When I first arrived at the River Lodge South, all of my pent-up emotions came out at once.
I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks.
Was I really going to spend 10 weeks here? And not see my family or boyfriend or friends the entire summer? What was I doing in Sevierville? What in the world did God have planned? Did I make the right decision?
Let me back up.
I started off the semester completely against going to Mountain Project. I loved the idea of it, but I didn't want to sacrifice anything in order to go. Here are a few of the barriers that God had to break down in my life before I would even consider going to MP:
My Comfort at Home: I'm a home body, so the idea of spending 10 weeks away from my family was out of the question. I said to myself, "Heck no. There is no way I could survive without my family for that long. I'd be lost. Nope, too long. MP isn't for me."
My Relationship with My Boyfriend: 6 hours of separation just didn't quite satisfy my definition of a fun, "adventurous, romantic summer" with my future husband-to-be. I didn't love the idea of having a "long-distance" relationship over the summer.
My Job at Home: I had never worked a "real" job. I had babysat a few times and cleaned my neighbor's house, but that was about it. I didn't like working, & the idea of working at Dollywood made me want to vomit. I also had a job lined up at home that I had done the previous summer as a camp counselor. It is a good job. It's a Christian, faith-based job. It's a job that grew me in my faith like nothing ever had before. It was also a familiar job. It was comfortable. It was safe. It didn't require me to sacrifice as Mountain Project would.
My Financial Situation: Rent for MP is a lot of money. $1,000+ is a lot of money for any college student. I had no idea how to pay for it. I didn't want to live pay check-to-pay-check. I had just raised support for a mission trip over spring break, so I wasn't about to go back to those same people and ask for funds again. I didn’t have a job at school & I didn’t want to ask my parents to pay $1,000 up front. I had a couple hundred dollars in my savings and that was all. I couldn’t afford it.
It was settled. I accepted the job back home. I wasn’t going to Mountain Project, and that was that. Although I was relieved to have a decision made, my heart was unsettled. I couldn't shake the idea that maybe God did want me to be at MP that summer. I didn't know if I was just overthinking things or if there really was something different that God intended for my summer. I wanted to learn more about Jesus. I wanted to grow in my relationship with God. I wanted to experience community and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But.........
I didn't want to sacrifice time away from my family. I didn't want to decline the job position that was familiar and comfortable. I didn't want to work at Dollywood, & I didn't want my life to be anything close to difficult or complicated. I didn't want to swallow my pride & spend my summer in a way that I swore I never would.
In the midst of all of the chaos and confusion that was running through my mind, I felt the Lord prompt me with a simple, yet difficult question: Do you trust me?
Dagger to the heart.
Would I trust God to take care of the people I love? Would I trust God to provide physical, spiritual, and financial resources for me over the summer? Would I trust him enough to say no to a good job offer so that I could say yes to the best job offer for me? Did I trust him more than I trusted myself? I said I trusted God with everything, but did my actions show that?
I ended up going to project that summer, and it was hands-own one of the best decisions I have ever made. That summer was the most growth I have ever experienced up to that point in my Christian walk. I learned so much about the bible and the character of God. I made so many genuine friendships with my brothers and sisters in Christ (two of which are bridesmaids in my wedding!) I was held accountable for my sin. My patience, perseverance, endurance, & faith were tested like no other. God matured me in so many ways that could only have been done at a place like MP. I also had so much fun and created so many amazing memories with my room and with the other people that I met on project. My love for God and the church grew like no other. It was a sacrificial summer, but it was also one of the best summers in my life.
As I previously mentioned, I cried when I got there. I wasn't 100% ready to jump into everything all at once. It's okay to feel excited & anxious & nervous & joyful & happy all at the same time. The point of Mountain Project is for you to come as you are, & to trust God that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
I didn't go to MP every summer I was at school. The Lord is faithful to produce fruit in those who abide in him no matter where they are. God isn't limited to Mountain Project...if he was, he wouldn't be God. However, if you lack Christ-centered community at home or want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, I would encourage you to pray about it. Ask God to reveal to you anything you may be holding back from going. Ask yourself if you fully trust him. I know it's scary to take that first step of faith. I understand. I was there. In many ways I still am there. It's hard to walk by faith, but that's the core of what it means to be a Christian. Walk by faith this summer, whatever that may look like, and I promise you won't regret it.
"We walk by faith not by sight." -2 Corinthians 5:7