by Tyler Detrick, Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA (September 2017)
Rain, evangelism, roller-coasters, prayer. These themes defined Calvary OPC’s youth group’s short-term mission trip to the Boardwalk Chapel this summer. My wife, Natalie, and I joined the caravan of high-schoolers heading down to Wildwood, New Jersey, because of our interest in Calvary’s youth group. We’ve been attending Calvary in Glenside, Pennsylvania, since we moved to the area for seminary about a year ago, and we felt that serving alongside the youth in Wildwood would be a great way to introduce ourselves to the group. In God’s providence, our trip to the Boardwalk Chapel taught us not only about the youth group, but also about the value of short-term mission trips.
The weather during our weekend at the boardwalk was not beach-friendly. Rain soaked the boardwalk from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon, “washing out” most of the time that visiting groups usually spend evangelizing to passers-by. But the rain outside also forced us to congregate inside the chapel, and there we enjoyed hours of fellowship through conversations, card-games, prayer, and evangelism training. Chris Byrd led several of these sessions, preparing us for boardwalk-style evangelism. We learned about the importance of commending the gospel to people in words that they can understand, and avoiding theological jargon. We learned how to ask questions that get to the heart of the gospel. These rainy hours cooped up inside the chapel were emotionally and theologically rich.
When the rain finally lifted, we scoured the boardwalk in groups, passing out tracts and engaging people we met with the evangelism tools we had learned that same day. This work was difficult. Approaching people and initiating conversations about Jesus was nerve-wracking for all of us, but I was so proud of the confidence in the gospel I saw displayed by the youth who pushed past their gut-reaction against evangelism in order to share their hope in Christ with others.
Later that evening, as we rode one of the roller coasters on the boardwalk, I realized that short-term mission opportunities are a lot like a roller coaster. They expose us in rapid-fire style to those fears, excitements, and moments of maturity and growth that a life of ministry involves. But they also inevitably end, leaving us disheveled, exhausted, and aware that we have learned something true that we must relearn over and over again throughout our lives. When Calvary OPC’s youth group left the Boardwalk Chapel, we returned to Glenside truly changed. God used our time on the boardwalk to teach us about our fears, build relationships, and excite us about the opportunities we have even in the mundane moments of our lives to tell people about our Savior.