Written by Kristen Rushing.

I never thought my first mission trip would be chaperoning one, but I found myself packing a suitcase moments after finding out I was pregnant. I shed a few tears wondering how I’d find the energy to lead and care for a group of youth, and work in the Louisiana July heat. But it was God’s perfect timing. It ended up being a special experience getting to witness and be a part of such love. There’s no better way to be reminded that children are a gift from God than to get to experience three full days of His love through them.

My favorite part of the trip was watching the kids transform with the message. Day 1 of work was rough. It was hot and difficult. The kids struggled. That night, we heard a message from Kale during worship about belonging. You can belong in 3 ways: exist, inhabit, or reside in God’s kingdom. Exist: you are alive on earth. God created the earth and you live in it, breathe in it and use it, but give nothing back. Inhabit: checking in with God every now and then, waiting on what you can get from him. Or reside: truly dwell with your Creator, listening for His leading in your life, enjoying his presence, seeking his ways. To reside is to really know Jesus and build your life around him.

Before going out to work the next morning, I reminded my group of the message and asked if they wanted to exist, inhabit, or reside? And boy did they respond. God showed up with me and in me. I was full of energy and felt better than ever out in the heat doing His work. We nearly finished the entire week’s to-do list in one day.

I left the trip feeling exhausted but rejuvenated spiritually. The next day I got this text from one of my girls: “I wanted to say thank you for all the things you did. It was such an amazing experience. You worked so hard and inspired me to keep pushing even when I was exhausted. Being around you, I feel God’s love and his presence just flowing through you, especially when we went in our small groups. Breaking down the meanings of the Word helped me when I needed the motivation to keep going. And going along with the themes we talked about, I felt like I really belonged and was able to reside and I have you to thank for that.”

She has no idea how much her words touched my heart. Reflecting on the trip, I realized it was all God’s perfect timing. I was meant to go on my first mission trip, as a chaperone, the day after finding out I was pregnant! It was such a special experience that I will truly cherish forever. There is no better gift than seeing God through the eyes of children.