I vividly remember standing in the Lubbock Christian University student union building with Jim, quickly scribbling notes on a flyer he gave me before running to class because it was already October and I could not afford to be late anymore. When I got back to my dorm room later that afternoon I pinned my Rural America Ministries flyer, with the nearly illegible notes and all, on the cork board next to my desk so I would see it every day and remember to pray about the adventure that I would soon embark on. I heard about RAM my freshman year but had already committed to an internship that summer. However, when sophomore year rolled around, I knew that RAM was something not only I wanted to commit to, but something I truly felt God had been calling me to and preparing my heart for. Halfway through the spring semester I started to experience what I can only describe as a, “calm before the storm,” type of feeling. It was completely unsettling and exciting all at the same time; I knew that whatever it was that I would be encountering this summer would be important because of the way the Holy Spirit was speaking to me during that time of prayer and preparation. Shortly after those feelings began, I found out that I would be spending my thirty day mission in Seymour, Texas.
Some would say that I am a “big city girl”, and having been born and raised in El Paso, Texas, I would have to agree. When I first came to college, Lubbock was a small town to me, and I was told that Seymour was much, much, MUCH smaller than Lubbock. That in itself was a little unsettling, but I was excited for a new experience. When I thought about going to Seymour, I was not really expecting to see more (what a fun pun, am I right?) of anything. Little did I know that throughout my time in that special place, God would continually give me glimpses of how He saw that place and show me more than I could have ever imagined. Throughout our mission, we started every morning with a debrief time where we would study God’s word and pray together. The first thing we did in those debrief times was reflect over the question, “How did you see God yesterday?” All of those hours of studying, praying, and discussion helped me grow in my faith so much; it is incredible how quickly we were able to see God’s hands moving in different situations and people’s lives when we took the time to be still, tune in for God’s voice, and reflect over that question. That question is something I try to ask myself every day now; life can get tough, and in the difficult times, as well as days that seem slow and mundane, it can be difficult to see God working. Even in the good times, we often forget about what precious blessings those happy moments are from Him.
Whenever I have told people about my time with RAM, many have asked me questions that all amount to, “How did you see God in Seymour?” and to be honest, that is my favorite question to answer. When answering that question I get to open the box in my mind that is full of warm smiling faces, sunsets over windmills, children’s laughter, the melodies and harmonies from spontaneous worship, the smell of home cooked meals, and the stories from God’s children; the people who stole my heart. How did I see God in Seymour? It would be easier for me to tell you how I did not see God in Seymour. I saw God in the way our congregation immediately took us under their wing; welcoming us and claiming us as their own from very early on. I saw Him in the conversations I had with widows while we did chores for them around their houses, or sat on the floor and listened to them share their life stories with us. I saw Him when I sat in my host family’s backyard and stared at the thousands of stars that lit up the night sky. I saw Him in the people that we met while canvasing in different parts of the town. I saw Him in their stories; how quickly some people dumped the load they had carried on their shoulders for far too long, not knowing or understanding that God would willingly take that weight from them. I saw Him when I sat in church with my sweet elderly ladies; when one would grab my hand and hold onto it just to feel close to me. I saw Him in the tears that poured down the faces of teenagers who shared the pains in their hearts. I saw Him while riding in a golf cart around a church member’s ranch, looking at the cattle and listening to the life lessons they had to offer. I saw Him in the relationships I made with my teammates and in the tears we shed when it was time for us to say goodbye. When I took the time to ask myself, “How did you see God today?” He was always faithful to open my eyes and show me how He walked and talked with me all day long.
In John 1:46 Nathaniel asks, “’Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ and Philip replies, ‘Come and see.” Going into RAM, I remember sitting atop Elk Mountain alongside the other eleven RAM students while Jim read this passage with the biggest grin on his face. He told us that when we came down from that mountain we would be going into our own versions of Nazareth. He was right, not many people would have thought much could come out of the tiny little towns that became our homes for those 30 days, but God showed us otherwise. When I left Seymour, my own Nazareth, I left with more incredible memories than I could have imagined I would when I went into the mission. I left Nazareth with a restored spirit, a strengthened faith, a new outlook on the extreme need for Christ in rural communities, a deeper understanding of ministry, a closer relationship with God, and a place to call home. I left Seymour with a new family. I have been lucky enough to return to Seymour a few times this summer, and even go on a mission trip with the Seymour youth group. For me, the mission did not stop at the end of the thirty days, and I praise God for the opportunities I have had to continue serving and building relationships with the people in that place.
Right now, I am missing Nazareth, the place and all of the people; I truly hope and pray that God will continue to use me for His special purposes there. However, as I prepare to start my junior year at LCU, I look forward to seeing friends and classmates that I have not seen over the summer. I look forward to catching up and talking about our summers and the things we are excited for this year. I am excited for the new adventures God will take me on, and the doors He will open. However, at the moment I am very excited to tell people where I spent a significant portion of my summer. I am excited to see their confused faces and give them an answer to, “Why in the world did you spend your summer in Seymour?” I am excited for the opportunities I will have to let a grin stretch across my face while beckoning others to, “come and see.”