As a middle school student growing up at St. Luke’s, I remember my first mission trip. I was going into the 7th grade and we were spending a week of our summer traveling to West Monroe, Louisiana for Youth Force. Youth Force is a mission trip camp that St. Luke’s youth still do today. Students from all different churches come together for a week of working on homes to do repairs that the homeowners physically are not able to do themselves and cannot afford to pay someone else to do. In the evenings, the students all come together after working on homes across the city for a time of worship, games, and small groups.
I can still vividly remember the church we stayed at and sleeping on air mattresses each night. I remember playing basketball in the gymnasium during our free time with new friends I had met from other churches. I remember worshipping together in the sanctuary each evening. I distinctly remember the awful smell of the nearby paper mill each morning as we were heading off to our job sites. But what I remember most are the homeowners of the home on which my group was working.
I do not recall their names, but I can still picture their faces and the little yellow house with white trim they lived in. We were tasked with fixing the steps up to their front porch, replacing some siding, cleaning up the yard, repainting the house, and doing a few other little jobs around the house. In the grand scheme of things, the tasks we accomplished probably were not all that life-changing, but there is no doubt that the love we all got to share together was.
They were an elderly couple with very little to their name, and yet the love they shared with us all week was overflowing. Their joy was not based on their material possessions. It was based purely on this deeper love they had experienced, and they wanted to share it with everyone they encountered.
I went to Louisiana that week thinking I was going to serve someone else. I had no idea how much my life would be changed because of that experience of their love. I continued to go back to Youth Force year after year as a middle school and high school student. I firmly believe it was one of the main contributing factors that helped me hear God calling me to the ministry. It was not some theological dissertation that I read that compelled me to enter the ministry. It was an experience of profound love that unexpectedly transformed my life. But that is what love does. I guess I should not have been so surprised.
Rev. Josh Attaway, Edmond Campus Pastor