“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” -Isaiah 43:1
Hello from Team 10! Last time you heard from us we were getting ready to head home for our two week Christmas break for some much needed R&R. We hope you had a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year as well!
We wanted to begin this blog post with the verse above because we believe it captures our life in this particular period of our NET journey. A lot of apprehension comes with our return from home: Will it be the same with the team after the break? Do I want to keep eating pizza and sleeping on floors for another five months? It was so hard to keep up my daily prayer schedule at home… We’re faced with so many fears coming back. Especially the dreaded month of February, which NET warns us missionaries about from the very beginning. Why fear February? Well, they say that it’s the hardest month on the road for us missionaries; we already know each other so well, we’re almost halfway through the second semester, retreats start to become routine. And the always persistent struggle… how to let God and let our teammates love us?
But the verse from Isaiah above reminds us that God has called all eleven of us by name to serve Him, to serve the youth; and to serve each other for these nine months. Each of us belongs to Him and was called to this mission for different reasons, but no reason is any less important than the other. He is ours, and we are HIS.
This type of love is incredible and is reaffirmed in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love for us has no bounds because He IS love, He gave up His only Son to be our brother, and so we have given up nine months of our lives in appreciation of that great gift.
The reassurance that God has called us with an everlasting love doesn’t always quell this fear of the future or even the fear of love, though. “Let go,” He tells us. “Let me protect you. Let me love you.”
We find this fear of the future and the fear of being loved in the youth we serve as well. Recently we’ve had the opportunity to conduct quite a few “Men’s and Women’s Session” on retreat, which are a time when we split to talk about what it means to be authentic men and women of Christ. Both in our own experiences and in theological and social studies, it has been shown that men’s greatest fear is failure, while women’s greatest fear is to be unwanted. An 11th grade girl on our past retreat weekend asked how one can build love for oneself through faith when the world screams all these contradictory things about how she will never be enough. We women on the NET team explained that the best way is through faith; building a relationship with the Father that treasures her more than diamonds. We also explained that surrounding oneself with friends who build each other up instead of tearing each other down is essential, because we can’t find our “best self” by ourselves. At the beginning of the retreat, this girl didn’t want to be there, didn’t have friends, and didn’t smile. But by the end she was surrounded by her small group and the women on the NET team, smiling after experiencing this friendship and crying during her encounter with God. We know the fear of being unwanted and unloved is embedded in her heart because she is a woman, but with the strength of the love of God and godly friends… we know she’ll be okay.
Each retreatant has so many questions about life and faith, about struggles and confusion. We as a NET team struggle with those questions as well: What’s going to happen after NET? How can I get through one more day while on NET? We’ve truly realized during these months that life is hard, but it’s really beautiful too.
Like when three Californians and a Texan experience negative degree weather for the first time.
The little joy of not having to eat pizza or tacos for dinner.
A letter from home.
A day as a team painting and showing off some amazing and not-so-amazing artistic skills.
The peace found in personal prayer.
NET has brought us together for better or worse and this lifestyle is a melting pot of joy, sorrow, struggles, and triumphs. As a team we face everything together as we help the youth of our country in the name of God. It is our goal to convey to them how much God loves them, something we’ve only discovered recently as well; His love knows no bounds. The youth oftentimes question that if this is true, then why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? In the face of these questions we like to remind them this: “Without the darkness, how would we ever see the stars?”
“Do not FEAR, only BELIEVE” -Mark 5:36