God Is Sufficient

I had the awesome opportunity to share this weekend at SHEC about my recent trip to my hometown of Roundup, MT.  As it turns out, writing a 5 minute talk can be almost as hard as writing a full message, so below is kind of the Special Edition Extended Cut (just call me George Lucas)...

"So for those of you who don't know me, my name is Jesse Potter, and I was born and raised in Roundup, MT before I moved to Missoula and became a Christian at the age of 21.  I was honored and blessed to help lead a group of 13 teenagers from SHEC to my hometown of Roundup this summer.

Why a Rural Mission?
Most of you probably heard that we were going to go to Roundup and thought "Why would we want to send our kids out to West Dakota (Eastern Montana)?" But the truth is that God doesn't just call us to strange, faraway lands. He calls us to reach out to our neighbors.

Most missions trips look like this, we’d spend a year getting a bunch of kids to raise a ton of money so that they can spend two weeks in Africa or South America or something. We'd teach them a new language, get them all up to date on their shots, and prepare them for life in another world. Now, God says that is very important as well, which is why we sent a group to Guatemala, but it’s not our only calling. We need to reach out to the people (our neighbors) who it would be so easy to ignore. 

Roundup, on the other hand, is only a couple hours away, but is not so very different than Missoula. It is very small, the population of Roundup is 1800 registered voters, but only about 500 of them live within the city limits. So there are a lot of ranchers, farmers, etc. Roundup is economically and spiritually depressed, the average yearly income for a person in Roundup is only $18,400 per year, as opposed to the average for Montana which is $42,600 per year.  There are high rates of depression, divorce, suicide, alcoholism, and drug use. Suffice it to say, Roundup needs Jesus.

For these kids who went, the only difference between them and the kids we were talking to is that they live in different towns. They have the same thoughts, feelings, and preferences. They watch the same movies, listen to the same music, and have the same fears about life. It took a lot more for the kids from SHEC to open up and share the gospel, because the people we were talking to were just like us.

So we didn’t want to just show up in a foreign land and start carpet-bombing them with the gospel and then leave, knowing that we’ll never see them again. We probably would see them again, in fact, some of the team ran into a girl from Roundup at the swimming pool here in Missoula, just two weeks ago. So we had the opportunity to establish a real, long-term relationship, and every single one of those kids wants to go back.

So because of God's awesome knowledge and providence, He led SHEC towards a rural setting for this mission's trip. They chose Roundup, not knowing at all the devastation that would come months later, but right in God's timing.

On a Personal Level...
A lot of people have asked, “What was it like going back?” And it's strange, because I was actually very emotionally impacted by what happened in Roundup. I woke up one morning to see the pictures on Facebook of all of the places I knew as a kid, completely swallowed up by water. Most of the news pictures were taken from my backyard (because we lived up on a hill, so our old house was fine, in case you were worried). I immediately felt like I needed to do something, to rush out and make a difference. But then God blew me away, because I realized that He's already got everything in motion. 

Honestly, after this trip I have more respect for my hometown than I ever did before. Growing up, I blamed a lot of my unhappiness on external things, like the fact that I was raised Mormon, or the fact that I lived in podunk Roundup, MT. The truth is though, I was the problem in my life. I lived in Roundup as a messed up sinner who needed Jesus. It had nothing to do with how I was raised or where I lived. On this trip, God really broke my heart for the town of Roundup and the people there who do love Jesus and serve Him faithfully. I met people who love Jesus and love the city they are in and want to serve faithfully there. If I had been around these people when I was there, my life would have been a completely different story. I was often moved to tears by what I saw and the conversations I got to have with old friends and many more new ones.

God's Hand in Everything...
Your first reaction when you hear about this on the news and see the pictures is that you want to do something.  You get a little bit of a hero complex and we saw this in the kids. When we first arrived, they wanted to go out and like build a dam, get a giant vacuum and suck all of the water out of the entire valley, rescue babies from homes that are floating away, that kind of thing.

So I loved that instead of jumping right into action with our mud-boots on, we spent the first two days just getting to know the people. We held community barbecues to feed the town and those who had lost everything. We worked in the local teen center to provide lunch for kids and hang out with them all day. We got to sort clothes for the homeless and build a community garden so that the church there could feed people all year round.

And we did work too, those kids worked like crazy. We pulled mud out of basements bucket by bucket, we ripped out carpet, sheet rock, and garbage, we completely cleared out the local restaurant so that they could begin the process of rebuilding. I was amazed and so proud of the teens as they stepped completely outside of themselves and worked with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts.

But the truth is, that we were really just along for the ride that God had for us.  I really feel that in so many ways, this trip was perfect. Now that’s not to say that we were perfect, that we planned or did everything perfectly, or even that we shared the gospel perfectly. But for a trip that was so drenched in God’s spirit, influenced by His will, and clearly orchestrated by God, there’s no way it can not be perfect.  From the early planning that put this trip into motion even before the flood, to the conversations that were had, to the seemingly random people we met that ended up being huge ministry opportunities.  God was in control of every single aspect of this trip and it’s only because of His grace that we were even able to be a part of it.

I was struck while there by the verse in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, where it says:
"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant."

You see, God is sufficient for everything, God has every thing from the rains, and the floods, to the hearts of the people under His perfect control.  He is good and all knowing, to provide the best for his people, no matter what trials come their way. So we didn't need to bring anything else, not food, not money, not clothes or blankets, those things are all great, but the only thing we need to bring is Jesus. He takes care of the rest.

God is sufficient for Roundup, MT, God is sufficient for SHEC, God is sufficient for these kids, who have no other reason to spend the first week of their summer vacation in a tiny burg in the middle of the plains. The only thing that can motivate that in teenagers especially is a total heart change by God, and it is only by His divine grace and wisdom that we can live the life that He has set forth for us."


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