I'm usually pretty good with words [I'm a blogger, after all.], but I don't even know how I'm going to do Wilmington justice.
But here it goes, I shall try.
I'll start at the end.
UrbanPromise has a couple basketball teams in a local league run by a church. On Friday night, we went and watched the 12U game. When we got there, the stands were already packed with UP staff, volunteers and kids.
UrbanPromise fans: 40
Opposing team's fans: 3
Apparently it's like that every game. So anyways, as the game got off to a start, it was clear our team was seriously out matched. An 8-0 start isn't ideal.
Didn't matter. UP's fans never stopped cheering. And then they hit a three and "We went wild!" would be an understatement. And then they hit a lay-up, then another three. Then another, and another. We could've competed with ANY NBA crowd at that moment. ;)
I don't remember the final score. We lost. Bad. But I don't even care. For probably the first time in my entire life, my competitive streak was gone and I didn't even care that the team I was cheering for lost.
Because the joy in the atmosphere made up for everything.
At the beginning of the week, I didn't expect to come home a changed person. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I really expected God to work in me last summer when I went to the Philippines and Kerr Street, and although he did a little, it wasn't what I was expecting. This year I'd kinda just accepted where I was at with God and didn't really want any "God-work" done in me, I just wanted to go serve and come back to my happy life. But God always works when you least expect it, doesn't he?
He brought me to Wilmington and showed me what joy looks like. He showed me His desires, His heart. He showed me brokenness and redemption. He showed me faith, hope and love. And although I've seen these things before, I feel like I understand them way better now.
Throughout the week I saw all those things everywhere. Joy as we sang and danced. Hope as kids were taught sportsmanship and respect at camp. Brokenness as I walked through the neighbourhood where the kids live and saw people's empty stares, boarded up windows and a gun. Redemption as I see the kids dreaming for so much more than what they know. Faith as kids learn and ask questions about God. Love as the staff patiently discipline.
The joy that I saw and found in Wilmington isn't just an empty happiness. No way. It's a Jesus-joy. A joy that can only come from doing God's will. A joy that can only come from your desires being totally aligned with His.
Don't get me wrong. I saw a lot of brokenness. A lot of pain. The kids acted out, gave the leaders attitude.
But most of the time, while they were at camp, they taught me to find joy and see Jesus in the small, simple things.
I'm the kind of girl who wants the big, flashy lights from God. But I've been learning that he's in the still, small whispers. He's in the smile and dance after Ja-shy catches a game winning touchdown. He's in the beautiful curiousity of the "Who made God?" questions. He's in the shy smile I get while helping Denzel with homework. He's in Denzel's dream to be a basketball player when he grows up. He's there as we play basketball with a milk crate and a soccer ball. He's in Kafian's messed-up sense of humour as he mixes a burger, chocolate milk and apple sauce and eats it. He's in every high-five, smile, laugh, dance and song.
He's everywhere, if you look hard enough.
And I guess that brings me back to the end. When I bawled my eyes out 'cause I didn't wanna leave. I'll never be the same after last week. My relationship with my team strengthened, and my relationship with God strengthened. I went to make a difference in Wilmington, and I did, but Wilmington actually made a difference in me.
Thanks to everyone who supported and prayed for me while I was in Wilmington! Your prayers were definitely felt!
I miss UrbanPromise Wilmington already - for sure going back!! :)