Dear brothers and sisters of SFEFC,
Thank you for all your prayer and financial support this past week. I could not have had such success without God putting my mission in your hearts to help. Over winter break, I attended Urbana and felt God’s calling to commit to a short-term mission within the next year. An opportunity came when God called me to help lead a group of youth to Las Vegas for a week and serve the people. With a team of 38, with an exact 1:1 ration of college/adults to youth, we drove to Las Vegas to the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) base, located fifteen minutes away from the strip.
We arrived late Monday night and had a heartfelt welcoming from the YWAM staff. Our base camp was nicer than I expected, spacious with air conditioning, and I was put into a room with seven other girls. I forgot that Las Vegas was built in the middle of the desert, so when I stepped out of the car, for a second I had a heat stroke. We went to Sunrise Mountain that night which overlooked the city. I remember seeing a strip of light and thinking “wow, this is beautiful,” but not really knowing the city itself behind the bright lights. We played worship and prayed for the city that night.
The next day, we woke up early to complete our chores at base. My small group was assigned the boys bathroom for the next week and may I just say, I never understood why we, girls, have cleaner bathrooms that smell nice. We then went on a scavenger hunt around the strip and my group came out first. The scavenger hunt gave us points for taking pictures linking arms with a random stranger on the elevator, to going to different hotels and taking pictures with landmarks. The purpose was really to help us become more bold and step outside our comfort zone in communicating with people. Our main leader, Austin, told me in the morning that he wanted me to share my testimony at the Rescue Mission Chapel Service later on in the night. Although I was nervous, I was able to let God speak his words through me and use my experience going through surgery to bring the point of “suffering for God equals redemption for us” across. Many people came up to me after the service and told me how grateful and encouraged they were after hearing my message. Some of them were in tears, and others asked for prayer. I even scored a number that night after not giving a guy my facebook page.
Wednesday was a very special day. I was allowed the opportunity to offer free prayer on the streets and was paired up with Newton, the shyest kid in the group who never talks. Skeptical at first, I gave it all up to God to lead us to the right person. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Willy, and for an hour and a half, we went into a conversation with him about faith and suffering. Willy was homeless after moving from Chicago and being abandoned by his son. However, like the prodigal son in the bible, Willy believes that his son will return to him one day. He was a faithful Christian, strong in the word and spoke three languages (English, Spanish, and Sign Language). Willy has an addiction for cigarettes, but believes that God will free him from his addiction one day. To my surprise, Newton actually talked and shared with Willy the story of Jesus and his death on the cross. We prayed together afterwards and I felt so touched that I cried when I had to leave. Willy broke my heart and showed me that I might have a calling for homeless ministry. He quoted, “We bring praises up and he shines blessings down.” I will never forget his words. At night, we had a lesson on human trafficking and went out to the strip to pray for the city. For the first time in my life, I saw behind the lights and glamour of Las Vegas. Behind the mask of fame was a city of sin and pain, hurt and abuse.
On Thursday morning, we went out and took surveys, asking people if they believed that there was a God, why there was suffering in the world, and if God could be their best friend. I was paired up with Nathan, and although he was only 12, his maturity and tremendous heart for God was a huge encouragement to me. I can see him as a long-term missionary one day. We worked with MetroCity Kids in the afternoon and evangelized to the youth in Las Vegas. After two hours of water fights, running around, and singing in the hot sun, I was burnt out. We did an activity called “crosswalk” at night, where two people would carry the cross up and down the strip while the others start conversation with people who noticed. This took a lot of boldness, especially if you were the one carrying the cross because a lot of eyes, smirks, and pointing was towards you. After carrying the heavy cross with my partner for two blocks, my heart broke. I couldn’t imagine what Jesus had to go through carrying it himself, let alone the nails in his hands, the whipping, and the thorn crown.
Friday was our last full day of evangelism. In the morning, I thought we were having a “special brunch” where there was going to be a lot of food. Instead, the cheap YWAM staff only allowed three people to eat whatever they wished. We randomly drew table numbers and I was assigned to table two, where I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with coffee. Table one (consisting of three people) had muffins, bagels, bacon and hash browns, etc., basically, anything that they wished. Table three had only rice and dirty water, table four had bread and clean water, table five had a trash can, and table six had nothing. The staff would not let us share food or communicate with each other. When I tried to rebel and give my food away, I was kicked out of the room. The purpose of the activity was to show us how people of different world lived, and how we are in the top 1%, experiencing what table one has. We couldn’t share because many times, people think that they should just enjoy their blessings because they have earned it. Table five and six makes up 20% of the world who has nothing to eat or drink, the unknown who are forgotten and starving. When I got kicked out of the room, it symbolized the consequences of going against the norm, that those who try to help and shunned. I thought they were going to give us a feast afterwards, but they made us fast until dinnertime. We paired up and preached the word after that, but this was the first time that we did not have a tool and had to go up to random strangers to share the gospel. It was truly one of the hardest task I had to go through and my worst fear came true, me and my partner, Wesley, encountered a man who challenged us with hard questions. I was speechless, lost for words, but God blessed me with Wesley, who answered every one of his questions with boldness. The man told us afterwards that he was a minister and wanted to test our tongues. We ended the night with worship on the street, where a man insisted on giving us $60 for our work. We reluctantly accepted it and the adults used it to buy ice cream for us.
After a morning of skits and a lesson on true discipleship, we explored the city for the rest of the day and went to a buffet. At night, we had a recommitment service where we reflected on the entire trip and wrote encouragement cards to each other. There were a lot of tears that night, but praise God that 21 members from our team felt God calling them towards missions in the future. Sunday was a sad day, because saying goodbye to the YWAM staff and to the city was hard. We had all grown so much in Las Vegas that coming back to reality was difficult. However, what happens in Las Vegas does NOT stay in Las Vegas, and I will certainly bring home with me all the experiences that I have encountered and lessons that I have learned.
What my biggest take away from this trip was the heart of the youth. 1Timothy 4:12 says, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young…” I cannot believe how I have forgotten that verse even though I see it all the time at SFEFC. I even forgot which verse the book was located in! I’ve also deepened my connection with a lot of the younger sisters, who needed an older sister for advice and encouragement. Many of them came to me throughout the week and being able to help them and offer advice brought me joy. Maybe I have a calling to youth ministry too.
I also realized that God wants me to become stronger in the word before going out to my next mission. At the beginning, I felt very discouraged because I didn’t feel like I was making an impact talking to a couple of people each day. God wanted me to understand that it’s not about how many people I convert on my mission that counts, but how he can use me to help the people in Las Vegas. All I can do is plant seeds, even if it is only to a couple of people. It is ultimately up to God and the individual themselves to do the growing. We had four people accept Christ on this trip, and even though four is a small number compared to 6.8 billion, four is better than none.
Thank you again for all your prayer and financial support again. I have been super blessed on this mission trip and I hope that I will be able to go on another, when God calls. God told me on this trip, “Lisa, you have fulfilled your commitment at Urbana to me, and now I want you to wait. Grow stronger in my word and in your faith before your next mission, and wait patiently for my calling.”
Your Sister In Christ,