Because of Mountain T.O.P. and other commitments, I’ve never been able to take a major role in the outstanding “Mission Possible” program organized by my church, Shelbyville (Tenn.) First UMC.
Mission Possible was organized about the time I first landed at FUMC. The prior year, the church had, in fact, sent youth to Mountain T.O.P., but in 2001, they organized a community-wide, interdenominational short-term missions camp which borrowed some ideas from Mountain T.O.P. — small work teams, for example — but applied them in the local community, putting the kids up at a local school instead of a rustic camp and sending them out into what ought to be familiar territory to work for needy families.
At first, to be quite honest, I had my doubts about this program, which may have been sour grapes due to the fact that my church would no longer be sending youth to a program that I was serving as a board member. I told myself that local ministry was meant to be year-round, and that we were somehow shortchanging it by turning it into a week-long special project. On the other hand, I told myself that you had to get a change of scenery (i.e., go out of town) to get the spiritual development and confidence-building of the full short-term missions experience.
I never discussed any of these doubts out loud, of course, and eventually I came to recognize how powerfully God was using Mission Possible in spite of my skepticism.
Today, I’m supposed to be taking some photos of the MP teens at work on their site. I went to meet Tim Forsythe, our youth director and MP’s chief organizer, at the fast-food restaurant where the MP kids are eating today. (They eat pre-paid or donated lunches at a specified fast-food restaurant each day.) Tim was too busy to take me to the sites just then, but as I sat an munched on my own lunch (which I paid for, by the way), I drank in the energy of the room. These teens are having a good time serving others in Jesus’ name.
I will feel a similar energy tonight, I’m sure, at Camp Cumberland Pines, as I do another of my Wednesday evening Mountain T.O.P. camp visits. How wonderful it is that God works through so many different programs, in so many different places, in so many different ways.