The summer’s over. Another awesome, temporary missions experience is just another smattering of crazy pictures on my Facebook timeline. It’s time to move on, to settle back into life as it was before. Back to job hunting and Arrested Development watching and park jogging and Twitter scrolling.
But that’s not what’s happening. Unlike previous mission trips and summers spent working camp, this one isn’t ending with the summer. It wasn’t a drive-by. It was just the beginning. Because I’m going back.
That’s right. After a few weeks in Kentucky, I’m heading back to Decatur, to the ATL, where the players play. But I won’t just be there for the playground. I get to continue being a part of Blueprint Church— serving as an intern with the communications team, taking classes through Imprint, and staying involved in the process as we work to plant a campus in Decatur. It’s going to be insane, busy, and exhausting, but I’m pretty sure it’s also going to be amazing.
But why am I returning? Granted, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me. I’m from a college town of about 30,000 people. I like driving country roads with the windows down and the music up, sipping an Ale8. I get distracted driving on my own road because the hills on either side are just so dang beautiful. I’m the girl who tears up at the Kentucky Farm Bureau commercial. Plus, I’m an introvert. I like space and privacy. I don’t like to feel trapped or surrounded or rushed.
So why am I returning to the most densely populated county in the Atlanta metro area? Why am I uprooting myself once again from the beautiful Bluegrass? There are a few reasons…
1. Believe it or not, I do like the city. While I love the hills and the trees and the open roads, I also like easy access to grocery stores and entertainment venues. I’ve always enjoyed visiting big cities, and somehow I keep finding myself ending up there. Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Atlanta. I enjoyed the time I spent as a resident of each of these cities. It suits me, at least for now.
Furthermore, all the evidence points to urban areas being the most effective places to live out and share the gospel. This summer I read Center Church by Tim Keller, and it opened my eyes even more to this fact. Keller writes, “Cities, quite literally, have more of the image of God per square inch than any other place on earth. How can we not be drawn to such masses of humanity if we care about the same things that God cares about?”
But, you might ask, why go to a city in the South? Aren’t there churches on every corner? Actually, Atlanta reminded me more of a Midwestern city than a Southern one. There are still barbecue joints and good ol’ boys, but the diversity grows each day. A majority of the people who live in Atlanta today aren’t from Atlanta. Especially in Decatur, the culture is a hodge-podge of different religions, beliefs, and worldviews. Darkness is heavy over the area, with sex trafficking, drugs, violence, and corruption all being very real parts of its cultural DNA. Atlanta needs Christ as much as any other city.
2. I’m restless and I need to be shaken out of complacency. You know those post-grad pains I’m always griping about? They’ve still got a grip on my throat. I long to be out there, doing something with my life. But it’s ridiculous and shameful how little motivation I have to do that when I’m at home, living in my old room from high school, doing the same things day after day. I’m more than ready to jump into something I can really pour my heart into, but I need a jump start to be able to do it.
3. I get to live out a dream. My internship at World Gospel Mission a few years ago solidified my desire to combine my love for writing with my passion for missions and ministry. Now, I get to do that again, for a full year, on a regular basis. I’m pumped.
4. I’ve found love and acceptance. Before the summer started, I figured I’d make some good friends on my Generation Send team. What I didn’t expect was making so many great, solid, Christian friends outside of that team.
The Blueprint Church family is amazing. From the moment we stepped out of the airport, there were people showing us love by giving us rides, having us over for meals and get-togethers, finding us extra furniture and kitchen appliances, and offering us their friendship with no reservations. Just as much as they hone in on solid worship and study of the Word, as a body they live out this faith, bold and honest and uncompartmentalized. It’s refreshing and energizing, but it also encourages feeling accepted into the family quickly. Just like any church, they have their problems and weaknesses, but man, do they love Jesus. And, man, does their love for Jesus make me feel like they love me.
(I certainly feel loved and accepted in my home church, too. But this was an amazing discovery and something so crucial to me in moving to a new place.)
5. I’m being stretched. It hurts, but I’m learning to be more flexible, more patient, and more able to see multiple perspectives. God is doing some major chiseling, shifting, and shaping of who I am right now, and a lot of that began this summer. I know he’s got more work to do, and that much of it is going to take place in Atlanta.
I’m also excited about all the ways I’ll be able to serve, give, and learn! But it would take 1,000 more words to be able to talk about my hopes for those in detail. Hopefully I’ll be able to share what’s happening in those regards as time goes on.
6. This is the path God’s laid in front of me. It’s not exactly where I thought I’d be five years ago. Or two. Or four months ago. But whenever God’s the one making the plans instead of me, life tends to end up having a lot more… OOMPH.