Being present. It seems simple. It seems easy. It seems to be one of those things that we always say we can do, yet our actions say otherwise. There’s always something to get done, someone different to check in with, somewhere else we want to be. This is the constant pace running through my mind, but the Lord is teaching me something different.

Whenever I am asked why I wanted to apply to be an S.D. Allen Missionary, my response is always the same: I wanted to be present where God has placed me. I have now lived in Tuscaloosa for 4 years while attending The University of Alabama. During that time, I’ve been motivated to make good grades, build my resume, meet new people, and grow in my personal relationship with Christ. These are good things, but I never thought of the significance of being in Tuscaloosa while doing them. I’ve spent so much time thinking about what’s next for me, and where I will go after graduation, but I missed the fact that God wants me here. He will take care of where I am going tomorrow, but, for today, I am here. I am in Tuscaloosa. I don’t need to ignore the opportunities I have here while dreaming about opportunities somewhere else. I am called to serve where I am, and until this summer, I didn’t understand how simple yet important that is.  

Each day, we have the opportunity to have an impact on the community around us. For us this summer, we do this through kids camp in low income communities. The cool part is that all we have to do is show up, and the lives of the kids are being impacted! We have a short Bible lesson every day, but there is no stress on having deep and theological conversations with the kids every time we see them. We don’t have to have a teaching point to every single thing we say to them. We have to just (guess what) be present. I love seeing how the Lord uses such simple gestures on our part to have eternal impacts. People can know the love of Christ by seeing the way we love them, and eventually, the deep conversations come. The kids ask “Why do you always come here?”, “Why do you care if I make it home safe?” “Do you love me?”, and the Lord is so faithful in leading us to and through these conversations. Jesus lived about 30 years before He started his ministry. You don’t have to be teaching and leading to be living like Jesus. That is part of it, yes, but there is time of just being present and investing in relationships where you are. So this summer, I am constantly being reminded by the Lord that living on mission daily is intentionally showing the love of Christ through my words and actions wherever I am.

-Emily Shaw