BY JESSICA OLASON
Two years ago, one of my sorority sister’s asked me if I wanted to go to LA for a Spring Break mission trip. At first I was hesitant, but the pitch included an irresistible incentive – Disneyland. She told me we were going to Disneyland on the last day of the trip and I knew better than to say no. I had no Spring Break plans, and the sunny skies of California sounded refreshing, so I said “Yes!” Little did I know, God had a lot more planned for that “Yes!” than fulfilling a sorority girls dream at “The Most Magical Place On Earth.” God would use that “Yes!” to show me His love and His grace and to align my life with His purpose.
Before LA, I would often wonder about the purpose of human existence. For me, it was to go to school, get a good job, make some money, have a happy family and then die (preferably at a later age). I did what most people do. I tried to find satisfaction in all of the wrong places. It was exhausting. My search to fill the hole in my heart with temporary pleasures only led to more dissatisfaction and darkness. But God had a plan to embellish this darkness. The story that God had written for my life started before I was born, but it wasn’t until Spring Break that I truly began to notice Him.
While in LA, our mission was to serve the homeless community through an organization called the Union Rescue Mission (URM). We prepared and served meals to men, women, and children who had nothing - according to my standard, at least. It was only later, that I realized some of them had everything. Some of these men, women and children had the very thing my heart was longing for: Jesus.
Going into Spring Break, I didn’t know who Jesus was. I had heard about him during Christmas and Easter, but to me those holidays were more about a fat, suited man who gave me presents and a bunny with eggs full of chocolate and money. When I was finally introduced to Jesus, the trajectory of my life shifted. I had never heard the scandalous truth of the gospel before. This is the good news that my heart was longing to hear; the gospel is more than just a story, but is the way of salvation.
God created us to live in unity with him, but we disobeyed him, forming a gap between us and God. This gap is called sin. We tried to bridge the gap, but remained helpless. Knowing that we could never bridge the gap ourselves, God’s love intervened. There is nothing that we could have done to fill that gap between us and God. We couldn’t do more, work more, or try harder. Only God, through His perfect Son, could mend it. So he did.
He sent Jesus down; fully God and fully human. The God of the universe humbled Himself and came to us in the form of a baby. That baby grew to be a man and that man lived in perfect harmony with our Heavenly Father, without sin. Since Jesus lived a life without sin, He could take the place of imperfect people (you and me) when He died on the cross. On the cross, He willingly took on the wrath of God and the weight of sin for all of God’s people: past, present, and future. Sin could no longer enslave God’s people. Of course, death could not hold the Author of life. Jesus rose from the grave and defeated death!
I didn’t fully understand the weight of the gospel when it was first shown to me in the Bible. I realize now that God was intervening in my life right where I was at and showing me who He is. As the gospel was lived out by the people who surrounded me in LA, everything I had read in the Bible started to make sense. The gospel was alive in the people we were serving. These people, having little tangible possession to their name, had more joy than I had ever known. Their joy came from the truth and hope of Jesus.
While in LA, I decided that I didn’t want to live life my way anymore. I wanted the relationship with Jesus that was offered to me by the God who created me. I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus!
I went to LA for Disneyland. I came back from LA with Heaven. As it turns out, Heaven is much more magical than “The Most Magical Place On Earth”!
Since that “Yes!” to God, my life has changed from being all about me to being all about HIM. There is nothing else that can explain the transformation that I’ve seen in my life these last two years.
This spring break, I am leading that same trip to LA. If you told me two years ago that I would soon be leading the same mission trip I was on, I would have laughed at you. Absolutely not. There’s no way. Actually, there is a way. His name is Jesus. Our God has the power provide transformation. He loves us too much to leave us in our sin. He wants a relationship with us and He offers us a role in his plan to bring Heaven to Earth! My hope as I go back to LA is that God will show our team what it means to live a life for Him and not for ourselves. That we will believe that God can truly use us right where we are. That we don’t have to be good enough, or know enough to have a relationship with Him. That no one is “too far gone.” God meets us right where we are. I pray that we wouldn’t wait until we have our lives figured out. If we do, we’ll never start! If we keep our eyes on Him and our hands open with our “Yes!” on the table, God will do incredible things through us. Watch out LA... the “Yes!” team is coming!