It was the final FUAGNEM of our Panama trip. For those of you who haven’t been on a Never the Same missions event with Susie Shellenberger, that’s short for "fired up and going nuts every minute," correctly pronounced foo-ayg-num. After long days packed full of ministry, each night’s FUAGNEM gathering is a chance for hundreds of teen missionaries to testify, worship, recharge, and sit under dynamic teachers.
Susie Shellenberger was speaking, and I was sitting in the back when one of the students on my team quietly meandered over and claimed the chair next to mine.
His name was David.
I couldn’t really tell where David was at with the Lord. Sure, he came on a missions trip and all. But the more we talked, the more I realized he was still in that "figuring-stuff-out" phase of faith.
He had grown up in Jersey with a past I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. As we sat in the back, not really making eye contact, he unexpectedly spilled his wounded heart.
"Man, church people are weird. You know? They just talk different. It’s like … really weird," he whispered.
I laughed, "Yeah, I know what you mean. I guess most of them have grown up around that kind of talk so they don’t think twice about it."
"I just don’t know if I believe it. I mean, I believe that there’s a God, you know. ‘Cause all this stuff couldn’t just appear."
I nodded in agreement, "Well … if you believe there’s a God, what do you think He’s like?"
He took a few seconds to think about it, "I don’t know. But like, have you ever thought about other religions and stuff? How do you know your religion is the right one?"
Now I took a few seconds to think about it, "Well … I’ve studied a lot of religions. And I guess the biggest difference I’ve found is that is that every other religion asks you to be good enough. Christianity is the only faith where I don’t have to work to be good enough. Jesus did all the work for me."
We talked some more. I shared some of the personal things God had done in my life and asked if he had ever seen God work in his life.
"Oh yeah. I know God has His hand on me. I mean, I grew up rough. I don’t think you understand some of the things I’ve gone through. Like, I’ve watched my friends get shot. I’ve had stuff happen to me you wouldn’t even believe. There’s no way I should be alive."
My heart twisted, "I think God has His hand on you, too, David."
We both sat quietly for a while.
"Have you learned anything on this trip?" I inquired curiously.
"Actually, yeah. I’ve learned that there are people you can trust."
I smiled, "That’s a big thing."
He smiled back, "Yeah."
A few minutes later he got up and went back to sitting with his friends, and I couldn’t stop thinking about his name. David. A man after God’s own heart. I happen to believe there’s a lot of significance in a name. And I happen to believe that God’s not done chasing David down yet.
At the beginning of the trip, Dannah Gresh talked about how God had a divine appointment for each of us on the trip. Someone He wanted us to meet and talk to. Someone we should be watching for.
Turns out you don’t have to go romping through the jungles to find the person God wants you to reach. You don’t even have to cross the street, really. Sometimes they’re part of your youth group or your Bible study. And sometimes they go on a missions trip with you.
You just have to be watching.