How many of us would intentionally choose to spend our summer vacation serving others, who don’t speak English and live in a place that is completely out of our comfort zone?
That is exactly what two of our high school students at RiverLakes did this past summer. Carson Ezell and Zach Whitmore both sacrificed part of their summer vacation to step out in faith and serve on the mission field overseas. Carson cared for orphans in Romania through the Heart 2 Heart Ministry organization for a couple of weeks, while Zach served on a construction team with Teen Missions International in Ecuador for a month.
For Carson, a junior at Bakersfield Christian High School, this was the second year in a row that he has served with Heart 2 Heart in Romania. However, the experience this year was quite different and stretching in many ways. In the previous year, Carson exclusively cared for orphan children ages 6-12. However, there was a change in plans this year and the second week of the trip involved loving and caring for teenagers his own age.
“Having to interact with and love kids my own age was way different than my experience last year,” Carson said. “They didn’t speak English, so we had to communicate through interpreters all the time. Having to share my testimony and open up about my life was a very stretching experience for me. This was out of my comfort zone and I learned to trust the Lord in a completely different way because of having to deal with these changes.”
Carson says the experience in Romania this past summer has helped him to be more comfortable in stepping out of his comfort zone. “When I returned home, I posed a key question to myself. I had just been sharing the truth of Jesus and the hope of eternal life that I have in him freely for two weeks. Why wouldn’t I want to do the same thing with people God brings into my life here at home? People need to hear the truth in Bakersfield as much as they do in Romania. As a result, I have been more prepared and much bolder in sharing the Gospel message of Jesus with people that God brings into my life.”
“While the trip was very stretching for me, God taught me to love those kids in Romania with all my heart,” Carson said. “And, through this experience, God has impressed on my heart that I am to love everyone like Jesus loves them. My focus now is on loving others like Jesus does.”
Through the urging of his mom, Zach signed up to participate in the summer mission trip with Teen Missions International. The first two weeks of the experience involved a boot camp training in Florida.
“The biggest test of the trip for me was the decision to complete the second half of the experience and actually go to Ecuador for the construction project,” stated Zach. “After the two-week boot camp was completed, we were given the option to go home or actually go on the trip to Ecuador. This whole trip was way out of my comfort zone and it would have been easy to make the decision to go home. But God taught me that to truly serve Him I will have to be uncomfortable. I made the decision to go and it was one of the best decisions of my life.”
During his time in Ecuador, Zach was on a construction team that mixed and poured concrete for 4-5 hours a day. The concrete was for a huge pad that would be used to park multiple vehicles on during the rainy season in Ecuador. When they weren’t working on the construction project, the team was training and preparing a group of local teenagers to put on a boot camp similar to the one they participated in prior to their trip to Ecuador. They also shared their testimonies and the Gospel message through connections with local churches.
“My biggest takeaway from this summer mission trip is that it is not easy to serve God,” stated Zach. “God doesn’t call us to pursue comfort in this life. He desires us to give our lives to Him and step out in faith to serve Him. This often involves stepping out of our comfort zones and trusting God in areas we never thought we would.”
Since returning from Ecuador, Zach has a completely different perspective on God’s bigger purpose for those who claim to follow Jesus Christ. “Sharing the truth of the Gospel is the responsibility for all Christians, not just missionaries. Some are called to share Jesus with their next door neighbor, while others are called to share Jesus with people in other parts of the world,” said Zach. “Since returning, I think about this all the time. I am always asking myself, ‘With whom does God want me to share the Gospel?’ Sharing the hope I have in Jesus with others is always on my mind.”