conversations with my friend if I was in Europe. God had a reason for me to stay in my “Jerusalem” this summer. I believe He has a reason for you to be where you are, too. “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14).” May each of us remain present where our feet fall and love others by building deep relationships leading to gospel conversations.
– Ten2 Participant & Storyteller