Where do I even begin? I feel like I am at a loss for words right now–which is ironic since I have written almost 17,000 words cataloguing our time together in New York. I guess I’ll say to you guys what I sent out to my supporters in my follow-up letter. They are two words that are underestimated, underappreciated, and overused: thank you.
Thank you for countless hours of laughs inside the van on the way up. Thank you for the playful banter back and forth as we were still trying to figure each other out. Thank you for the intentional questions that spurred so many conversations while on the road. Thank you for opening up and sharing what makes you tick.
Thank you for late night photo excursions in Washington D.C. Thank you for waiting for us as we were late coming back from the Capitol (I can still see Nick slow-raging in the drivers seat as we briskly strolled up fifteen minutes late). Thank you for patience.
Thank you for the night where we just listened to each other. Thank you for a safe circle to share our hopes, hearts, and dreams. Thank you for your inquisitive, probing and asking questions about what we wanted to do or where we felt like God was moving us. Thank you for the laughs at random things that broke the awkwardness. Thank you for the joy that radiated amidst our presence.
Thank you for never complaining about walking, riding the subway, or getting from one place to another with so many people. Thank you for the endless stories of subway adventures–even the Mariachi band and the Mafia’s tail. Thank you for loud dinners at places where we were “That Group.” Thank you for making Shake Shack a memorable experience for us all.
Thank you for showing me how God can use a group of Southern, college students to bring life, hope, and love to a culture vastly different than our own. Thank you for showing me what diligence in prayer looks like at a microlevel. Thank you for showing the world what a handful of college students can do when the intercede on behalf of an entire city. Thank you for going for it all when worshipping with Brooklyn Tabernacle. Thank you for chewing on the truths heard at Redeemer. Thank you for being obedient when the Lord spoke. Thank you for being attentive to His voice. Thank you for the encouraging comments we were able to exchange on our cards. Thank you for the moments to reflect on what God had done during the week that we shared at The Spot. Thank you for making the name of Jesus famous. Thank you for being Light in a dark place. Thank you for being bold in your divinely appointed encounters. Thank you for embodying the love, grace, hope, life, peace, kindness, and joy that can only come from walking with Christ. Thank you for pushing me, spurring me on to grow closer to God and closer to you. Thank you for your hearts and minds. Thank you for loving each other with the love of Christ. Thank you for accurately depicting the love of Christ in action. Thank you for being my family.
To Alan, Nick, and Brittney: Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for the many hours you spent calling, email, talking, and planning out the whole trip. Thank you for setting as much structure as was need but leaving room for the Spirit to work. Thank you for organizing lunches, subway cards, and meal purchases. Thank you for taking care of hostel rooms, van rentals, and event planning. Thank you for your transparency and willingness to trust us in such an unfamiliar place. Thank you for your courage, attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, love, grace, and awareness. Thank you for setting a godly example for all of us to follow. Thank you for always keeping up with us, making us laugh, and knowing what to say and when to say it.
To the Backseat: Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for squeezing me into a corner where I was forced to become best friends with the three of you. Thank you for late night Bananagrams. Thank you for always asking me questions. Thank you for picking my brain about different problems. Thank you for going to hear Rob Bell and the conversations that spawned as a result. Thank you for the laughs we shared, the inside jokes we hold, and the connection we all share as a result of being crammed together in a van for more than a day. Thank you, my new friends.
To my Small Group: Thank you for mandatory coffee runs to Starbucks. Thank you for helping us all take small steps and being supportive the entire way. Thank you for being obedient to God’s prompting when praying for people, talking to someone, or handing out Scripture. Thank you for the encouragement you provided me with every outreach. Thank you for an atmosphere of courage, love, and learning every day.
While I could never list out everything I am thankful for, nor could I thank each of you individually, I do want to leave you with something more than just a thank you. I want to leave you with a benediction, a challenge, something that stirs you in the deepest parts of your soul to never forget what God taught you over the week we were in New York together.
So, may the God who hears our prayers and answers our prayers always be accessible to you. May you remember that our God is not somewhere far away on a throne waiting for the day we are made perfect. No, our God is Immanuel. Our God is with you–here and now. Never separate the God who divinely appointed conversations in New York and the God who walks with you on campus every day. Allow God to break through the skyscrapers we have built around our hearts like a city and follow our broken, beaten path home. Never forget that the same God who sent you out as Light in the Darkness there, sends you out every day as a Light in the Darkness here. Expect resistance, because the Darkness does not understand the Light that has been placed inside of you. But, do not be discouraged, for the Lord, your God is with you. You are not alone. There is a band of brothers and sisters who stand behind you, ready to come to your aid at any moment. Whether you stumble or you fall, there is a God who reaches down to pull you back up; there is a family that will always be ready to stand with you. May you remember that no matter what you have done, He is running wildly with His arms open wide desperately wanting to embrace you as soon as you turn and begin to run back to Him, and we are running with Him. Never forget the friendships you made, the lessons you learned, and the encounters you had. You knew from the beginning that New York would not be a traditional mission trip. You knew that there would be no house to point to or people to hold up. But, that is the beauty of it! You took New York back with you. You did not have to leave what you accomplished there, because the biggest changes happened in your heart! That is infinitely better than any house, shelter, or orphanage. New York not only allowed you to mobilize and internalize everything that God revealed to you but it gave you the opportunity to take something back with you that was tangible and applicable to life here. You learned about how God answers prayer in New York; God still answers prayer in Athens. You learned how with every step you take, you bring Light into the Darkness and the atmosphere of places change because of it; Light needs to invade Athens. New York is not some conceptual past experience in which we can reminisce about our accomplishments. My family! New York was only the beginning of God working in fresh and new ways in your life! Do not forget that! Just because you are not in New York does not mean He does not want to keep teaching you these lessons over, and over, and over again. New York was only the launching pad for God to start a greater work He wants to continue in this city! So may the God who wants to complete you; may the God who is relentlessly pursuing your heart; may the God who orchestrates divine appointments; may the God who is breaking through the Darkness with His Light day after day; may the God who hears the prayers that you do not know how to pray; may the God who is faithful in every circumstance guide and direct you as you walk by faith in a season defined by Prayer and Light.
Grace and Peace to you, my brothers and my sisters–My Famiglia.
Garrison (The Professor)