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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stones of Remembrance: The College Years

This week I'm writing out my "Stones of Remembrance," the times that God has shown his faithfulness in big ways in my life.  Great is his faithfulness!  (You can start with Stones 1-4, HERE.)

Stone 5: Belize

I was 20.  I heard about a summer mission trip through a mailing at my college, and I decided to sign up.  I went with a team of about 10 American high school and college students to volunteer at an agricultural school for the deaf that was run by a Mennonite colony there.   We replaced a roof, harvested corn, painted benches, and hung out with the older students and staff that were there for the summer.

(IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: One day I'd like to write more on how my views of short-term missions have changed over the years, and how many times our "paint a building!" "hug an orphan!" model can be counterproductive for the economic and spiritual development of the countries we visit.  But I am a repeat offender of that type of trip, and I can't deny that God has used them in my life.  And I highly recommend the book Toxic Charity for more on this topic.)

Here is what I gained from my first mission trip:
  • A value for foreign missions, and an incipient desire to one day move abroad to do similar work
  • An unforgettable cross-cultural experience
  • The best team experience I've ever had, including some relationships I still have, 11 years later
Stone 6:  Transfer

The same summer, I decided to transfer to the University of Iowa.  Almost on a whim, I filled out an online application and felt immediate peace that the Lord wanted me there.  This was after two years of feeling like I had made the wrong college decision.

I look back on this decision as one of the clearest leadings of the Lord in my life, and it ushered in a few years of steady spiritual growth.

Stone 7:  Cracks in the shell

While at the University of Iowa, I got involved in InterVarsity college ministry.  With the ministry's emphasis on discipleship and outreach, a wonderful thing happened.

Back story - High school Alison was like this: I had a class of only about 30 people, and I was with them for a total of six years in my little private school.  By the end of those six years, I was still scared to talk to like half of those people.  I was once told, at my part-time job, that I was "very good at not talking."

But in college, I got involved in stuff, started reaching out, met other believers, and, hooray!  An extreme introvert became a little less extreme.  (But let's be honest - still pretty good at not talking.)

I know lots of Christians who have stories of dramatic personal change when they give their testimonies of God's work in their lives.  Because I followed God early in life, I don't have any stories of my years in drug rehab or how God saved me from my life of crime.  But what I described above is one of the biggest personal changes I can attribute to God's work in my life.

Stone 8:  China '05

I was 21.  A local church was sending a college team to spend a couple weeks at an English training school in China.  I went along, and the seed was planted: I could see how the needs of China (English, and eternal hope) coincided with my own skills and interests (language, and cross-cultural ministry).  That seed grew into a little tree called "Alison moving to China for three years," but that didn't happen until later.

Stay tuned for Part 3!  What are YOUR stones of remembrance?

Belize 2004

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