Leading up to Grace Church's 25th Anniversary, we are counting down the days by posting 25 blog posts in 25 days by 25 authors (well, 24. Dave wrote twice). The post below is one of these posts. Need tickets to the 25th Anniversary celebration at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on September 11, 2016? Get tickets here: gracechurch.us/25.
BY RILEY SUTHERLAND, MERGE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT
Let me share with you a story about a time and place where I was experiencing God in ways I could never imagine at the age of sixteen. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school and my family had recently moved to Grace Church. I had been attending Grace in middle school on my own, and I remember I would pray often that God would bring my family here to Grace. He answered my prayers so faithfully at a time where my family and I were so hungry for spiritual growth and community.
I had been attending Merge my freshman year and heard incredible life changing stories about the summer mission trip to Haiti. I decided to go along with one of my dear friends. In Haiti, my team and I spent a lot of our time with the children who came to the Bible English Camp that we helped with at Nehemiah Vision Ministries. A lot of this time was spent laughing, singing, reading books, and teaching each other our languages.
On this trip, my eyes were being opened to how God is so much more than the Americanized version I had thought of Him to be. There was a moment on the trip that moved me to tears because I began realizing that God is so much bigger, deeper, and more powerful than my little mind could ever try to comprehend. However, I saw a glimpse of Him when we were at church on Sunday.
The Haitian people were all dressed in beautiful white fabrics, their hair was nicely done, and they smelled of sweet perfume. While I still had dirt in my hair from the previous day. Pastor Pierre began to lead us into the song Agnus Dei. The Haitian people began to sing in creole, as loud as they were able. I noticed that tears began running down their faces as they sang and they worshipped God with complete abandonment.
These people didn’t have their pride getting in the way of their relationship with Christ and they couldn’t care less about keeping their self-image protected. Their faith was raw, for they knew that they needed to completely depend on God to provide for their needs. I began thinking that that I hope to have faith like that someday. I began to sing in English as best as I could, through my tears.
My eyes were opening to the eternal, my heart was softening, and God was revealing to me that he wants to know me like this. He wants us to look past the materials and to have deep dependence, unashamed surrender, and raw faith. I believe this is how we can have the fullness of joy and true rest for our souls. I haven’t and never will be the same after this summer. How could I be after experiencing the power of God in this way? I am eternally grateful for my time in Haiti and for what God did through the lives of my team.
A verse that goes along with what I have learned through my experience is:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”