On October 15, the CGCS, in partnership with NAMB, sent a Hurricane Relief Mission Team to Immokalee, Florida for a week to aid those affected by Hurricane Irma. Led by Dr. Scott Hildreth and Dr. Drew Ham, the 19-member team spent their week serving in various ways for the sake of the gospel and bringing hope to those affected by the natural disaster. Even so, there were many eye-opening experiences and lessons for the team as well. Here are some thoughts and takeaways from several team members as they reflect back on the trip:
It is overwhelming to actually engage – face to face – with families living through devastation and poverty on a level that, up until now, I’ve only seen on news reports. The needs are vast and far-reaching. Most of us have so much “wealth” that we don’t realize what is happening here, in America, just a few miles away. I’m thankful that God deals with me. I’m grateful that God breaks my heart. As I returned home from serving for only a week in Immokalee, FL, and I slept in a comfortable bed, I thought of that young mother of 2, living in a mobile home with no power, a leaking roof, and scarce supplies for her babies. I pray that my heart continues to break for those in need and that more opportunities will come my way to serve them. I’m most grateful that I have the gospel to share. Hope where there seems to be no hope.
Everyone coming together to serve the people of Immokalee looked like a small glimpse of what heaven will be like. Everyone was loving one another and helping one another with the common goal of sharing the love of Jesus with the locals. Many of these people didn't know English so there was no way we could take credit ourselves for what we were doing. All they knew was that people were loving and serving them through a local church. It was an awesome moment to truly serve selflessly, knowing that God saw our hearts and knew our motives even if these people did not.
During our time in Immokalee, we were able to interact with its citizens, FEMA agents, and undocumented immigrants. God used those interactions to remind me that everyone has a face and a name, and that he also has a purpose for everyone. My job was just to love them for who they are in the moment any way I can and share the gospel in any way I can.
Through this trip, one thing that our Lord showed me, so graciously, is that lost people are gonna act like lost people, even when you're trying to minister to them. Another thing I learned through this trip is that we cannot minister and evangelize in our own strength. Lasting fruit comes only when we minister in His Name and in His strength. Finally, though Christian ministry is primarily about sharing the gospel, it is not just that. We are called to minister to the physical and material needs just as much as to their spiritual needs.
Working alongside older generations was a great experience and a reminder that you can serve others in God’s service no matter your age.
The biggest thing that I learned from this trip is that I came not to fulfill some romanticized or glamorized view of ministry, but to serve whoever, wherever, whenever, and however. I spent less time sharing the gospel than I had hoped, I spent a large amount of time serving people who were more well off financially than some others, and a majority of my time was spent with Christians, but mission work is not just coming to serve the poor; it's coming to serve people.
One unique challenge we faced in Immokalee, Florida was deciphering where the disaster ends and the poverty begins. When a natural disaster ravages an already impoverished community, it is imperative to tread strategically in relief efforts to ensure long-term and sustainable development methods are also included in alleviation objectives. Thankfully, our group was one of many in a long-term effort to alleviate natural disasters and multifaceted poverty in Immokalee, Florida. I believe that experiencing this type of approach first-hand will prove valuable as I continue living life on mission.