The following was shared as a Testimony on Sunday, December 4th during Worship Service at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, CA.
Greetings, everyone! My name is Jon Mendez, and I am embarking on a 1 year mission trip to Over-The-Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio starting December 27th (At the time when I shared this testimony, it was only 3 weeks away… and now, it’s only hours away! Oh my… Where does all the time go!?)
To start off this blog, I would like to share with you all my full conviction to take the 1-year internship (a brief summary can also be found in the *ABOUT* section), as well as some of the ways that God has been preparing my heart this past fall season for the mission trip.
My first calling came about during my short-term mission trip to OTR in July 2016. There, I had the opportunity to serve alongside missionaries from all around the nation at the July School of Evangelism and Kids Camp for 2.5 weeks. Toward the end of the trip, I heard about the church’s current need for male interns to serve as mentors for the brothers & teenage boys in OTR. At that moment, I felt God pressing in my heart to consider returning as a year-long intern. After all, the opportunity was wide open with taking a gap year after graduating from UCSD this past Spring. Even Pastor Johann from the Living Water Church in OTR requested for me specifically to intern at OTR as soon as possible! However, I initially faced hesitation due to a set plan to start applications for graduate school this winter, in addition to a commitment by contract to continue part-time work until June 2016
About 3 months ago, everything changed. As many of you know, I experienced a first (and hopefully, the last) onset of a grand mal seizure while shopping at Trader Joe’s with friends one day. One moment, I was looking at cookie butter ice cream in the Frozen Goods aisle (or rather, lack thereof ice cream…), and the next thing I know, I wake up in an ambulance with an IV needle stuck in my hand… (and FYI, I hate needles)
Strangely enough, as I stayed on the hospital gurney in the ER for hours; as I waited in the Neurologist’s office for consequent follow-ups, I never seemed to feel a single sense of stress or worry. The entire time, I was met with endless love and support from friends and family – and honestly, what incredible timing that the entire incident happened in the company of some of my closest friends…
It could have happened when I was alone, or when I was driving, but the timing honestly could not have been better. I had no reason to doubt that he would provide yet again in these circumstances – All of the test results returned normal, and God was able to abundantly provide financially over all of the medical expenses and the loss of my job.
To this day, there is still no physical explanation for why my seizure occurred. Although the doctors determined my health to be completely normal, the clearance didn’t change the suspension of my driver’s license for 6 months, or the loss of my tutoring position. However, the amazing sense of peace that the Holy Spirit gave me during this entire situation steadily grew into the conviction in my heart that surely, God was paving the way for an even greater opportunity. Sure, I still faced hesitation: How would I be able to get all of the logistics figured out within 3 months? What about my role as a small group leader here at Kairos? This was obviously never meant to be an easy decision, but all I could really do was accept the calling and continue to trust in God’s provision above all else. God was able to take care of me during all the chaos of my seizure – Who’s to say He couldn’t take care of me in the preparation process?
In the process of preparing for the internship, a lot of mixed emotions have been coming my way. To sum it up, I feel extremely excited to go, and yet… I can’t help but also feel sad about leaving. There’s the inevitable temptation of “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out)… After all, a lot can happen and change in one year! When I graduated, I really wanted to stay in San Diego to continue serving in the College Ministry at Kairos. I was extremely encouraged to witness and help out with the growth of so many students last year, and I felt like I wanted to stick around to continue facilitating that growth.
When I lost my ability to drive, I was honestly feeling pretty bitter. Although giving rides and taking people places certainly weren’t the only ways to minister to people, having my license suspended definitely made it more difficult. As the quarter commenced, I felt God softening my heart – more students brought down cars and now there’s essentially a plethora of rides available for students. Essentially, my driving was no longer needed.
*WELP* That didn’t really help my bitterness… but if you think about it, the same job was accomplished by different means. So why was I still feeling so bitter?
In this, I realized that I was subconsciously centering ministry on me, rather than on God. From that moment, I felt God pushing me to start looking at the bigger picture at play. I came to the tough realization that none of this is about me. It never was, and quite frankly, it actually never will be.
And as I ponder in moments like now, I take a step back and… I see a beautiful church that has grown tremendously in the two years that I’ve been here, and just passing the 10 year milestone, will continue to do so. Of course it would be awesome to see it all happen and be a part of everything in 2017; of course I’m going to miss everyone… But shifting my focus toward God’s kingdom has actually helped bring a sense of liberty in my heart. Rather than dealing with the burdens of wanting to please others or striving to make a name for myself, I feel immense joy in knowing that God wasn’t just providing for me – He was providing for the entire body of Christ this whole time.
These experiences (along with many others) have ultimately helped me develop a kingdom-minded perspective. In a few moments, I am about to walk straight into a very tough spiritual battlefield in OTR. The devil will undoubtedly use temptations, insecurities, and many other lies to discourage me and highlight my brokenness.
But that’s the beautiful thing – God could have easily done all the work in OTR Himself, or at least sent anyone else far more capable and experienced as a missionary. But instead… He willingly chose me – a broken and flawed person like me – in his perfect plan… to partake in the inner city ministry of OTR – More specifically, His kingdom.
At the end of the day, the gospel really isn’t about me or what I can do – my life is but a small chapter of the glorious story that is God’s Kingdom… I can only pray and hope that all the experiences, struggles, and joys of my upcoming journey will ultimately glorify God.
With that being said, I would like to finish with a verse that has always resonated in my heart throughout my walk as a Christian, but now speaks immense volumes as I take the next step into a new chapter…
2 Corinthians 12: 9 – “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” (NIV)