Erica Fernandez, a youth delegate from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to the Starpoint Youth Festival, shares a reflection on her time in Hungary.
The Starpoint Festival was an astounding end to my summer and beginning to my senior year at the University of Northern Iowa. As I made my way to Budapest, Hungary I was absolutely scared out of my mind for what the next ten days would call for. I had never been out of the country before, nor had I met many people from different countries. Being from small town Iowa has many advantages, but being exposed to diversity is not necessarily one of them. As luck would have it I was wide awake for the entire plane ride so I spent my time thinking about what this mission trip would entail, what the people would be like, what we would be doing. I also spent a lot of this ride talking to God about the various anxieties building up in my heart as we inched closer to a new and exciting adventure.
When I got off the plane I was greeted by the sweetest face, Balázs, giddy for the week's adventure. Being the first person to arrive to the dorms I was lucky to snag a couple hours of sleep, only to wake up to a room full of excited, nervous, kind, and joyful people. Not only did we all come to a country we had never been to before but many of us came not knowing another soul. Being in a state of vulnerability like we had never experienced before. We had people from Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Syria, Scotland, Canada, Russia, the United States, and of course Hungary.
An important piece of information about the Starpoint trip was that we gathered together from different seasons of life. Some of us worked full time, some of us had just graduated from high school, some of us were entering into the military, some of us were in the midst of getting a degree from a University, some of us were married, some of us were pretty passionate about our relationship with God, and some of us were just figuring out what this whole relationship thing means. The coolest part about this entire trip was that even though we all came from different parts of the world, different seasons of life, different cultures, different values, we WERE able to connect and love one another by the end of our short ten days.
If there is one thing that I am certain of, after this trip, it is that this world is filled with God's people. Some people who love to worship, some people who don't. Some people who are on pursuit of Jesus, and some people who aren't. Some people who enjoy talking about social justice and equality, and some people who can't even comprehend it. Some people who know God, and some people who don't. The lists go on, and on. But the truth that I found through this trip is that God chooses each and every one of us, for who He made us to be. The truth that we were made to LOVE our neighbor, not place blame or segregate because we're different. But to encourage one another and support what makes this world so diverse and unique. To celebrate what makes each and every person, of whatever country, a beautiful part of God's masterpiece.
After a summer of working in outreach ministry and making relationships with people from all over the world I now have a better understanding of what my calling is. To forget about all of the extra political, social, economical, (the list goes on and on) problems of this world, to let God be God, and to focus on the truth that I am simply called to LOVE God and LOVE God's people. The Startpoint Festival's theme was Reformation, and specifically how we change our hearts for the better. One of our daily devotions was focused on where we individually fall short from meeting Jesus at the cross but then recognizing that when we surrender our weight of sin to Jesus we are set free.
Isaiah 64:8 says, "Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are the work of your hand." And that's just it. We're all a work in progress. The key is knowing that progress means while we're all immensely broken and unworthy of God's love and guidance, He chooses us over and over again anyways. That this world is broken and we're stuck in the pit, but at the same time Heaven IS here. Heaven is now. Heaven is in conversations about how our food is completely different from someone across the ocean. Or over a conversation about how we can better take care of the homeless by listening to how other countries help differently. It's over conversations about how age, marriage, children, universities, activities, all look different. It's in the celebration of God's creation. It's in the celebration of being the work of our potter.
Written by Erica Fernandez
Photo by reformatus.hu