Encounter Sri Lanka 2007 will be marked as an incredible milestone in my Christian walk. I knew this trip was going to be different right from the start. Unlike the Sri Lanka trip I had taken the summer before, Encounter Sri Lanka 2007 was wrought with obstacles, difficulties and sometimes indecision. For starters I found myself severely cash strapped, struggling to recover from my trip expenditures the year before. I weighed the decision whether to go, and decided if God wanted me to be a part of the team carrying out the job before us, he would make a way.
And make a way he did. I miraculously received a $500 cheque return from the purchase of my home 2 years ago the week of the required $500 deposit for the trip. One month before stepping on the plane Onika Brown (another member of the team from Wesley Chapel) and myself set out to plan and deliver a fundraising dinner and auction, all while getting ready to end the school year as professional teachers. Family and friends rallied to help us and at the end of the night we had raised the targeted $2000 and served a fine meal of food that came mostly from the generosity of saints. It was beginning to be clear that God wanted me on the Encounter Sri Lanka team.
The days leading up to the actual departure were fun-filled though not necessarily stress free. We would spend many hours into the night planning and re-planning the many activities and lessons that would make up the children’s camp that the Sri Lankan pastors had requested — as well as the first ever teacher training sessions. I was tired and looking forward to the long flight so I could catch up on my sleep. But God had something else in store.
During the two day cultural sensitivity training at the national ministry centre of the FMCiC I felt God calling me to go deeper; things I had seen and heard before were taking on new shape and meaning. I started seeing and learning things about myself and life that were incredible. God had me reading scripture late at night or writing thoughts in what seemed like never-ending streams, frequently throughout those two preparatory days. This pattern continued during the trip, with periods of self-exploration being triggered by almost anything, from our daily devotions, to the unsuspecting words of a fellow team member.
In the end it became clear that God’s will would be done, whether I wanted to be a willing part of the process or not. We are called to be his instruments but if we are stubborn and refuse he will find another way to achieve HIS goal and we are the ones that will be left without the blessing of the experience. That realization made me think about my life at home. How business had often times kept me from truly enjoying a close relationship with God. How often I had taken matters into my own hands and tried to get things “fixed” instead of seeking HIM first and ended up with more stress on my plate. It is funny, I left my home to meet and share with my Sri Lankan friends this summer, and little did I know how much personal receiving I would be doing along with the planned sessions of teaching.
The school year has started, and though I had a week’s break to get over my jet lag it seems like I stepped right off the plane and into my first parent-teacher interview. But God reminded me through the wisdom of scripture and friends – it’s not about me. I need to seek him first and get ready for the wonderful year of discovery that is ahead.
Sheryl Murray attends Wesley Chapel in Toronto, one of the partner churches for FM ministry in Sri Lanka. Sheryl is a teacher at Crescent School and has served on the Official Board of Wesley Chapel. These are her reflections on her recent ministry trip to Sri Lanka with our Encounter team.