The E word

The most dreaded part of STP for pretty much everyone – beach evangelism. Coming into STP I knew it was a part of the deal, but I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. Saturdays were devoted to evangelism so we would start at 9 am with e-training, followed by an hour and a half to two hours of going onto the beach sharing what we call “the bridge.” The bridge focuses on Romans 6:23- For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Pretty much we would walk along the beach in pairs and approach people, introduce ourselves, and then ask them if they would like to discuss an illustration that sums up the main themes of the Bible. Once I learned what it all entailed, it was a lot less intimidating of a situation.

The first week I went out onto the beach with Kara (a group member just like me) and Bethany (who is employed by The Navigators). I know Kara and I were both thankful to have Bethany there to help us and push us to be proactive in approaching people. The first week we talked with three groups of people. Everyone we approached was really kind and happy to see us out on the beach. I didn’t encounter any difficult questions, but was able to just go through the bridge, which I had learned less than an hour before (yeah, we jumped into it fast). After beach evangelism, everyone would gather back on campus to discuss how beach evangelism went. While personally I had not received that many rejections by people who we approached on the beach, many of my friends had, which was obviously difficult.

In total we did beach evangelism six times throughout the summer. As we got further in the summer, I became more and more ok and willing to go out and talk with people about my faith. While it was hard encountering rude individuals or receiving rejection, it was good to know we were all going through the same things out on the beach. We were also reminded that this rejection wasn’t toward us, but rejection to God. Overall, most of the people who would let us talk to them on the beach were already Christians, so many times I had a hard time deciding if it made sense to continue conversations (and maybe challenge them a bit to see if they truly had a relationship with Christ) or just move on.

My favorite moments for beach evangelism were when we would be on the beach, possibly discouraged, and encounter some of our other friends and just pray with them for a short time. Going out without any “adults” really made me feel in-charge of my faith and proud of what I and all my new friends were doing to glorify God.

Another time two of my STP friends came back a lot later than they were supposed to from beach evangelism and they were pretty shook up. Turns out they had tried to share with a man who was very, very angry with the Church. When they both came back to campus, we prayed for the man, George, and all the hurt he is dealing with from the Church and others. This is what the Church is supposed to do: show love to everyone.

By the end of the summer, our group led three people to Christ while out on the beach, making all the no’s and rejections from the summer worth it.

Experience of Fundraising

Oh how I saw God move. But to be honest, at first it didn’t feel like enough.

In early April I sent out my letters and I soon began to see my funds grow. It was so amazing to see people care enough about me to donate, and it was so exciting when people reached out to me to share their thoughts about my trip. It was inspiring when someone sacrificed their income to help me attend STP, and I felt honored and in awe of their commitment to what Christ had called them to do.

Late April hit though, and I became less thankful and more hopeful. Not that having hope is a bad thing, but I became a little too obsessed with my account. Instead of checking online to see how much God HAD provided through the people around me, I became disappointed when my account numbers hadn’t changed, or didn’t meet my “expectations.” In response, I realized that I needed to start checking my account less often, but I was still struggling.

Going into this experience, I knew this would be the first time I would have to trust God financially. Preparing for STP and fundraising, I was told it would all work out, and that “God would provide.” Actually being in the situation though, doubt definitely began to creep in, and I was worried about where all this money would come from.

In the Bible studies done to help with fundraising, I noticed looking back that I would read a passage and interpret it as “God will provide.” I might as well have just written “God will provide” across my whole Bible study instead of reading different scriptures, because looking back, that is all that I allowed myself to take away from all the different scriptures (or all I really wanted to take away from the scripture). In response, throughout fundraising, I struggled with “God will provide” because I wanted him to provide me with $2600, not just provide what He sees fit. It’s hard to put your trust in God and to surrender to him without seeing immediate gain. I guess that is what trust is all about though, trusting through the good and the bad.

Early May I still wasn’t fully funded, but God provided me with the peace to trust in Him. I’m not really sure what triggered it. Maybe it was seeing how God had fully funded one of the other Xavier students, but whatever it was, that day I was overcome with peace. It was one of those yay God can do anything moments, and He will help guide me and support me even if that doesn’t mean providing me with 100% of the funds. On the other hand, it also felt a little foolish. Miranda, you’re really trusting God will “provide” for you even though you still need hundreds of dollars more in funding?

Yeah, I trusted in God. And while it may not always work out in this way, God provided for me, and I became fully funded right before I left for STP. While I can’t say I enjoyed trusting God in this way, or asking people for money, it was amazing to see the people around me support me. This experience taught me about being vulnerable, how I want to use my money in the future, and most importantly about trust. Trusting in God even when I feel like he isn’t moving in my life.

Do not be anxious

Haha yeah, ok God, but I don’t think I can do that.

This past week has been Miranda internally freaking out. I like to be in control, know what is happening, and feel comfortable in a situation. I decided to work at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. this summer because I had never worked with food, and thought I might as well try it out for half the summer at a restaurant with a cool atmosphere. I never imagined it would be this difficult for me right from the start. I was informed of four days of training, a 30-minute drive after deciding to take a route without a toll, and told the best parking was a garage which cost employees $5 a day. All of these details caused me to be very ungrateful for a job. I constantly compared it to my job back at home, which is a small retail store where my boss is such a generous, personable lady, I can work with people near me in age and lifestyle, have freedom and control at the store, and of course, there are clothes.

The first week at Bubba was rough because I was unwilling to open up to what God was trying to tell me, and I was upset that God was challenging me so soon into my trip. Also, I was mad at my past self for thinking this was a good idea, instead of just finding a cute little retail store to work at in St. Pete. I wanted to be good at everything the trainer told me to do, but was also too afraid to take initiative at times. I didn’t want to fail or mess up and that mixed with the wrong attitude, kept me from performing my best and just trying to both learn and enjoy myself with what was coming my way.

Each week of the summer we have a Bible verse to memorize for Monday nights. This is my first time truly taking the time to memorize scripture and, while at first I was very nervous, I have been surprised at how much I have actually enjoyed it and seen the benefit of memorizing scripture.

The second week the scripture assigned to memorize was Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus.”

I was memorizing the scripture during the week and about the third or fourth time I repeated it to myself, I realized just how applicable it was to my situation. I needed to present my request to God and pray that God would provide me with the ability to do good work for Him, and to trust that He was, and is, in control of my job situation. So I began to pray that God would change my heart and how I felt toward my job.

Sunday I worked, but before then we went to church. I don’t think I have ever been in church and had a sermon that felt so applicable to me at the time. It was over Judges 7, where Gideon is told by God to reduce the size of his army to only 300 men, but is still able to defeat the Midianite army without any casualties. The pastor used Juges 7 to explain how:

  1. When God wants to use us he will often weaken us.
  2. God would send salvation not through human might, but the weakness of humble obedience.
  3. God patiently deals with faltering faith.
  4. At some point, you have to take a risk.
  5. God can turn weakness into strength.
  6. Join Jesus wherever He is.

Each one of these points really struck me and helped me to realize that it is okay to not feel secure in everything, but that I can lean into God during times of difficulty and weakness.

So after an encouraging morning, I got to work, ready, and open for the job that God had provided me. Instead though, I just sat. I sat for more than an hour and a half waiting for my trainer. She finally arrives, and just when I think I can begin my training for the evening, the rain comes and all heck breaks loose. The outdoor computers have to be unplugged and taken to shelter, and while I thankfully wasn’t let off work early, I was told I would have to redo my third day of training, for a third time. Leaving work I was upset, but I also just had to laugh at how funny God is sometimes. I felt like God was saying to me, “Chill Miranda. You freak out about things at times and instead you need to be open and stop resisting.”

So, while I am still not done with training, have not received the hours I was hoping for, and none of my other problems have magically disappeared, I can tell God is working to mold and shape my heart. I’m not even going to try and guess what God will hit me with next, and this job roller coaster definitely isn’t over, but I’m starting to become okay with that. For in the words of Forrest Gump, “My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The beginning

So I came home, I started working again, met up with friends, and spent time with my family. I got into the routine of being home, and I loved it. Memorial Day was like the calm before the storm. I spent the day with family and had a blast playing games and meeting up with family friends. The rest of the week though was filled with lots of planning and meeting with people before I left. One of my XU friends came to my house on Saturday and while it was so nice to see a familiar college face, it was such a weird experience too. I watched as she said bye to her Dad and brother, and then the next day she watched me do the same with my family.

On Sunday all three of the XU kids and I met up in Cincy and we had dinner with friends who have gone on STP previously. The weather was beautiful on Sunday and we walked downtown enjoying the weather and each other’s company. Monday we drove to Atlanta and stayed in a church just outside the city. It was the first time we met all the STP members and, honestly, I didn’t feel ready for it. Tuesday morning we woke up around 6 to start our last leg of the trip. As we started driving closer and closer to St. Petersburg, the reality started to set in. I became nervous but was so thankful I had friends who had decided to go on this journey with me. We drove through the entrance of the college and realized that we had no idea where to go. We had known that Eckerd College was our destination, and what dorm we were in, but we didn’t know how to get there or anything. It hit me that we were clueless and unprepared for this journey in so many different ways!

While thinking about this experience I had been looking forward to being challenged, now that it was about to happen, I wasn’t too excited. Honestly, I wanted to get on campus, find a beach, and hang out with just my XU friends for a little bit. That obviously didn’t happen, and instead once we found our dorm, we were greeted by new people and quickly we were unpacking the car and I was separated from my XU friends. My nerves just kept on increasing as I met new people and I really began to process what I had signed myself up for this summer. And surprisingly, the thing I had been looking forward to, working at a new job this summer, soon became the thing I was looking forward to the least.

After different orientation stuff, we had some worship time. While at first worship was pretty awkward because we didn’t really know each other, I didn’t know all the songs, and we were singing on the floor of a classroom, I was soon calmed down by all of our praising voices. During this time, the verse of “The Greatness of Our God” really stuck out to me-

Give me grace to see

Beyond this moment here

To believe that there

Is nothing left to fear

So while, yes, I am still freaking out for my job interview coming up soon, and there are more than 100 things I wish I could change right now, I know that through all these things, I can put my trust in God. Seems pretty easy, right? Well I have my job interview soon, so I will let you know how it goes!