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Taylor Hayes: Greater Than My Expectations

As the temperature cools off and college starts again, I reflect on my summer as a Summer Venturer with Impact! Mission Camps. The summer held a lot of God-filled moments, times that the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable and commonly in unforeseen moments. As a staff member for Impact! Mission Camps, I encountered students who were searching for God’s love and I was available to show His love to them.

I remember at the beginning of the summer I was nervous yet excited to see what God was going to do over the weeks to follow. Even before the first day of preparations for the weeks of camp, I had these expectations and goals that I had set for myself. I wanted to become more comfortable in my public speaking, learn to work as a team, read through all of Psalms, and make an impact on the student’s lives. All of these expectations were all preconceived from attending Impact for several years as a student and interacting with previous staff members.

Like with many times before, God had other plans for my summer. Though I thought I was going to be teaching all about God, the students taught me so much more. Sitting down with students who were alone at dinner or not being involved on the work sites opened my eyes to many teenagers’ hearts. A big lesson I learned was that most students coming to Impact are looking to love on others, but they were also searching for something. Some were wondering what classes they should be taking, others what college they should attend, but a lot were looking for someone that genuinely loved them for who they were.

I got to tell them God loved them unconditionally. But not only did He love them, He liked them. He liked their interests, their sense of humor, their laugh, and even their smile.

These moments when God’s love was shared with students who felt lonely and lost were amazing. A heaviness would be lifted off of them, knowing that God loved them so genuinely and continuously. Throughout the rest of the week, they would be more talkative and smiling every time I saw them. Their hearts were softening to Christ’s love.

Many students come to Impact every summer because they know they can be the hands and feet of God, but quite often it seems that God also grows them in new ways. The theme of “More Than Welcome” coming from Matthew 25:35-45 was a growing point for many students and even adults this summer. Many students had the realization that since God loved them, they could in turn love others in the same way, even people they had never met before.

At the end of each week, we observed communion, and it was an awe-filled moment every time. As the students gathered on stage with their friends, it was so easy to forget they had been strangers the week before. They hugged each other and cried with one another as the broke the bread and dipped it in the cup. It was amazing to see that God’s love could connect so many strangers together in only a week that they would seem like they had known each other for years.

This summer the goals and expectations that I had set seemed to be so small and basic when compared to what I actually encountered this summer. God opened my eyes and my heart to His love for every individual person at Impact. We are all looking to be welcomed into God’s love.

Peace and blessings,

Taylor Hayes

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” 

Matthew 25:35-36