I came to LLI this year to gain more practical knowledge on how to be a leader. As a Senior Paramedic, Bible study leader and motivated individual I was very interested in improving my skills and growing in my relationship with Christ. I was constantly serving others, taking courses to learn new skills for serving others and wanting to know where God would lead me next in ministry and life. I knew of DPB and the staff from prior years of volunteering and was so excited to get a full summer of learning, ministry, rest and adventure!
The closer I got to the summer, the more God began to show me how I was burnt out and tired from work, ministry and family. I had been doing too much and I was wearing thin. I pushed through until the summer and then was happy to jump on a plane and spend a summer away from life, up close and personal with Jesus.
I knew the summer would be hard but fulfilling. I expected to be filled and well rested so I could go back to serving others. But God had all kinds of plans, and I can see now how he had those plans prepared for many years! I spent the first few weeks WAY out of my comfort zone. Multiple different cultures surrounding me, many strong leaders like me, a completely different schedule than normal and tasks made to challenge us mentally and spiritually. I knew that was coming but I didn’t expect how that would affect me.
God used the people and tasks to break me down and bring down every wall I had up. Plenty of tears happened as God showed me how I had not rested in a long time and struggled to find things that brought me joy. He used debriefs with Steve and Megan to make me think about every part of my life. I said many times “I came to this summer already broken, and God is breaking me more. I thought if I just kept serving others for God’s glory that my heart would be fine.” But I learned that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you aren’t regularly filling up on Jesus every day, you won’t have anything to give others. So after spending most of the summer learning about what God wanted me to see and practicing new healthy habits like supportive leadership, sabbath rest, prayer and working in a team, I was put to the test! I was CREW leader with Zane and was able to practice everything! God knew that I learn more by teaching and I had many opportunities to teach CREW members lessons that I needed to learn myself. Zane and I watched God take our daily plans for CREW and change them into something much better and more glorifying to him every day! We always ended the day saying “Wow! Did you see what He did? God is amazing!”.
Through it we had the blessing of watching a girl give her life to Christ and develop a love for scripture, all because of GOD choosing to use us as tools in his handiwork. This was by far the hardest but most fulfilling summer. I could write PAGES of stories of things God taught me and stories of hearts he changed. I ended the summer still not feeling full spiritually, but with the realization that God knew that is where I needed to be. If I went home full, I would go back to my old habits and go until I was empty again. Instead, I knew I had to go back to the same old things and people but with new habits and mindset that I needed to practice.
I needed to fill daily and rely on God to serve others. That thought scared me. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to leave the loving and encouraging community that I had at LLI. Here, I was being challenged, pushed, loved and listened to. Coming home felt like I would be alone and inexperienced. But the thing with LLI is, you build such amazing relationships with your team members.
We were all going through similar struggles and questions. We learned how to be open, honest and loving with each other. Through that, during the summer, we built a community, a circle of people facing inwards, doing ministry. But now we must face outwards and go into the world to share what God has done and his love. Shoulder to shoulder, encouraging each other.
My first couple weeks home were a difficult transition. A few of us LLI students would say to each other “Everything is the same, except me.” Practicing those new habits was not easy, but I knew I had my LLI community behind me, thousands of miles away, but still willing to encourage and pray for each other.
I am currently practicing a weekly day of sabbath rest, spending devotional time regularly and allowing God to work in me. I have learned to step back from so many activities and focus on spending time to listen to God so that I can better serve others. I am still struggling with a lot of things spiritually and God is still teaching me a lot about things that need to change. But He used this summer to remove all the extra things so I could focus on the most important ones.
I’m not worried about all the tough things I’m walking through, because I saw through this summer that He has a much better plan, with an ending that is more than I could ever expect. If we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. I learned this summer that God knows more about what I want than I do, every truly fulfilling and joyful thing that He gives us in time is much more than what we think we want or need right now. So yes, I’m struggling, and I’m confused sometimes, but God has walked with me this far and blessed me more than I deserve, so I know He is going to continue that good work in me and carry it on to completion. He used LLI to change my life when I didn’t even know it needed to be changed! He is a good, GOOD Father.