by Matthew Littrell
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs
up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
-Isaiah 43: 18-19
When I read Isaiah, the message of this piece of scripture particularly stands out to me. In Isaiah 43, the prophet Isaiah is giving words of encouragement to the discouraged and exiled Israelites. Isaiah is trying to get the Israelites to understand that their God is the same God now as He was in the past. The same power God exhibited when He brought his people out of Egypt and saved them in the wilderness is at work all around them today. Isaiah is trying to tell them that God made a way in the wilderness then, and He can and will do it again.
Each Monday morning, I give a glimpse of this context to our youth. I want each youth to understand that the same God at work in the Bible is at work here in Charleston. The same power God exhibited when He forged a path for the Israelites and raised Jesus from the dead is at work here in this place. That same God is at work today, preparing a way into all your hearts. I then pray that each youth will begin to experience the transformative power at work this week.
However, I did not truly understand what it meant to experience the power of God until I had time to interact with the groups this week. One of our main discussions was about being willing to be uncomfortable. Many youth on these YMCo Summer Mission Immersion Trips are stepping into the uncomfortable world of service for the very first time. Many have never had the opportunity to serve their neighbors in need of a hot meal. Most have never handed out water bottles and snacks on a hot day to locals in the community. These trips are about embracing the uncomfortable and striving to be vulnerable.
In those moments when I saw all these different youth embracing the uncomfortable, I realized that to truly transform and experience the presence of God we have to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones and be vulnerable. We have to break down barriers and not be content with many of the practices in place today. Do you think Moses was comfortable confronting Pharaoh and leading the people of Israel for forty years? Do you think it was easy for Jesus to confront all his vulnerabilities as he hanged from the cross? Moses, Jesus, and many others were not content to stay in their comfort zones. They were willing to be vulnerable and push beyond the boundaries. As a result, by embracing the uncomfortable, these people allowed the presence of God to transform them.
However, transformation under the presence of God does not just occur on these mission trips. God is at work in all places- in your communities, cities, and states. God is at work making a new thing. He is making a way in the wilderness and preparing a way into your hearts. You just have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. You have to be willing to break down those barriers that exist within our communities. The presence of God does not exist where we are content and comfortable. The presence of God exists when we use our power to fight for change and justice within our communities. The presence of God exists when we are uncomfortable, and we use that power to fight for systemic change. When we feel the presence of God at work, we are dissatisfied with a world in which all people are not treated with the same love and respect.
The God of the universe is at work all around us today. YMCo Summer Mission Immersion Trips allow youth to feel the presence of God at work. These trips grant youth the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone and be vulnerable to experience true transformation. Through this transformation, they see a world where they can bring about lasting change. These youth allow God to make a way into their hearts and help in His mission as we strive for the Kindom of God!