There are bright and dark sides to ministry, but in both God is completely present and effectively working. Half way in to camp we experienced both sides in one day.
We started Wednesday with worship through music and devotion time, and then headed to a nearby beach for some fun and fellowship. It was a bit chilly for Okinawa standards, but to us Oregonians it was still lovely!
After a few team competitions we witnessed one of the bright sides of God at work – six students were baptized! What a beautiful manifestation of the Lord moving in the lives of these young men and women. I get teary eyed every time I’m present at a baptism, even if I have no idea who is being baptized! It’s a glorious thing!
The baptism time was followed by bento box lunches – yum! – and free time on the beach. Cyrus and I had a chance to chat with students and take a quick stroll down the beach. We found some cute little hermit crabs. We also picked up some beautifully bleached coral to bring home for the kids. We wished we could have stayed longer to explore, but we had to return to camp to prepare for the evening session.
One aspect of our Corban group’s ministry (which I have failed to mention until now) was to take turns sharing our testimonies. Each testimony gave a glimpse into the dark places we all have been and how God has worked and is continuing to work to heal and mature us in those various areas.
This night, though, one of the college students took her testimony a step further, sharing in more detail the trials and temptations she has faced. She shared about being sexually abused and the tremendous toll it has taken on her life – spiritually, physically and mentally. She shared about her subsequent struggles with eating disorders and self harm and how God has been healing her. Not only that, she opened herself up as a resource and listening ear to those facing the similar struggles.
The response was overwhelming. Dozens of students approached this college student seeking someone who understood their trials, and admitting to someone for the first time their incredibly private struggles.
Much darkness was beginning to be revealed. And it was a heavy sadness to me to become aware of tremendous amounts of pain buried inside the lives of some of these students.
But there is a Light to shine into those dark places. God is our great healer and I believe many students took a step in the healing process. They took the risk of brining what had been hidden in the dark of their souls into the light of Christ and His Body of believers.
It is a process that I hope and pray will continue in each of their lives.
Our dear Corban student, because of her vulnerable testimony, spent the remaining days of camp hearing story after story of pain, hurt, sorrow, despair, and darkness. This was a heavy burden for her to bear alone and I did my best to be there to ease the burden in any way I could. It was a challenging time for her, but I know God is working in her life as she seeks to pour in to others’ lives.
All of this was a poignant reminder of God’s ultimate purpose: to bring light into the darkness. And in serving Him we must go into the dark places to manifest His light. He is using us to accomplish His will and it isn’t always pleasant. We need His Light in every dark place. In the despair of death and loss. In brokenness and abuse. In the mess of divorce. Even when suffering for the sake of righteousness.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you
out of darkness into His marvelous light!
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)