"I came to serve, but what I got in return was so much more."
The trip to Hong Kong was unbelievable. To experience so much hope, joy, and fellowship in one place as we also tackled our struggles, guilt, and pain was such a blessing. I wouldn't be able to describe every detail of what we went through, but there are several moments that really stood out to me.
- The Servant
- The Dance
- The Testimony
- The Overwhelming Love
Being a servant is something I'm constantly working on as it doesn't come naturally to me. On these trips, there's usually someone who stands out as a servant leader, and for me this time around, it was Charles.
At first glance, he seems like an average young guy, but watching him during the trip, I saw one of the strongest servants hearts I had ever seen. He spent hours setting up and taking down equipment for the Facebook live service when I first got there. He then spent the next few days packing up all of the equipment for COS and the materials for camp. He ran tech stuff for the entire camp and then re-packed everything while others got to enjoy a nice bus ride home.
At no point did he complain or ask for praise. He just worked. I gave up the city hunt that I wanted to do with the kids to help him move stuff to and from camp, but my efforts paled in comparison to what he had done. Saddleback Hong Kong is really lucky to have him there serving, and I'm lucky to have spent time with him, finding another role model to aspire to.
I also learned more about identifying simple ways to meet people's needs. I recently read that one of the best uses of your life as a Christian is to spend it serving others in their greatest needs. At camp, we had a "silent disco" on the second evening. As we danced the night away, I saw a bunch of the teenage guys sitting down on the sidelines, sometimes joking around with each other, but otherwise looking bored. It was strange because a saw a reflection of my awkward self at that age.
I used to sit on the sidelines during dances in high school while the girls danced the night away with guys who were blessed with more coordination and enthusiasm than I was. I remember wishing I'd known how to dance, but I was too shy to learn how to do it, especially AT the dance. I'd always thought how it'd be nice if one of the girls would just drag me up, so I wouldn't have to do it myself and risk getting embarrassed.
So… I decided to recruit Rebecca's help and invited the guys up to dance. I tried to mix them in with the rest of the girls, but Ocean (Pastor Stephen's daughter) told me that they were too shy to get that involved. She also told me the guys were asking me to teach them some "cool dance moves." It wasn't exactly the best time to do it, but I gave them a crash course on how to "feel" the music and be creative with their grooving.
For a moment in time, I tried to be for those guys the type of person I wish I had around when I was growing up. Maybe next year if I get the chance to go back and serve again, I'll teach them a master class on hip hop fundamentals. It's amazing to see what people can do on their own with just a little training. I anticipate that they'd be able to run with it and find their confidence on the dance floor. That same confidence changed my life back in college and opened up a world of friendships and experiences that still play a significant part in my life today. With God's blessing, maybe it'll do the same for them as well.
With the Hong Kong SK Director (Grace) translating for me, I got to share my testimony with the kids at camp, which was truly a blessing. The topic I catered to was "Don't try to be who you're not." I discussed how I tried to define myself over the last decade by my career, living out the image of a cool doctor/dancer combo; by my addiction to videogames, wasting up to 16 hours a day trying to become the "best in the world"; and by who I dated, using and hurting girls along the way. Each of these crumbled underneath me at some point, and so followed my self-made identity. It wasn't until I placed my life in God's hands that I received the strength to weather all storms.
Afterwards, a lot of the kids told me how they were touched by my testimony, and some even shared details about their own lives. I got an amazing opportunity to encourage a few to take the next step and get baptized. However, one of the kids in particular shared with me his story about regret in a past relationship and wondered if the world would be better off without him. I asked if he ever had any plans to hurt himself at all, and he admitted that he sometimes wondered what would happen if he jumped out of his window.
Given that all of the buildings in Hong Kong are like 50 stories high, I told him he'd probably die. I also shared that most people who take a leap like that and live to tell about it say they instantly regret that decision on the way down. Oftentimes, it's not that they wanted to kill themselves. Rather, they were just crying for help and that's how it eventually manifested when desperation took over.
Realizing that it was an opportunity to speak a little more into his life, I told him about the regrets in my own life that once weighed down heavily on my shoulders. However, I don't let them drag me down anymore. I don't let them stop me from loving and from serving. I shared how God's grace and Jesus' sacrifice for me has allowed me to move forward in my life and experience joy and happiness in a way I've never had before.
I shared my personal thoughts on suicide with him as well. I never had any plans for it, but it did cross my mind as a teenager. God has placed us on this earth to fulfill His plan. Despite the hurts and challenges, we must have faith that his plans for us are good. I quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to him. Sometimes it takes a while for us to figure out what He wants us to do. It took me 31 years of screwing up things in a very big way before I came around. I told him that he's still young, so there's plenty of time. Have patience, and God will eventually show him what his life was meant for. In the meantime, I told him to realize that he has people around him who love him. Take the time to let that in and enjoy it because it's the best thing he'll ever experience.
I pray every day that God working through me may have saved his life and redirected him towards greatness in service one day.
The Overwhelming Love
After the rest of the team left, I had a sinking feeling for a bit because I didn't want to be a burden to the HK team. I was worn out and this was sort of a regression to my younger days when I didn't feel like I was worth saying "hi" or "bye" to, so I always slipped out in silence. I did this during dance practices and during meetings for clubs. I'm still not sure exactly why, but for some reason, I didn't feel like I was worth the time to acknowledge when I came or left.
So the same thing happened in Hong Kong. I was mentally and physically drained, so I figured I'd just hide in the background, not being a Debbie-downer, and let everyone do their thing. However, they acknowledged me and accommodated me in an incredible way. Chris asked Karen to translate the SYM message for me that day so I wouldn't feel left out. Gigi helped set up a cab ride home for me even though it was a convoluted route to pick up stuff left at the hotel. The SYM girls saw me sitting by myself and made me feel unbelievably welcome when they stopped, talked to me, and pulled me into their group pictures. The leaders brought me around and introduced me to their family and friends. It was the biggest outpouring of love I'd received in a long time.
I struggled with self-esteem as a kid, and these finals moments in Hong Kong were like God speaking to me and reaffirming my worth in Him. "You aren't alone. You have a family here with my people. Don't be scared to open yourself up and let the love in." So I did, and it overwhelmed me.