Sometimes when life sends big opportunities your way, you carelessly throw them away. But when God helps you lift them back out of the trash, you know it’s yours for the taking.
This literal event happened to me in February when I got a letter in the mail for a SportQuest mission trip. Spending a week or two this summer teaching tennis clinics and sharing God’s love with kids sounded like fun, but the stress of school and the prospect of my last summer before college made me shrug my shoulders and toss the letter away. “Maybe some other summer. This one will be all about me and my family,” I thought smugly to myself.
Turns out, God was prepared for my stubborn little response. My best friend had come over to watch movies with me later that day while I was recovering from wisdom teeth removal. Enjoying life chats, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and the movie, Love Comes Softly, she mentioned that she had received a letter in the mail from SportQuest and was wondering if I had too. Amazed that we had both been invited to share in this opportunity, we raced to the kitchen to pull my letter out of the trash. Re-reading the letter through fresh eyes, I realized that we could embark on this great summer adventure together. Something our cautious mothers were much more likely to agree upon if we were both going.
After some online research, we learned that the only location to teach tennis clinics this summer with SportQuest would be in San Diego. In the middle of a Minnesota winter, San Diego sounded pretty good. Over the next few weeks, we talked about the trip with our school guidance counselor, with our parents, and with each other. With each conversation, the possibility of us going seemed even more likely. We sent our essays, recommendations, and applications in to SportQuest and were both accepted!
June 18th came much faster than we anticipated, especially in lieu of all the graduation party preparations and end of the year activities that consumed all of our time and energy. Before we knew it, we were on a plane, headed across the country to spend eleven days with a bunch of people we had never met. While neither of us was overly nervous about the trip, I was definitely feeling a little nostalgic about leaving home, especially in light of the sweet summer memories I was sure to miss making with my siblings and parents. But looking back, I can’t imagine how my summer would have looked if I hadn’t gone on this mission trip!
The people I met were absolutely incredible. Athletes from all across the United States flew in to San Diego to teach volleyball, soccer, tennis, or basketball. From different backgrounds, religious denominations, and regions of the country, we had all been invited to share in this experience together. We had all accepted the opportunity to be there. The first four days of our trip were dedicated to team building and getting to know each other. A trip to La Jolla Beach, a ropes course at Palomar Mountain, pool parties, and service projects gave us plenty of chances for conversation and bonding.
The camps themselves went over smoothly. The kids were an absolute delight to work with, even on their squirrely days. Each day of camp, one of the coaches shared with the kids why they choose to play with purpose. It was incredible to see the way the kids looked up to the coaches and how impactful their little connections became. Friday was our last day of camp and we ended the camps with SportQuest night, an evening for the parents to join us for a picnic, silly skits, awards, and a final message from two of the coaches about our mission. As I sat in the grass with my new friends, listening to the coaches sharing their stories, I gazed at the California sunset and felt perfect peace. I knew that God had called me on this trip for a reason. I think that He wanted to show me that I would be okay at Bethel this fall. My family would be apart from me for this season in life, but God would never leave my side. That was a lesson well worth learning.
Over the course of the trip, we completed a Bible study based on the concept of powering through. We learned how to find power in prayer, overcome spiritual warfare, and discern our purpose in life. Our team built fast friendships on the solid basis of our faith and the sports ministry we were taking part in. I was amazed at the tears that were shed during our goodbyes – who could imagine that we would be so heartbroken to leave a group of people we had just met eleven days ago!
During this trip, I felt myself become more comfortable with reaching out to others and developing friendships – useful college skills that I will need soon! I took a leap of faith and saw mine grow in the process. My best friend and I now have shared in one of the most incredible adventures of our lives so far and can continue to encourage each other in new ways because of this experience.
I am so glad that God convinced me that I needed to do more this summer than read books and pick weeds. I have done both in abundance since I have returned, but the renewed sense of appreciation for everything I love, from my family to playing tennis, was definitely worth being parted for so long. Leaving so much at home reminded me just how blessed I am and how wonderful it is to be back with those I love best.
My hope is that you can have your own little rejuvenation period this summer. Whether you go to a conference or retreat, spend a weekend at your cabin or just an evening taking a walk, I encourage you to unplug from the world and take some time for yourself. We are always in too much of a hurry (myself included) and must appreciate all the little things, because someday we will look back and realize that they were the big moments. Spending time with God puts everything into perspective! Happy summer days! – Kate