I remember my senior trip almost like it was yesterday. I was in the notorious Panama City Beach for a week with 15 other friends I had spent a lifetime with. I remember the long nights, the alcohol, the glow-in-the-dark raves, and the endless nights in fear of being caught by the security guard. I remember the pain of endless suffering and longing for fulfillment; the constant desire to be accepted by the people I longed to be like.
Mostly, I remember trying to be someone that I am not.
For those of you who know me, this seems like a completely different lifestyle then who you know me to be. You also probably know that high school wasn’t the highest point of my life. I mostly molded into who people wanted me to be, which really left me feeling empty every time the standard set before me changed.
Despite my identity being set on what the world thought of me, God faithfully led me to Tennessee Tech, and saw that a couple of guys from a ministry called Campus Outreach would intentionally share the good news of salvation with me.
Now, here I am approximately 1 year, 7 months, 4 hours, and 14 minutes from when two guys, being bold in their faith and loving me despite my sin, shared with me the truth that Jesus has finished on the cross what I cannot do. On September 8, 2015 the LORD graciously lavished me in mercy, called me His child, and welcomed me into His eternal kingdom. Since then, the trajectory of my life has made a complete 180-degree turn (kind of like repentance, huh?).
Recently, the LORD has given me a thankful heart for this reborn life (2 Corinthians 5:17) and how He has continually led me into faith deeper than I knew ever existed. How, though? It’s only been 1 year, 7 months, 4 hours, and 14 minutes (plus the time it's taken me to write this), how could the God of the universe change the entire foundation of my life in merely 0.05% of my life?
This past summer, God allowed me to spend 10 weeks of my summer at Mountain Project alongside 70 other college students in Pigeon Forge, TN. There, I learned what it’s like to find my identity in Jesus, not in opinions. I was constantly reminded of the truth that I am completely dependent on Jesus for eternal joy and salvation, not my actions. I learned that if you sing Rocky Top on the Air Tram on your way to Ober Gatlinburg while dressed like you are fresh from an ‘80s magazine, the tourists who aren’t a part of your summer project will think you are borderline insane.
I went to Mountain Project knowing I wanted the world to know how beautiful it is to follow Jesus, but I left Mountain Project knowing how to share Jesus with the world. The LORD calls us to live by faith. In fact, faith is the essence of the Christian walk (2 Corinthians 5:7). I could say that spending my summer working for Dolly, continually being put into awkward situations, and learning how to love Jesus outside of my comfort zone was a sacrifice, but it wasn’t.
It was a privilege to follow Jesus that summer in a little hotel room.
It was a privilege to watch a brother and a sister come to know who Jesus truly is over that summer Project.
It was a privilege to watch as unbelievers come to know Jesus and to watch them grow these past two semesters because of the training Mountain Project gave me.
And it was a privilege to be reminded that I became a Christian because of the training that the LORD used Mountain Project to give to the two guys who led me to Christ.
I’ll be back at Mountain Project this summer because I know that there is no other opportunity where I will grow as much as I did last summer. I cannot possibly explain in a small blog post how much God has changed my life through this summer Project.
I can say, however, that it takes faith to commit to Mountain Project. Faith that the LORD will provide financial support, faith that the LORD will use this summer to grow you the most, and faith that the LORD will offer courage for those who step outside of their comfort zone.
We know that remaining steadfast through the testing of our faith produces maturity (James 1: 3-4). Will you let your faith be tested alongside me this summer?