by Whitney Browning
Tears streamed down my face as I walked away from my family and toward security at the Charlotte airport in the early morning hours of June 5. I was proud of myself, at least until it was time to say goodbye. At that point anyone who saw me sulking through the airport probably thought tragedy had struck my life hard, but in reality it was only two months. It was two months of new adventure, new places, new people, but most importantly, it was two months of discovering more about God than I had ever imagined.
Awkward. That’s the word I would use to describe the first few minutes, hours…okay, days. But, it was a fun awkward. It was an awkward that carried the capability to make all of us look back and laugh at ourselves just weeks later. It was an awkward that we knew would end, but little did we know, would lead to a family of sisters and brothers that were willing to put everything aside to serve each other.
“I’ve learned more about myself than I have in a really long time”, I caught myself repeating to all who asked about my first week in Oklahoma as a summer intern with The Awakening. And I cried, we cried, all nine of us. A lot. As the summer progressed, I grew to appreciate the little things each of us brought. We were so diverse, but it worked. My two roommates filled our nights together with laughter, deep conversation, and occasional midnight birthday parties that included diving on beds, dancing, and, of course, hugs for everyone. Between the morning questions of “how’d everyone sleep?”, the conversational walks to and from locations, and the “goodnights” from the rest of the team, we all became family.
There was nothing like doing ministry together that could have brought us closer. From prophesying over each other in OKC, to evangelizing in the streets of Guatemala, we learned valuable lessons about each other, ourselves, and God. God is love. God is faithful.
I struggled in Guatemala. I felt inadequate. I felt like I had nothing God could use. What I learned was quite the opposite. I remember sitting on the bus as we traveled to a new location in Guatemala. As I looked out the window I began to feel the same feelings come over me as I did on my very first mission trip. The reality of where I was jumped off the tree we had just passed and slapped me in the face. “I’m in Guatemala!”, I realized. God had brought me to Guatemala to be me, but to love like Him and that was our mission. I decided that day, sitting in that bus, surrounded by those people, that whatever God asked of me, I would do. No turning back.
Wow, Ukraine. God is love. God is faithful. Sitting on a hard, concrete floor in Ukraine, God answered me. Two nights of sitting in God’s presence like I was a child again brought me to tears. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave. “Why can I feel you now?”, I asked God. “I use to feel your presence when I was younger, and now it’s been so long, but tonight I can. Why?” “You live in My presence.” It was in that moment that I knew it was a new outpouring of God’s spirit. And, I cried. A lot. He was answering prayers. He answered prayers I’ve prayed since 2014 and since I was a little girl. And, he chose to do it that week, in a country I never imagined myself going.
Ephesians 4: 1-3 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
It’s captivating. God is love. God is faithful.
Lesson number one in Spain: Dances catch on. Lesson number two: Before eating all of your first plate, check to see if there’s a second and third coming. I’ll never forget the faces of the people we met in Spain, or the friendships that were formed by simply trying to speak their language. I’ll never forget playing basketball, or soccer in the rain, or volleyball while surrounded by mountains. I’ll never forget watching the youth as they were taught about Esther in the Bible by one of the summer interns. I’ll never forget the services in that room, and the worship that was so rich. Courage. That’s what I came away with when I left Spain. “Have the courage to do what He tells you to do and to keep doing what He told you to do.” – Linwood Berry.
Guatemala, Ukraine, Spain… we did a lot of running through airports. It was the most exercise I did all summer; but we were well fed, so it was good. God is love. God is faithful. God speaks in stereo.
From Youth Quest to General Conference in Florida in July, God just kept revealing more and more to me. Pure joy, I had felt it all summer, but it sprouted little flowers while we were in Florida. It was an interesting experience to encounter the gathering of the younger generation of the IPHC and just a few days later, encounter the gathering of the older generation of the IPHC. What I found most profound about our time there however; was the way God was speaking into my life through so many different people in such personal ways, and the way He was speaking to our leaders and church as a whole.
What a summer. It almost feels like a sin to simplify the magnitude of such two months into just a few pages while my journal sits full of stories, memories, and teachings; my mind sits full of so many thoughts I wish I could share with the world; and my heart sits full of the emotions of times in God’s presence and joy of being around such people as those I encountered throughout the summer. Turns out, I don’t want to forget any part of the summer, especially waking up to the near death of a few birds outside our tent while camping, or sharing some McDonald’s burgers with our sweet friends in Ukraine. I don’t want to forget trying to catch my breath from laughing too hard while staying up way too late and eating way too many cookies.
The memories could go on and on, but in reality I could never forget the leaders who so faithfully took us to the feet of Jesus and showed us what it looks like to out give, out love, and out serve. I could never forget those I shared life with for just two months. I could never forget all the conversations with IPHC Bishops and others that God allowed us to meet and talk with. Most importantly, I will never forget the way God spoke directly to me this summer. I will never forget what I saw, what I heard, and what I prayed. “Here I am Lord, Send Me.”
Look at the stars. Remember, God is love. Remember, God is faithful.
Tears streamed down my face as I walked away from my Awakening Family and headed to the airport in the late morning hours of August 4. It was two months of new adventure, new places, new people, but most importantly,it was two months of discovering more about God than I had ever imagined.