Loving Strangers

Loving Strangers

First Short-term Mission Trip

Seven months ago, God placed a calling in my heart to go on a mission trip. This seemed strange because I have never been interested in missions abroad and I am more of a “local missions” kind of person.

I am part of a church that supports missionaries abroad and has a missions pastor on staff who has all the logistics down to a science. Some of my team members for my first short-term mission trip had traveled overseas for missions before and our team leader had previously served alongside the OMS team in Budapest who do Summer English Camp (SEC) every summer. Even though, logistically speaking, all seemed to be taken care of, I was unsure of what to expect, what my purpose was and the reason(s) for my involvement.

From the time I left the comfort of my home to the time camp started, everything was running as scheduled. I was pretty impressed with how the OMS team in Hungary greeted us and planned orientation days to give us a little taste of what camp would be like.

Sunday came and students started to arrive. I noticed many of them greet and hug each other with joy, as they had not seen each other since the last time they were at camp together. I saw students run with smiling faces to say hi to staff members and I got the feeling that this was going to be a good week!

Obedience + faith = Kingdom work

After some arguing back and forth with God about this mission trip, I knew that it was His will for me to go. I got moving with all the work that comes with fundraising. The funny thing about faith is that, it sometimes goes against everything that makes sense. My systematic/logistic brain often tries to overpower the child-like faith in my heart.

Another interesting fact about faith is that it has no social, age, ethnic or geographic boundaries. I witnessed the faith and confidence the Hungary team has that this camp serves a purpose way beyond learning English and having fun. I had never experienced this strong sense of calling that literally drives them to break language and cultural barriers for the sake of sharing the Gospel. I started to think: what if we all had the same sense of calling? What if everyone in the world felt just as strongly about reaching out to others with the sole purpose of showing them Christ-like love without a personal agenda? If we did, the world would be a different place.

Two days was all I needed to break the “stranger danger” barriers with six amazing young ladies that were hand-selected by God to form SEC group seven. As we shared personal experiences, family dynamics, school accomplishments and struggles, we realized that we have more in common than we ever thought possible.

I have a jar full of insecurities and life failures the enemy often pulls out to try telling me that as a single mom and a person who grew up in a broken home, I am not good enough to speak life or hope into the future of other young ladies. Not today devil—not today. As it turns out, the fact that I grew up with divorced parents was the door that opened a conversation with one girl. Being single lead to a conversation with another girl about “waiting for the person who shares your vision for the future.” Not only did we connect about things in life that break our spirits, but also things in life that can physically break our fingers, as one of the girls and I have the same broken pinky.

If we have faith in God that He will do what He does best, we will find that the very same things that had the power to break us have the power to help us point others to Christ.

Word for the year: Love

As I conversed with the camp directors and heard their camp stories and their vision, I concluded that they don’t really see their lives as “giving something up.” Rather, they see their lives as a “putting something in.” At first, I admired the courage they had to take their family overseas regardless of how difficult it may be. But then, I realized that it isn’t about being courageous; it is all about love. I asked almost every OMS team member why they are in Hungary and interestingly enough, they all said something very similar. Bottom line: they are there to help others experience the unconditional love of Christ. Let me ask you: would you leave it all behind to love those you haven’t met?

Last December, my dear friend and mentor asked me to pick a word for the year, and without much thinking, I felt in my heart the word was “love.” I do consider myself to be a loving person—loving well after I’ve made sure and have enough proof that is it safe to love someone. Well, how safe is it to love people I’ve just met? I have been praying God gives me a heart for his people. I am guessing He hears my prayers because I connected with one of the missionaries while she took me on an afternoon run in Budapest and I know I have love for her. I love all six girls in group seven. I wouldn’t hesitate to go through hours of airplane anxiety to get back to camp and see them again. There is no ocean I wouldn’t swim, no mountain I wouldn’t climb to pray with them and remind them that Christ loves them so much He gave His life for them. Would you leave it all behind to love those you haven’t met?

– By Esme Graff, OMS Hungary Volunteer

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