Post By Shelby Moreland
As I was driving my typical route this morning, the Lord brought to my attention the beautiful trees. If you have ever had the opportunity to see the seasons change then you have seen how the colors of the trees change from a beautiful soft pink and white to vibrant red, orange, and yellow. The change of the colors signifies just that - a change in the season. Summer fades and fall erupts with colors.
Oh, the joy that I have because my Heavenly Father has allowed me to change colors over this past year, to turn over a new leaf, if you will. The Lord placed me in South Jersey with five people who have been instrumental to my growth and allowed me to find myself here.
When I think about all that the Lord has allowed me to experience, I am humbled that he gave me this opportunity to be uprooted and shaken up by the gospel. The Gospel, that word carries such weight for me now.
Gospel is a word that I grew up hearing but I didn’t get the reality of what it fully meant. The DNA (Disciple, nurture, accountability) book that we are currently going through as a church describes the gospel as, “shallow enough for a toddler to wade in, but yet so deep an elephant can swim.” At the beginning of this journey I was in the wading pool but now God has moved me over to the other end of the pool and now I am enjoying the freedom of swimming a little closer to the deep end.
God had to move me from my comfortable complacency and set me in New Jersey to not only speak the Good News to everyone who has not heard, but live out the gospel - even in the darkest of places.
God has shown me what the gospel looks like in the most real and radical of ways. I got the opportunity to share His Agape love to the girl who works in the strip club in order to feed her babies at home; to become friends with my 62 year old neighbor Bob, and his partner, and share with them how God has transformed my life, showing the love of Christ to children in our after school tutoring program who are in need of attention; even being able to show the love of Christ to a random girl at the gym.
What I am trying to say is that I did not take Matthew 4:19 seriously until this year. I thought, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” was only for the super-spiritual and the church leaders. However, praise God that now I can take comfort in the fact that the purpose for my existence is to glorify my Lord, and show people around me the gospel. I have learned how to reorient my life around the gospel, which can be quite difficult at times, but is so very gratifying and humbling.
I have loved this journey, and as I go home to Tampa in late-November I will be returning as a transformed woman who desires to make my God known to my neighbors, friends, future co-workers, and anyone God puts in my path. I wish I could share all that I have learned over this past year
I used to be what I call a “squatting duck,” someone who sits (or squats- whatever you prefer) and does not take action. In church, I was never the first one to raise my hand, and I surely was not one to volunteer for things outside of my comfort zone. I avoided eye contact with the teacher at all costs. I did not feel as though I possessed leadership qualities, so I faded into the person that got comfortable in the same pew every Sunday and Wednesday, and tucked the call to leadership safely away.
However, let me assure you God did not allow me to get away with this for long. Our loving, merciful, all-knowing God wedged me out of my comfortable squatting duck position, and led me out of my complacency to the uncomfortable unknown of Atlantic City, where I came with nothing but the raw gospel and a willingness to be used to make a change in this part of the world for His name.
I have learned that the gospel doesn’t get packed up on Sunday and put on a shelf until Wednesday. The gospel gets up, goes to work with you, goes to the gym with you, goes to the grocery store with you. It’s the times when I don’t have patience with the kids at tutoring, or the times I am too prideful that I realize I am in need of the gospel every second, not just Sunday and Wednesday.
Praise Jesus, I have walked out from behind the shadows and have learned leadership skills over the past year, proving His word true: “Through Him we received both the generous gift of His life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ!” (Romans 1:6)
For those who know me, have supported me, encouraged me and prayed for me, I cannot say thank you enough. Your prayers gave me the courage to go into Browns Park, the clubs, schools, homes of neighbors, and to plant seeds. Your encouragement has put the wind back in my sails many times. I am so grateful to all my friends and family for being my cheerleaders and rallying around me. Thank you!
I cannot help but to get emotional when thinking about all the love I have experienced while in New Jersey. This has been one of the craziest, most adventure-filled seasons of my life, and it will always be one that I cherish.
I would love to share all that I have learned over the past year, but there’s not enough room to fit everything on these pages. I started this journey to become a part of a missionary team, to plant a church in Atlantic City, but I am returning home with the knowledge that I am a missionary wherever I go.