I’m just home from a fundraiser at church. Next summer a team of students is traveling to Spain where they’ll teach conversational English in schools and follow-up with the Spanish students in the evenings for further conversation, hopefully about God. Tonight that team hosted a Variety Show complete with dinner catered, in part, by Carrabba’s, lots of gift basket raffles, and unbelievable talent.
I’ve been part of lots of fundraisers for student mission trips, so I authoritatively deem tonight’s fundraiser a success! Jackie Heberle and Erik Edwards led, like always, with humility and servants’ hearts. Their love of God, students, and missions was evident in the way they interacted with the large crowd that showed up tonight. Speaking of that crowd, what a great turnout of support for our Spain mission team! I was thrilled that our students could tangibly see, in the room full of people, how much support there is for them, their spiritual journeys, and their upcoming tangible journey.
And the talent tonight was a huge part of the success. When you advertise for a Variety Show, you never know what you’re going to get. What tonight’s crowd got was blown away. We saw some of our usual music leaders debut their band, the #Hashtags, kicking off the event with fun and high-quality covers of songs we all know. We saw the versatility of Matthew O’Donnell’s musical ability and talent as he tirelessly performed with almost every musical act, switching instruments and genres every five minutes. We saw tiny Brenda Whiting surrounded by men (her husband and two Warinner boys), whose hidden talent unfolded in delightful crowd pleasers. Paul Myers took the stage with his sisters-in-law, while his wife was home with the stomach flu. She would have been proud of all of them; they did fantastic! The talent continued, each act winning over the crowd, until we ended the night with some powerful worship songs.
My heart was full, watching students and their parents work hard for the trip ahead, watching a tech booth full of volunteers who will do it all again—at all three of our physical campuses—in just a few hours, watching talented adults pour out their talent for others’ benefit, watching the room fill with supportive community and church members, watching leaders lead with grace.
And I wondered, do they know what this fun night means?
Do they know that this trip will stretch the faith of the entire families, as parents put their babies on planes to cross an ocean?
Do they know that this trip will enlarge understandings of who God is, what His Church is, who His people are, what worship is, and where God is?
Do they know how much work Leah, Angela, Regina, Jackie, Erik, and countless others contributed to make tonight happen? Do they know that those parents and leaders did it, because they want to offer our students opportunities that will change their lives?
Do they know that other adults will pay $2,000 and a week’s vacation to chaperone students on this trip?
Do they know that the mission team members’ hearts will unite with the children of God they will meet next summer and that parting will be hard, after only a week?
Do they know that the people of Seville, Spain and Powhatan, Virginia will see the image of God when they look in each other’s faces?
Do they know that you never see God or the world the same after a trip like this?