I spent the past week in Heart Butte, Montana. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere. The nearest gas station is 45 minutes away, the poverty rate is 80% and the one school for all grades is basically the only place of employment in town. Despite this small town of 2800 people being incredibly small and of little significance to the rest of the world, God decided to invest and work in the lives of the people there. I was one of them.
This was my first and last high school mission trip, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. To be honest, I was a little nervous and wasn’t really looking forward to leaving my comfort behind. It was definitely less comfortable than home, but giving up comfort to meet, serve and love new people was so worth it. The showers were freezing, the weather was hot, some of the kids liked throwing rocks and didn’t like listening, sleep was little, but the joy was great. The Blackfeet people have an advantage over us. Their lives are fairly quiet, pretty poor, and they suffer more than we do. I couldn’t think of a place that would make someone reach out to Jesus more. Our lives are filled with comfort and wealth, which makes us feel self-sufficient without God. I couldn’t think of a scarier place to be.
I thought I would be going there to help the poor Blackfeet people who needed my help. I was foolish. Now, there is poverty, alcohol and drug problems that plague the Blackfeet people, but is abusing alcohol any worse that abusing and squandering the wealth that God has blessed us with? I was given the opportunity to meet people who suffered more than I do and still manage to have more joy and kindness than I do. I met this 11-year-old boy named Sylis while I was there. I only got to spend a few days with him, but I love that little dude. He was the oldest of five kids in his family and at 11 years old he is a much better big brother than I am. Most of the time we spent playing outside he would be carrying his little brother Ian around on his back. He made sure Ian ate his lunch and if he lost sight of Ian while playing with me he would stop and go look for him. Sylis was incredibly respectful even when the other boys his age weren’t. He was a joyful dude. At the end of the first day when it was time for him to go home he asked me, “Are you going to be here tomorrow?” I told him I would be then he said, “Okay cool. I’ll be back then.” That made a day of struggling with kids that wouldn’t cooperate worth it. Sylis also did cross-country and track which made me like him all the more (; I tried to show him the little knowledge I had about javelin. I’m sure he listened just to humor me. God used a little boy from a very poor town to teach me that my surroundings and sufferings don’t have to impact the joy I have or the way I love my family and strangers that teach me poor javelin form. Oh, and for those of you that saw those incredibly fluffy cute white puppy and brown puppy during the BBQ, those were Sylis’s (:
I had a number of people on my team tell me in some way or another that they looked up to me, admired my faith in Christ, were inspired by my pursuit of Jesus, and liked how humble I am. These compliments tore in because all week God was revealing to me how crooked and helpless I am. One of the nights of the trip we were told to spend some alone time with God in the gym. After a few minutes the room was filled with subtle tears, muffled crying, and an atmosphere of humbled sorrow. I thought it was a little funny that as soon as we went before God alone we all cracked. We’re all like Isaiah when he says “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” My thoughts to the things people said to me were and are; I am the one that looks up to all of them, I admire their strong faith that makes mine feel weak and frail, they make pursuing Jesus seem so easy and full of Joy while I barely feel like I have the strength to open my bible let alone wage war against my sin, and the humility they see is my best attempt to conceal the arrogance and pride that drenches my heart. The truth is none of them are much better than me though. Jesus is the only one worth looking up to, Jesus is the one that inspires everything, He is the only one that can successfully wage war on sin, Jesus is the only one that is actually humble. Without Him we fool ourselves into believing we’re good enough. With Him we see that we’re not even close.
I learned that being a Christian requires suffering and loving simultaneously. Pain and joy together. Growth through destruction. I learned that the best way to love someone is to spend time with them, so the best way to love Jesus is to spend time with Him by reading my bible with thoughtful intention and praying with heartfelt passion.