The Bigger Bear

I’m convinced God likes picking on me.

I swear, He laughs at me sometimes.

And, I’ll admit, I tend to take it quite personally.

I’m like a little girl who doesn’t want to let go of her old, stitched up teddy bear that has lost its fluff. If I love it, I’ll hang on to it. When I get attached, I don’t want to let go. Well, at least that’s the case for my dreams and plans I create for myself.

I attended several mission trips to Cincinnati, Ohio during high school, and I planned to lead a spring break mission trip through Harding back to Cincinnati this year, but I took a blow to the heart when I was told by my university that it could not be run through them.

Mission: failed.

The spring break missions organizers approached me with a new option: become a co-leader for the trip to New Hampshire. I forgot New Hampshire was a state, but I figured, “why not?”

The other co-leader for the trip decided to withdraw. When sign ups for the trip came around,  only two people signed the list. I was convinced the trip was going to be a bust, and I hoped it would get cancelled so I can take on a different opportunity that was previously presented to me.

I waited as the status of the trip stood still. I prayed for the trip to be cancelled and this was just God’s round-about way to help me get what I wanted. It wasn’t. Just when I thought all was going my way, a second co-leader signed up for the trip, and everything quickly fell into place soon after.

I was mad at God, but I’m sure He giggled. He had a newer, bigger, fluffier teddy bear waiting for me.

We flew out of Little Rock Feb. 26 and arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire around midnight. We slept a few hours until we took on a two-hour drive to Conway Church of Christ for their annual youth rally where we spent the weekend.

We met a lot of godly people throughout the week. Friendly people, kind people, thankful people, and people genuinely interested in us college students and why we would choose to serve in New Hampshire over our spring break.

We worked in several churches during the week, played with kids at a local daycare and volunteered for Families in Transition, an organization dedicated to supporting struggling families.  I loved serving every day, and the people we met were inspirational in their own unique way. The hospitality of the people in New England, though, was the most humbling and inspirational part of the trip, to me.

This is how I started to see God’s plan unravel for me, and it began as soon as we landed in Manchester.

We were picked up in a 12-passenger bus by the church’s pulpit minister, Park, in the middle of the night. He introduced himself to each of us and handed us a large bag of chips, cookies, and all sorts of yummy goodies for us to indulge in during our trip. God is good.

When we each arrived at where we were staying overnight, sleeping bags and pillows with our own personal homemade pillowcases (with handwritten Bible verses) were laid aside for us. God is good.

The 11 of us stayed with three separate host families, who provided us with beds, showers, breakfast and even more snacks. God is good.

Our host families were all members of the church and had inspirational stories. The family I stayed with listed “read Bible” and “pray” on their children’s chore chart. The parents had both overcome hurtful pasts and called themselves “disciples” for Christ, and they acted like it. God is good.

All of our meals were provided for from various families. Home-cooked turkey dinners, shepherd’s pie and quesadilla bars. We were given more food than our stomachs could handle and were thanked by our servers, while they were handing food to us. God is good.

The youth minister, Mark, and his wife Ann spent time with us volunteering and assisting in a group activity/devotional. God is good.

I just wanted to hug my broken-in teddy bear, but God wanted to show me how much bigger my comfort zone can get. I learned to love and appreciate more people who were in the same social class as me and lived a similar lifestyle as me, which is not what I have been used to on mission trips before. I was inspired by hospitality and the closeness of small churches and was eased into being comfortable with living with strangers.

God is good, and sometimes we need to step into the unknown, and sometimes unwanted, paths he leads us on to see the greater picture. And, the cool part is, I know he has an even bigger teddy bear waiting for me.

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