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FIRST-PERSON: Urban outreach reminds student God still moves in mighty ways

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MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–Fifty University of Mobile students heard God calling and responded as Isaiah did: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am. Send me!'” (Isaiah 6:8).

I was among the group who committed to take part in Urban Plunge, a 48-hour mission trip to major U.S. cities sponsored by UM’s office of campus ministries. On Nov. 3 we students boarded four different vans and, equipped with the love of Christ, traveled to Birmingham, Ala.; Jackson, Miss.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Jacksonville, Fla. Our itineraries included street ministry, feeding the homeless and community improvement. Most of all, we desired to see people commit their lives to Christ.

I accepted the call to take part in the Jacksonville Urban Plunge, but even as I boarded the van packed with 12 passengers and their luggage, there was reluctance in my heart. Did I really want to spend the weekend with 11 people, nine of whom I had only met the Wednesday before, seven hours away in a city where I had never been, ministering to homeless men? Would God call me to step that far out of my comfort zone?

Yes, he would and he did!

Before we even crossed the Florida line, the dozen people who normally wouldn’t be together were laughing and talking with one another as if they were family.

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These 11 other people who were my teammates for the weekend were fast becoming my friends. Our seven-hour trip was an opportunity to become better acquainted with one another.

We arrived in Jacksonville about 9:30 p.m. After a brief tour of the church we would call home for the weekend, we met as a group for a time of worship and prayer. Then we settled in for a night’s rest. As I laid my head on my pillow and closed my eyes, my prayer was: “Lord I accepted your call and I am here. What now?”

My alarm clock went off promptly at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3. After a quick shower and devotion, 12 sleepy Urban Plungers headed downstairs with hopes that breakfast would be waiting for us. To our dismay, there was nothing to eat. Immediately faces dropped. It was 7:20 a.m. and we were scheduled to be at our work site in 10 minutes, so our only option was to board the van and worry about a meal later. When we arrived at HabiJax (Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville) our contact person was there and she volunteered to provide breakfast for us.

This was just the first of many occurrences that clearly showed us that God was in complete control of the weekend, and he does provide for us daily even things as small as breakfast.

Soon, our site supervisor put us to work. From 9 to 11 a.m. we laid sod for newly constructed homes. Then we were off to our next assignment.

We arrived at the city rescue mission not completely sure what we were to be doing there. As soon as we walked through the door we were put to work. We had quick instruction on the proper way to prepare the trays of lunch for the men who would soon be arriving.

That afternoon we served 50 to 60 homeless men a hot meal, possibly the only one they would see that day. We stayed and talked with the men as they ate. Never before in my life had I heard such heartbreaking stories. Most men talked of families they had not seen in years. I heard regret in their voices as they told of mistakes they had made.

After lunch we headed back to work with Habitat for Humanity. We were assigned to work in the warehouse for the afternoon, building framework for houses. We had the opportunity to work with Habitat homeowners. The excitement and joy they had was incredible. About 4 p.m. our job was complete and we headed back to the church to clean up for the night’s activities.

Once showered, we once again headed downstairs for a meal and, once again, it was not to be found. With emergency money we purchased food, which left us without enough funds to provide lunch for our trip home. We had faith God would provide.

Our activity for the night was to attend the Billy Graham crusade. When we arrived at the stadium, as far as we could see, there were people. Thousands gathered in the same arena, each with a different expectation.

As I sat in my seat surrounded by my teammates, I wondered what God was going to do through this event. Various Christian artists performed and then the moment I had been waiting for — Billy Graham stepped up to the podium. For the next 20 minutes, Dr. Graham shared the gospel with 80,000 people. His message was simple: Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, admit that you are a sinner, acknowledge that only the love of God can free you of this sin, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and allow him to be Lord of your life or you will be eternally separated from him.

Dr. Graham prayed and invited those who have not committed their lives to Christ to do so. To my amazement, thousands of people went forward. For 30 minutes, people flooded the stadium floor.

God’s hand had truly reached down and tugged on the hearts of thousands and they responded. God’s kingdom had expanded before my very eyes!

At that point of the trip, I realized why I was called to be there. I had forgotten that my God still moves in mighty ways. He does things as small as provide breakfast for 15 hungry students and as big as beckon thousands of lost souls to enter his kingdom. As I lay down to sleep that night there was a new joy in my heart! I was truly serving a mighty King!

Sunday morning we arrived at an inner-city church. Some of our students led in worship. We were welcomed with loving arms and bright smiles.

At the end of the service an envelope was placed in the hands of our director. Inside contained an amount sufficient to provide lunch. God had again provided!

We loaded the van and headed home with the satisfaction that we had fulfilled God’s plan for that weekend.

As we neared Mobile, we began a time of reflection. Each person told in amazement of how God moves, and the gratitude of all God provides.

With the van parked back on familiar ground, a student began to pray, “Lord, thank you for blessing us this weekend. You provided way more than we deserved and we are grateful for that. Lord, help us to remember that our trip was not great because of the work we did or the events we took part in but because we experienced you move and saw your kingdom expanded.”
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Raus is a sophomore majoring in communication at the University of Mobile and a public relations writer in the office of public relations. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: URBAN PLUNGE.