Almost 20 years ago now, I was circling the 60-foot maple tree that stands just yards from my front door, talking to my Heavenly Father. Forward Edge needed to upgrade the training we provided for our short-term mission teams, and I was asking God for guidance. In a matter of seconds, the following concept poured into my brain like water from an open spigot:
Imagine that God is an ocean, always sending waves toward the shore. Now imagine your mission trip as a wave. How do you “catch the wave” of God’s plan and purpose for your trip? You have to SURF. “S” = servanthood. “U” = unity. “R” = respect. And “F” = flexibility.
For almost two decades now, this SURF acronym has been the focal point of our training for short-term mission teams. What I didn’t realize when God gave me this concept, though, was that SURF was not only relevant for our short-term mission teams, but anyone wanting to “catch the wave” of God’s plan for their lives.
Consider, for example, how SURF applies to what we’re all going through right now because of Covid-19:
SERVANTHOOD: What opportunities has the pandemic provided for each of us to reach outside ourselves to serve and bless others? At Forward Edge, we’ve been reaching out to our friends and partners around the country, just to see how they’re doing, and to ask how we can pray for them. This may seem minor, but it’s been a major blessing—to those receiving the calls, as well as those making them.
UNITY: I believe the pandemic opened “a window of grace” in the area of relationships—a unique opportunity to deepen and, if necessary, repair relationships that had become distant or damaged. I have personally taken great advantage of this opportunity—deepening my relationships with family members, Forward Edge partners, and precious, old friends, some of whom I hadn’t spoken with in years.
RESPECT: If nothing else, the pandemic has made us much more aware of our shared humanity. Never in human history (with the exception of the Flood perhaps) has the entire planet been impacted—simultaneously—by the same, life-threatening calamity. It’s an experience that can deepen the love, compassion, and respect we feel for our fellow human beings.
FLEXIBILITY: Think of the ways we’ve all had to pivot in the face of circumstances we didn’t see coming, circumstances beyond our control. I’ve especially appreciated the way our Country Directors and Field Staff have “caught the wave” of the pandemic by preparing and distributing food baskets and hygiene kits to the children and families in our programs. They are my heroes.
One of my favorite singer-songwriters, David Wilcox, wrote a song a while back that reminds me of the metaphor God gave me years ago—the metaphor of God as an ocean. It also reminds me how the threatening “waves” God sometimes allows to crash into our lives not only test our faith, but reveal the true condition of our hearts. The song is called “Let the Wave Say Who I Am.” Here are the lyrics: