Second City Beginnings

Have you ever had a friend who was the Sarcastic Friend(c)? You know the one. It’s the friend who always pipes in, no matter the conversation, with helpful exclamations like, “Awesome! Wow!” or “Thanks a lot!” or just simply “no.” When speech is inappropriate, they still manage to mumble dry comments beneath their breath, or at least to compensate with exaggerated facial expressions. I’m the Sarcastic Friend(c) to a lot of people. But I’ll let you in on a Sarcastic Friend secret. It’s a deep, emotional struggle that every Sarcastic Friend is forced to face at some point in their life.

Ready to know the inner turmoil of your favorite bundle of snark, memes, and nihilism?

It’s hard for the Sarcastic Friend to find their own Sarcastic Friend.

Fortunately for me, I settled the issue years ago. God is my Sarcastic Friend(c). And I’m actually not being sarcastic about that, I’m completely serious. Want proof? Here’s some dialogue throughout the last year of my life.

***

January 2016

Me: I’m going to study abroad in England. Deal with it.

God: You do that. I’m sure it’ll be great. You’ll go there in an attempt to quell your wanderlust, but instead, you’ll just be faced with the reality that your life is pointless and vaporous everywhere in the world, not just in your current boring reality of America. Have fun!

great_gatsby

Me: >_>

God: Lol. Or, I dunno, you could do City Project.

Me: I don’t want to.

God: You know? You’re right. You’d only be spending your summer growing closer to me and the community I’ve placed around you. You’d finally see that the change you’ve been trying to make in yourself can, and will, only come from me. You’d only get to share the Gospel with the lost instead of just sitting around and talking about it like the good Pharisee that you are. You’d only get to finally realize that I love you.

ce2

 

Me: Fine! I’ll go!

God:

Me: —well?

God: What, are you expecting a “well done good and faithful servant”? That’s cute.

Me: Shut up.

God: No.

September 2016

Me: Well, that was an awesome summer! Thanks for making me go, God. I learned a lot, grew a lot, completely changed the trajectory of my life, and learned to trust you in everything.

God: k

Me: That’s not really fair. I went, didn’t I?

God: Did you? I thought you just randomly found all of those minimalist Christian T-shirts and merch from South Asia.

Me: Okay, you’re clearly in a weird mood. I’ll just be over here working on my study abroad application…

God: You do that. I wouldn’t waste the time though, if I were you.

Me:

giphy

God: Oh, did I not mention? You are not going to study abroad this summer.

Me: Of course I am! You can’t stop me!

God: Ah, there’s that infamous ‘trust in everything’ you became an overnight expert in.

Me: Okay, hypothetically, if I weren’t to study abroad in England, where would I go? What would I do this summer? There’s nothing else really available, other than summer school or an internship.

God: Second City.

A Snape Reaction Gif Obviously - Imgur

Me: But, God, I already gave up one summer and now you want this one too?

God: ‘But, Father, I already washed their feet now I have to die too?’ quoth Jesus, in the Message Bible, probably, circa never A.D.

Me: Don’t bring Jesus into this!

God: Oops, right, I forgot about the “don’t bring the guy who saved me whom I then voluntarily asked into my life” clause in this, apparent, democracy.

Me: Look, I’ll admit, I really want to go back to South Asia. I want to spread the Gospel, I want to live my life missionally, and I want to obey you. But I’m scared.

God: —do you want a sappy spiel that includes the “never shall I leave you”, “hope and a future”, etc. verses, or do you want an Aladdin reference?

Me: Aladdin reference, please.

God: Good choice, fam. Do you trust me?

Me: Uh, not really. But yeah, kinda.

God: I can work with kinda.

***

My relationship with God is unconventional, but I love it. I have friends who talk about how God is gentle and comforting to them. I have friends who talk about how God is fatherly and wise to them. I love hearing their stories, but honestly, if God had tried to approach me as some cuddly, quiet friend or as one of those dads always giving good advice, I would have run screaming. But that’s not how he saved me. He first proved his existence, then he proved my sin, and then he basically said, “I’m here. I love you. I died for your sins and you can accept the free gift of grace, if you want. It’s your choice.” 1 John 4:19 says “we love because he first loved us.” It’s so strange and so wonderful that God knows the best way to love each person. The family and friends with which I am closest are the ones who treat me with bluntness and humor. Needless to say, God loves me more perfectly than anybody else ever could.

Which is why I am returning to South Asia this summer!

Last summer, I participated in a program through my church called City Project. City Project taught me how to spread the Gospel in local, national, and international contexts (North Carolina, NYC, and South Asia), it taught me how to leverage my career for the glory of God, and how to live on mission. I took theology classes, had my first internship, and learned what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Without a doubt, it was the best experience of my life.

My church offers a follow-up program to City Project. It’s called Second City.

During Second City, I will spend the entirety of my summer in South Asia. I have the privilege to return to the exact city I was in last summer. I can not share all of the details of the trip, but essentially, I will be partnering with Christians in the city to better spread the Gospel among a people group in which over 90% of individuals have never even heard of the Gospel. I’m so excited, and so blessed, to be a part of this incredible trip.

You might be a bit confused at the last part. After all, I did not sound very excited during my little dialogue with God. Do you want to know why I was scared? I was scared because going to South Asia means I’m going to get sick again, I’m going to be rejected, I’m going to navigate an enormous city, I’m going to be immersed in a culture utterly foreign to both me and my personality, and I’m going to be completely denying the American culture that insists I will be a failure if I don’t get a job RIGHT. NOW.  It will be stressful, people will break my heart, and I won’t see my family for the entire summer because I’ll be on the freaking other end of the world.

When God first tells me to do anything, doubts and insecurities flood my mind. Excuse after excuse try to drown out the truth. All of the excuses essentially say the same thing: you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. 

They are right. I can’t. God can. That’s the whole point.

I don’t go on mission trips to do stuff for God. I don’t go on mission trips to earn anything. Both are impossible. God doesn’t need me for anything. As Mordecai told Esther in Esther 4:14 “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise…from another place. …And who knows whether you have not come to kingdom for such a time as this?”. If I did not go, God would raise up someone else. If they did not go, God could make a rock declare his truths, as Jesus said in Luke 19:40 “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”. He doesn’t need humans to do anything for him, because we can’t. We are too weak. Strangely, paradoxically, that’s why God wants to use us.

When I went to South Asia last year, I was struck with how weak I truly am. I had spent years studying apologetics and memorizing logical arguments and researching scientific evidence, but this particular culture had no interest in my pretentious Western thought. I was ripped of every strength I thought I had, forcing me to pray ceaselessly for God to provide me with the words to say because I had none on my own. He did more than I could have ever asked or imagined. He let me see people understand and accept the Gospel. He let me see my own sinful heart, arrogance that I did not know was there, and he changed me. He taught me how to love and how to finally believe that he loved me.

I don’t go on mission trips to be a “good Christian” or to prove something to God. I go on mission trips because God knew I was weak, yet he still loved me and sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross, the punishment that I deserved, so that I would not have to. He offered to give me Jesus’ perfect record as my own so that God might be able to have a relationship with me. Then, he pursued me so bluntly, so relentlessly, that I came to believe in him and I accepted his grace. Now, he has given me a purpose, and that purpose is to go. To go where God calls me to go and to do what God calls me to do. I don’t do this out of obligation or fear; any attempt to make me feel either emotion immediately makes me feel and do the opposite. No, I go because I love my God and I love what he has done for me. I go because I trust that his intentions are for my good. I go because I believe God desires all to know him, but how can they know him if they are not told?

Which leads me to the point of this entire blog post (yes, yes, I DO have a point, stop rolling your eyes, you wannabe Sarcastic Friend(c)!). I would love to have the privilege to partner with you in this mission. My final support deadline is April 9th, and I need roughly $800. If you believe that God is calling you to monetarily support my mission, click on the link below. It will lead you to a contribution form. I will not be able to see the amount donated, but I will be able to see your name (if you so choose), so that I can write you a thank-you note!

www.summitrdu.com/supportsecondcity

More importantly, if you would partner with me by praying for me, I would be extremely grateful. Here are some prayer requests during the weeks of preparation before leaving for the trip:

  • Pray for unity in the team. Missions are joyful and loving, but they can also be stressful and difficult. Pray that my team will be unified in Christ, that we will keep our focus on Christ, and that we will treat each other as Christ treated his team of disciples.
  • Pray for the people. God already knows exactly who we are going to meet. Pray that each individual we speak to will already be searching for truth, for meaning, for Christ, before our plane even lands.
  • Finally, praise God for the undeserved blessing of this opportunity. As I said above, God does not need us to do things for us, but in his kindness, he allows us to be a part of his mission. It’s like a dad baking cookies, and his toddler child begs to “help”. The father joyfully complies, even though he could accomplish the task without the “help”. Yet, he still holds the daughter’s hand to help her stir, or he patiently teaches the son how to properly measure ingredients. The cookies would be made regardless of the child’s involvement, but the child benefits because they learned something about the world, and more importantly, something about their dad.

Thank you in advance for your support. I cannot wait for this summer!

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