My trip to LA was spent serving as a leader for a group of fresh faced high school graduations + one lonely entering senior (He was baptized in the Pacific at the end of the week, I felt honored to witness it). He took being the baby of the group really well. Our mission trip was led by an amazing, good looking and humble staff from Next Step Ministries, we left San Antonio on June 14th and came back on June 21st and the days in between were life giving and purposeful. Jesus is always present, the Holy Spirit never stops moving no matter our circumstances, to convict and comfort and the Father is always faithful.I was surrounded all week by confirmation and proof of these things. We met people experiencing homelessness living on the streets and some living at Union Rescue Mission. We got to serve an inner city school and plant a garden with EnrichLA. We met single mothers trying to make a new life for themselves and their babies at a beautiful 77 acre facility near the Angeles National Forest. The contrast of my life with some of the people we met was as stark and bright as a neon sign cutting the darkness. Our circumstances are different, our choices and the consequences for those choices are different, our experiences are different, our environments are different. I wanted to see beyond the circumstances and see a person's value as no less than my own because we've all been made in the image of a good good Father. All week I kept feeling so thankful that Jesus lowered himself for my sake, as well as their sake. Jesus died the same death to save the souls and make new the hearts of the richest people, as well as the men and woman living under a tarp on Skid Row. Getting up from the church pew to walk alongside a struggling addict, a single mother, or one of my students to offer love, speak truth and give support gave me so much joy, it renewed my soul. However, I'm pretty confident the students I served with and the people I met had a far greater impact on me than I had on them. I don't think they probably realize the ways they helped me and continue to help me love Jesus more and to be obedient to Him.
My heart beat during that week was to love each person I met, including the staff leading the trip, the group that served with us from Arizona, the single mothers and their children, the old woman walking around the mission mumbling to herself in gibberish, and my students I was blessed to serve with. Each one with a soul that has no less value in Jesus' eyes than the next. I pray that I've been able to bring all this home with me, to see people not for the labels society gives them or the label they give themselves, but to see them for who Jesus created them to be. We are image bearers, a reflection of God. My heart's desire is for people to meet Jesus and find their identity in Him and nothing else.
*all photos edited with VSCO Film.