I had one goal at the age of seventeen—to play college football at a Division 1 school. I had a few colleges interested in me, but I wanted to hold out until my senior year before I committed anywhere. Every summer in high school was the same. I would bounce around from football camp to football camp trying to impress some college recruiters in the hopes of receiving a scholarship. There was only one week each summer that was outside of my football routine and that was when I went on mission trips to the Bahamas.
I had been going to church for years up to this point, but I was certainly not a Christian. I only went to youth group because they had free pizza and cute girls. I went to church for social reasons, not spiritual ones. I pretended to fit in by using church accepted lingo and acting like I knew what I was talking about. All the while, I lived a very different life outside of church that was not honoring to God at all. The Bahamas mission trip made me feel like I was on Bachelor in Paradise every year. I was on a tropical island with a bunch of my friends for a week and all I had to do was wash some cars to get there. That was how it was until the summer before my senior year.
There is a place in Nassau that has an AIDS colony called All Saints Camp. If you have the AIDS virus, then you are told to live there in these small shacks until you pass away, so the virus doesn’t spread to the general population. It is a sad place with a lot of sad people...except for Mrs. Moxie.
Mrs. Moxie was always full of joy and smiles when I met her the summer before my senior year. Her story was a little different than the other residents of All Saints. Mrs. Moxie had been in a car accident and had needed a blood transfusion as a result. However, the blood they gave her was contaminated with the virus. She received AIDS through medical malpractice. I think if anyone had a right to be angry at how unfair the world is, it is her. However, that wasn’t the case. She loved life and loved people. Mrs. Moxie would always be singing worship songs and loved when Americans came so they could read her Bible with their funny accents. She was a joy to be around.
On one of those visits, I remember being in a room with her and all my friends from my youth group when someone asked her, “How do you have so much joy in spite of all that you went through?” She answered “Philippians 4:13 says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Those words blew me away.
As a student-athlete, I had heard Philippians 4:13 misquoted and misapplied so many times. However, for the first time, I understood what it really meant. She was saying that her joy didn’t come from her circumstances, but her joy came from Jesus alone. No matter what happens or where she found herself, she could find contentment because Jesus was the source of her joy.
After seeing Mrs. Moxie’s joy, I knew that I wanted that kind of joy in my life. I wanted that kind of confidence in life. I desired to have a faith that could weather any storm. No matter the circumstances, I desired a faith that could trust Jesus as my source of joy and strength. Mrs. Moxie’s faith and example would help me weather through personal circumstances in my own life, as several years later, I was a freshman in college and I found myself in the circumstance of taking care of both of my parents.
As I listened to Mrs. Moxie speak that day, it felt like all those years of faking church caught up to me. All of the times I half listened to my youth pastor and small group leader collided and clicked into place from head knowledge to heart change. I put my trust in Christ alone for my salvation. I became a follower of Jesus that week because of the testimony of Mrs. Moxie and her joy in Christ.
Missions is all about changing people’s lives for the glory of God. Short-term mission trips are all about changing people’s lives for the glory of God. However, I think more often than not, it also changes the person who is going to serve. That summer, I thought I was going to the Bahamas to help a lady dying of AIDS, but God had me go to the Bahamas so a lady could help a young man dying because of his sin (me) and introduce me to the only Savior that could bring me true life.
I think every Christian has an obligation to participate in missions in some capacity. Either as the one that goes or the one that sends and supports. I believe God uses missions as a tool for our own discipleship, and in my case, for my salvation.
I love the quote from John Piper where he says, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” That is why we go... so people can turn their hearts and worship the one true God that can save. For me, I went and that mission’s trip was the tool God used to change me. It was when I fully began worshiping the only God that could and does save you and me. It is where I saw and experienced the source of joy, Jesus, for the first time.