Please welcome our guest blogger today, my daughter Jordan Newsom.
City pools are closing. Swim suits are being replaced by street clothes. Carts full of pencils, pens, folders, and other supplies are being wheeled to cash registers. And school orientations are being held. Well, it is official, ladies and gentlemen – summer is coming to an end. Most 17 year olds spend their summers swimming, getting tan, having bonfires, and being with friends. While I (a 17 year old girl) did do some of those things during my summer, almost my entire month of July was spent on the other side of the world in Hong Kong.
In the past five years, I have been fortunate enough to travel to the wonderful city of Hong Kong seven times. Each time I get back, everyone bombards me with a single question – “What was it like?” And all I can do is awkwardly stare at them and think of how I can sum up my experience in a paragraph or two. And you know what? That is utterly impossible. No words can accurately describe the love I have for all aspects of Hong Kong and my mission trips there. But here is my valiant attempt to show a glimpse of what this past month in Hong Kong was like for me.
The first week in Hong Kong, I worked at LKK primary school. I think my favorite part about this week was how close I got to my American teammates. There was one other girl and two boys – and they are all in their second or third years in college. Being the only high schooler, I was expecting to feel kind of left out. That was not the case at all. The very first night we were there, the four of us sat up and talked for about three hours about our lives, our hopes, our dreams, and what we wanted to get out of this trip. The rest of the week was just extensions on conversations that were started that first night, and I can now call those three people some of my close friends.
Week two was spent at Sharon primary school. This was my fifth time doing VBS at Sharon, so I feel an immense sense of comfort and joy there. At Sharon, I have worked with the same principals, teachers, pastors, and helpers each year. Going back and continuing on with these people like a full year hadn’t passed is an amazing feeling. The teachers were interested in my college plans; the younger helpers were interested in my love life; and the church workers were interested in how my relationship with God was going. And all of these conversations were more down to earth and real than some others because of our ongoing relationship. One little seven-year-old girl stands out to me though.
Her name is Toby, and she is the daughter of one of the Sharon teachers. This year will mark the fifth year that I have seen her. The first year at Sharon, Toby participated in the VBS program, but since then, she has been my helper instead because she was too old. She always wants to hug me and play with me and, this year, sing ‘Frozen’ songs with me. Having this awesome bond with such a young child just amazes me. I love Toby so much and I will remember her and her spunkiness forever. She is old enough now that I believe she will remember me, too. And when she remembers me, she will not only remember us belting ‘Let it Go’ in the hallways together, but she will remember the love we share for Jesus, and how teaching about God is what brought us together.
The final week and a half of my trip was spent at a secondary school called MCDH. The programs at MCDH are a little bit different than the VBS we do at the other schools. Therefore, we need a lot of help from the youth group at that church. These helpers are all right around my age, and it was my third year with them. We went out to eat together. We shopped together. We worshiped together. We prayed together. Hanging out with them and talking about normal high school things and church things didn’t really seem like a big deal at the time, but when I came back home, I realized what a cool thing it is. We life on opposite sides of the planet, speak completely different languages, and have way difference lifestyles, but we are still friends. Good friends. Best friends. When they all went with us to the airport on that last day, I cried. Most of my tears shed were from the sadness of not being able to see these close friends of mine for at least another year. However some of them were shed from just pure amazement at the odd ways that God uses people in my life.
My time in Hong Kong this summer was absolutely unforgettable. Every year, there is always an aspect of my trip that stands out the most. Sometimes it’s the VBS program at a certain school, or a group of kids that just wouldn’t stop tickling me, or the food. This year, however, I am absolutely amazed at all of the relationships that were built and strengthened in my life – relationships with my team, the kids, the helpers, and the adults.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” The more I interact with my friends in Hong Kong, the more we encourage each other and ‘fill each other’s buckets.’ God has told us to act in this way toward one another, and in doing so, not only are we building up each other, but we are building up ourselves to go out and follow the path God has made for us.
So here’s the thing about mission trips – you might be going to build houses, or feed the hungry, or minister to people, but there is really only one big umbrella reason to go on a mission trip: You have to build relationships. You have to. You can go screaming the Gospel and an assortment of uplifting and encouraging Bible verses down any road in any town, but it only matters if someone is going to listen. And even if they listen to you, they have to trust you to really hear what you’re saying. Building relationships with other people is a vital part in helping them build a relationship with Jesus Christ. And once you have that relationship with them, and they have that relationship with our Savior, you can keep each other accountable and pray with each other and just be brothers and sisters in Christ. But it all starts with simply investing in relationships with others.
And sometimes, you might just be strengthening your relationship with God in the process, which is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
Forever mentally in Hong Kong,