The pit in my stomach dug itself deeper when the doors opened; they quietly piled in as murmurs tried to keep up with the volume of the worship music in the background, reminding us all that God is still in control. I stood for a minute, wobbling left and right as if to make myself look busy. That didn't last as long as I’d hoped it would and my curiosity got the best of me. I felt the fear bubbling inside begin to intrigue me. I felt my feet come unglued and I did what was right in front of me, taking off on my most amazing adventure yet: Jerusalem.
I introduced myself through subtle eye contact and shy smiles as I made my way to the open chair across the room. “Can I sit here?” Frank, who I at first mistook for Santa Clause, gently nodded. My intrigue, still feeling bold, began asking questions. It could have been Frank’s 74 years that continued to forget my name, but it seemed it was genuine politeness that inspired each “ma’am” weaved throughout his answers. Frank and I quickly became friends and the conversation became easier as we discovered it was both of our first mornings at The Breakfast Club. Frank shared some stories, and through tears, he opened up about his past. He told me that he had just been released from 30 years in a Texas prison and how his wife and kids had passed away while he was inside. With no family to return home to, Frank was homeless. He met a bus driver that had pointed him in the direction of Fort Myers, Florida where he found himself three weeks later–sitting there next to me. Pancakes, eggs, and sausages were passed around the room as the Word was shared over coffee in styrofoam cups.
That’s when my calling of missions shifted from happening before me to happening through me.
Frank and I are good friends now; he catches my eye on Thursday mornings and adds his weekly, “Good morning, Ma’am!” Since meeting him, I’ve witnessed Frank’s profession of faith, and even got to be a part of throwing his first birthday party at 75 years old. Regardless of obvious trials, Frank finds his joy in the Lord and credits God to being his refuge and salvation. He is passionate about helping children with difficult backgrounds and is expectant that the Lord will use him. When you sign up for missions, there’s always someone new to meet, and never without a purpose.
Since that morning when I first met Frank, life in Southwest Florida kept moving forward at a fast pace. I walked into the office to see Nick sitting there. I knew I'd seen him somewhere before. His bleached hair and one of a kind tattoos reminded me of someone I knew I had seen before. It took me a few minutes, but then I realized I recognized him from an episode of the To The ENDS film series. He seemed like a cool guy in the video; I hoped I would get the chance to meet him in person when I moved to Fort Myers. Being the newest staff to join the team, I took the liberty to introduce myself and he subconsciously confirmed that he was even cooler in person than he was in video. He shared with me that he grew up in the area but has only been coming to Ride Nature for the past three years, how he recently had given his life to the Lord, and to my excitement, that he would be starting an internship with the organization that following week!
I’ve gotten to know Nick better in and outside of the office and hear his testimony. Growing up without Godly influences, he pursued the only things he knew–but they weren't enough. Once he started hanging around Ride Nature, everything about it stuck out to him–even the Christian community. He wanted in, but he wasn’t convinced he wanted God. Through the combination of time, consistent conversations that pointed him toward the Lord, and the continual failings of his pursuits, he slowly began to give God power over his life. Ride Nature has become a home for Nick; quite literally. After interning with our team for three months now, it is clear that Nick is a walking testimony of Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When Jesus shared these final words with His disciples they were in Jerusalem, signifying the urgency to be witnesses of Christ everywhere we go, starting first with those right around us. For Ride Nature, Southwest Florida is our Jerusalem.
My Jerusalem is a beautiful place. It’s sun shines through palms and onto faces even brighter. After four months of working at Ride Nature, my knees don’t buckle when I unlock the doors and invite the homeless community inside for breakfast; my prayers are said out loud; my faith proves itself to me through its action. Regardless of the cheap airfare, Jerusalem isn’t free; it requires sacrifice of all kinds. It’s easy to watch others travel the world, jumping from location to location without a final destination in sight to ever hold them back. The 21st century calls us “influencers”–you know, the lucky ones who get paid to head up humanitarian projects and tell you where you should vacation next; but Jesus designates us as missionaries. The truth is: if you’ve put your faith in Christ, you’re one of us. You’ve been to Jerusalem. What did you think? Who did you meet? What did you do there? You are called to be a missionary, and regardless of modern labels, you are influential. You are currently encamped in Jerusalem’s walls–locals, guards, and authorities pass by daily.
Don’t reject pursuing Jesus, and don’t miss your flight to Jerusalem–it's closer than you think. In fact, you’re already there.