I grew up in a very small town and was raised in a Baptist church. When I was 9 years old, I prayed a prayer, which I thought meant I would go to Heaven. I thought this was all there was to being a Christian. Growing up in a small southern Baptist church I thought all there was to Jesus was legalism (not drinking, smoking, doing drugs, cursing, etc.). This is the life I lived until everyone started to get their license in high school. Being at a small high school, most of my friends started drinking so I thought I had to as well to fit in. I started chasing things of this world, while thinking all I had to do was show up at church every Sunday morning.
Senior year of high school came around and I started to realize there was something more to life than the things of this world, but did not really know what this was. Jesus started moving in my heart, but I did not know it Jesus. I went to Clemson after high school and continued to live two lives (one in the things of this world, and the other at church and Clemson FCA). Spring Break of Freshman year came around and everyone was making plans. A lot of my friends were going on the FCA mission trip. Clemson FCA does a mission trip every Spring Break where they take around 400 college students to a city in the United States to serve with various ministries. It was after the deadline to sign up, but I decided to go on the FCA mission trip to St. Louis. There were still spots open so I was able to go. I did not know what God had in store for me on this trip.
The group that I was placed with served at a transitional home for people who are homeless, called the Hope House. In the backyard of the Hope House was the home of Eric and Aaron. They would watch us play with the kids from their backyard. One day I decided to go down and talk to them through the fence. This is when God started to break my heart. On Tuesday, March 17, 2009 after our session I went back to my hotel. I opened my Bible and started looking through scripture. At this time I started balling my eyes up and knew God was telling me to surrender everything and follow Him. Throughout this trip I realized I never truly understood what it mean to follow Jesus. It is so much more than legalism and “doing the right things.” Jesus wants a relationship with us. Sitting on the bed in my hotel I knew I wanted this relationship with Him! From this point forward, Jesus gave me a new heart that longed for Him and His truth!
The next day I decided to leave the Hope House compound and went to play with Eric and Aaron in their backyard. This is when God showed me missions was going to be a part of my life forever and I felt Him tell me to go on a foreign mission trip.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of visiting friends in St. Louis and we drove by the Hope House. I was able to reflect on God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. He had taken me to St. Louis Freshman year for me to realize there was more to Christianity than legalism. To follow Him meant that I was to live for Him, not live to not sin. Following Jesus is a true and whole surrender of all things, reading and living by His word, leaving all things for Him, having a community to hold you accountable, knowing that He gives us eternal life and that the same power that rose Him from the dead lives in us!