Urbana update 2 – unedited and incoherent because eyes actually swollen and stinging from lack of sleep; I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that I’ll be exhausted (and most probably sick) by the end of this week but I think it’s all worth it. 

“You cannot reach the people you hate.”

The speaker speaks slowly and intentionally; her words hit me hard and I know that I have a lot of repenting to do. 

Open up my heart, Lord. The world has made it hard but you, Jesus, who has walked on this earth and through the wickedness of the generations, maintained a loving and tender heart despite all the brokenness you saw and suffered and I want do the same. 

“We’re going to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where Jesus might be calling you. Close your eyes.”

I close my eyes and immediately see a silhouette of a city skyline. I stay silent until the prayer minister prompts me to speak; I tell her what I see and she responds; “Yeah, I kept seeing the buildings in St. Louis; I saw a city.” At this I think, “oh crap what, I don’t want to end up in St. Louis,” but continue on after a moment of hesitation to submit myself to His will. Fine, Jesus. Fine, if that’s where you want me to go. 

The prayer minister asks if I recently moved to a city; I tell her Philly and she replies; “okay, let’s explore that and ask if God is drawing your heart to anywhere in Philly.” At this I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank you, Jesus, for not uprooting my life… (?) 

But, then immediately after her request for Jesus to reveal to me where He wants my heart to go, I see black children smiling and playing. I have no idea what to make of the image; never before did I think I had a heart for children and never before did I even entertain the thought of serving the black community. I mentally shake my head and wait for the image to leave but it sticks and sticks and so finally I chuckle and tell the prayer minister what I see while inserting a tidbit that I think it’s just my imagination.

I hear her guffaw softly in response. “I heard ‘kids’ from God so I’m affirming you in your vision.” At this, I simultaneously perk up and LOL in my head; “you can’t be serious, God, can you? Children??”

The prayer minister asks me if I know if there’s a need anywhere in the city for people to serve children. I rack my brain and come up blank. She tells me to pray to the Lord and ask Him for clarity so I do. 

“Jesus, you know I really want to serve you so just tell me what to do; I can’t serve you if I don’t even know where to go.” 

Jesus responds with a very clear memory of an email I had received from my company a month ago. “OH.” I exclaim and explain to the prayer minister. 

“My company emailed us a few weeks back looking for volunteers to participate in tutoring kids in low income families in the city. I read through it and thought about it but didn’t feel any calling at the time to do it so I never considered it again…”

“Well, let’s ask Jesus to continue clarifying to you this week where He wants you to go and if it’s with this specific program for Him to just give you the obedience to obey.”

I feel excitement pound in my heart and leave feeling quite victorious for some reason. 

I debate for about seven minutes on whether or not I could survive going to dinner alone. I had given up going with the rest of my roommates during an earlier time track to seek prayer but I couldn’t find it in myself to regret my decision. I look at the crowds of people passing me by, heading to dinner, and decide, “oh what the heck, fine, I’ll go alone but Jesus, send someone to me so that I will not eat alone.” I figure I’ll practice my social skills and strike up a conversation with some unfortunate, unsuspecting soul. 

I join the masses waiting in line and look around for potential candidates to talk to; after two minutes or so of doing this I give up and shoot a quick prayer to the Lord. “Emmanuel; Jesus, you are with me. So I’ll be awkward but at least I’ll be awkward with you so it’ll be okay.” And I imagine Jesus walking beside me, accompanying me, and hum a random melody of praise and realize that I actually feel quite at ease. Almost immediately after I pick up my food, the (very, very) tall brother beside me offers a comment about the sheer mass of people in the dining hall and I smile and jump into the conversation. We eat dinner together and I share with him stories of how Jesus has been working in my life. I leave the dining hall with him, feeling even more victorious than I previously had. 

“Awkwardness precedes breakthroughs,” repeats the speaker from yesterday’s seminar. “How many of you have stopped when it got awkward only to never experience the breakthrough that was just about to come?” (He’s speaking in the context of sharing faith with someone but I figure it could apply to life in general.)

I decide after today that I might as well embrace all the inherent awkwardness in my soul because heck, it could very well lead to much fruit.

The girls somehow end up doing girl talk during our roommate huddle debrief and at the end, we pray for our future husbands and marriages. I know exactly what I’m going to ask for in prayer tomorrow and can’t help but think I’m being a bit selfish.

This is a missions conference…and I’m thinking about boys. 

But, Jesus reminds me to go to the Father like a little child, asking Him for everything and anything I want because He is a good, good Father who delights in me going to Him and seeks to give. And so I figure I’ll just give it a go tomorrow and if He doesn’t answer my question; fine. I have faith that He will answer something in some way and I have faith that it will be enough. 

You never fail to amaze me, Jesus; may I never lose the wonder of your great, great mercy.