Wow. I can scarcely believe it has been over a week since we finished up our time in Utah! It just seems like yesterday that we were scrambling around preparing for the trip - and it's already behind us.
I'm also deeply impressed by God's amazing provision, protection, guidance, and help during the course of this trip - So I want to begin this post by thanking YOU. All of you who have supported, encouraged, and prayed for us over the months leading up to this trip, and during the course of the trip.
I truly believe that your prayers made a huge impact. And God answered many of those prayers in very tangible ways over the last couple weeks. From health and safety, to smooth return travels, God's fingerprints were evident all over this trip.
I (Lance) have been wanting to hop on here and post a follow-up blog since the team flew back home on Tuesday the 3rd. I've been out of town and still traveling myself up until I got back back recently, so I am trying to sort my thoughts out and wanted to post a kind of concluding and reflecting blog on the trip.
I can't speak for the whole team - But I know that God has been moving and working in my own heart in powerful ways from our trip to Utah. I have learned a lot over the last two weeks, and hope that the rest of the team also feels that way! Probably the biggest lessons that I learned as one helping lead the team on our trip were in humility and control.
I chuckle to myself looking back over the week and that even with months and months of planning, how quickly things can go awry. From our first day hitting the airport in Charlotte and having our flight canceled we all had to lean into God's provision in even just getting us to Utah! A night spent in the airport is sure to start of any trip with tiredness and stress - however, consistent prayer and a positive attitude helped keep us focused. I was amazed at the resilience and patience of the team as we waited in LONG lines - had multiple flights canceled and delayed. And yet, there was little to no complaining, and excitement for the interactions God was going to bring our way through the change in plans.
As somewhat of a planner myself - I really had to take to heart what we had talked about in our pre-trip training meetings. In the 7 weeks leading up to our trip we had met as a team once a week to learn about short-term-missions, cross-cultural work, the cultural/religious differences in Utah, and more. One of the big things that we had discussed in several of our trainings was the ability to be flexible and adaptable.
It's certainly one things to talk about those things in a team meeting, but doing it on the fly (literally) is a whole different ball game! The last few days of the trip especially with an ER visit and hospitalizations and the possibility of further altercations to travel plans really put our resolve as a team and dependence on God to another level. We were calling and texting everyone for prayers and God worked in some miraculous ways to bring the whole team back to Tennessee safely.
Another favorite from this trip was the opportunity to partner with, serve, encourage, and assist local churches and ministries that are already doing kingdom work for the Lord in Utah. We talked about the limitations that accompany short-term-missions work in our pre-trip-training and how one of the best ways to make a great impact is through partnership with current and existing ministries. For this reason, our week really focused on helping local churches host events (such as the community outreaches and VBs) and serving the local churches there in Salt Lake City in the ways that they needed help.
It was incredible not only to watch God moving and working in the hearts and minds of the members of our team - but to see first hand what God is doing in Utah! To see how God is working through Christians and through Christian Churches that are on the ground was amazing. We heard testimony after testimony of God's powerful hand working in the churches there. From stories about conversions and baptisms, to stories about inter-church collaboration and further ministry opportunities, we were blessed to meet some amazing people that are sharing Jesus Christ.
Even before the mission trip was over, I was being asked if we are heading back to Utah next summer, and the short answer to that is I don't know yet. We are going to pray and see what God has in store for Unicoi Christian Church and First Christian Erwin over the coming year. I would love to return to Utah if that is a possibility!
I feel like there's so much more that I could say - but I will keep it brief. If you have more questions or interest in Utah, our mission trip, or our churches, please reach out or send us a message! We are posting ALL of the mission trip photos on our church Facebook page, so head there if you want to cruise through all of the photos. I will post one last picture below of the team boarding the flight back from Utah heading to Charlotte at the end of our trip.
May God bless you and keep you, may he make his face shine upon you. Grace and peace.