I think for so many, AIM is the beginning, the strengthening, of their faith and sadly, for some, it is the end. In the 15 years since Donovan and I have returned from the field, tt has been hard to see some of our dear friends and classmates walking away from the faith. I think the term “falling away” gives a sense of our having very little say but, in reality, we make the choice, we take the steps.
The first 8 months of AIM taught me so much about what the Bible had to say, even after 2 years at the British Bible School. It caused me to rethink ideas and to really question why I wanted to be there. Rex taught us to see the Bible as more than just black and white words, but flesh and blood. Bob taught me the meaning of service. Ed taught me to argue for what I believed in! Then, I was sent out to share what I had learned.
Going on the mission field with my team was a life changing experience, but I realize now that I needed to see my mission time as starting way back on the day I was baptized. I am not trying to belittle my experience, I really would do the whole thing again, I just think that so many of us based our faith and our citizenship in heaven on a year or two of “field time”. Going to Boston (where we ended up), or Portugal, or Mexico City or …. you name it, was amazing but I think that for so many of us we get back from that time and just feel lost. We had saved up all our knowledge and evangelistic efforts for that short time and then came home and couldn't figure out what to do next. I was lucky that I had Donovan to hold me up during that period, but for so many of you this was, and is, a solo effort. You return to a congregation that has not changed, a family that still sees you as a child, friends who have not moved on and we feel lost. It is hard to be in that situation but it is no harder than what Jesus went through with his family and friends. They did not see his ultimate purpose until much later. Our mission field experience began at baptism and does not finish until we sit before our brother, Christ, and our Father and share our first “brown bag” with them. We don't have an excuse. We don't get to say “it's just not the same”. We just get to keep going. For some of you this may mean full time mission work, or full time church work, but for others it will be in teaching a class to small children or seemingly disinterested adults, in reaching out to the cashier at Walmart that always chats with you, in raising Godly children or maybe just in being a wonderful example at your job that pays the bills. I want us to see AIM as our trampoline. We had to make a running jump to enter the program (terrifying for some) and from there we bounce, going up and down. You can't go up without coming back down. I am sounding a little poetic I know, but it is something I recently realized. Life will not always hold us up, but Christ will. The church will not always hold us up, but the Lord will. Christ has given you brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in the faith, to get you through those bounces. AIM was just our middle point. It was just a jumping off point. I hope that as many of you struggle with your day-to-day life, you will look here once in a while and realize that you are not alone. We have been there. We have sat where you sit. Someone out of the hundreds of us that have shared in this experience really does understand. The Lord will provide and has provided you with strength for all situations. Reach out! Please don't decide to give up and use AIM as your excuse to see it all as less than worthwhile. Don't belittle your past experiences by not searching out new ones. I feel hypocritical in saying this because I am not the best in this area, but continue to learn more and more about our Father and His will for your life. Pray for help and for guidance. Then … listen when He answers. Don't gripe so much about what life isn't that you ignore what it is. He is still speaking to you!
- Sharon McGregor Fox