Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Life That Is Changed

It's Saturday night and I take my younger teenage sisters with me to the church where I grew up. Susie Shellenberger is speaking there. She was the founding editor of Brio Magazine and also the woman who lead two of my mission trips when I was a teenager myself. I sit in the sanctuary filled with memories of my youth and suddenly, listening to Susie speak, I am transported back to those memories.

I'm 16 an on my very first plane trip by myself. I'm a bit scared but I don't want to admit it to anyone. I arrive in Miami, Florida and am greeted with a sea of bright blue and orange shirts that say Brio 2 Rio Take 2. Everyone is nervously excited for what is going to happen. Suddenly in a room, I hear a voice call out with the sort of twang only she has, "Welcome everyone to Brio 2 Rio Take 2! Tonight your life is going to change. We are having a birthday party. A celebration of what Christ has done in our lives." It's the kick off to our very first FUAGNEM (Fired Up And Going Nuts Every Minute). For the next two weeks, I would have countless other FUAGNEM's. Life changing nights that only a fellow Brio 2 Rio Take 2 participant could understand.

Dump in Brazil.

I visit the dump in Rio. I'm shocked by the amount of people who live there. I minister in schools. I play a mime in our drama. I went expecting to change lives, instead my life was changed.

With children in Venezuela

A year goes by, I'm on a plane ride to Caracas, Venezuela. All new faces, all new experiences. Completely unaware of how my life will change on this trip. I can't help but compare it to my Brazil trip. I'm disappointed it's not the same. But then, we start to minister to those around us. My life is changed. I find myself pouring everything into others. For the first time in my life, the world doesn't revolve around 17 year old me. I pray with those who hurt, I hold the hands of dying little ones in the hospital, I teach English to elementary children. With everything within me, I don't want to step on that plane for America. I cried and promised that one day, I would be back. That was 11 years ago...

Susie and I in Venezuela

I'm back in my old sanctuary, with many of the people who I grew up with. Many of them financially supported my trips to Brazil and Venezuela. Many prayed for me. It was at this church that I first felt the stirrings in my heart to do short term mission work. I'm listening to Susie speak with the same enthusiasm and love that she spoke to me all those years ago on my mission trips. I realize what an impact she had on my teen years. Not only through her magazine, but also through her speaking into my life on my mission trips. I realize that she is quite possibly one of the most influential people in my formative years. When she is done speaking, I get the chance to hug her, talk to her, and thank her. For without God working His way in her life, and her speaking that truth out, I would not be who I am today.

I leave my old church on a Saturday night. Refreshed, renewed, and determined to live that lifestyle again. I promise God that as soon as my girls are old enough, I'm back to short term missions and serving others instead of myself. Hopefully, I'll be taking them with me this time!

Has there ever been a life-changing, defining moment of your life? Has there ever been one person who impacted your life for the better?

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