The greatest of these is love

Story by Paisley Allen, copy editor

Watching from the window, my awestruck gaze sweeps over the billowing green hills and patchwork fields. As I marvel at the ruins of structures once so formidable and steadfast, a wave of excitement, apprehension and anticipation consumes me all at once. It is a wave that is all-encompassing, without warning or mercy.

Here I am on a bus, travelling the distance between little Irish towns, preparing to spend two weeks with people and a place that take the word foreign to a new extreme. In all honesty, I have no idea what I am getting myself into, and even more, I have no concrete self-assured feeling that I am capable of or qualified for the work ahead of me.

For two weeks, I will spend hours on a beach in a little town called Ballybunion sharing the message of Christianity to children, their parents and anyone in between willing to listen. This experience will help me check off several firsts in my life: first mission trip, first time out of the country and the first time I have ever really felt the immense pressure not to screw up.

In the months leading up to this trip, I often thought about how unconventional of a mission it was. Typically, when you imagine a mission trip, you think of the most bleak godforsaken places in the world, like third world countries in Africa, ravaged with disease and lack of resources, or countries consumed and devastated by war and persecution. Your first thought probably isn’t of a prosperous European country whose major differences in culture predominantly consist of driving on the other side of the road and having the steering wheel on the right side of a car.

You might wonder what desperate need there is in Ireland that made me feel compelled to travel all the way from Texas to be there; probably because of the common misconception that one must be providing food to the starving children of Africa to be doing “real” mission work. But the truth is, there is a need everywhere and there is a mission everywhere. From the moment I made this realization, it became clear to me that no mission is futile. No mission is worthless. Because according to the God I believe in, not one person should be discounted or left behind.

Therefore, I feel challenged to see people in a way that is foreign to me. I see them and try to comprehend their immeasurable value and worth. I see them and know that, just like me, they are loved beyond understanding. And it becomes clear that, in this way, I am also called to love them.

Living with this mindset is incredibly rewarding, yet at the same time, leaves you vulnerable to the most painful heartbreak. Having a burden for people takes a toll on you. It’s far more simple to take the people around you at face value, because your own problems are difficult enough, let alone the addition of troubling yourself with the state of someone else’s heart. That’s why it’s so much easier to ignore the nagging feeling telling you to reach out to a person and say the things that are hard to hear. It’s so much easier to believe that they don’t need your help, because it hurts too much when they refuse it and push you away.

That crippling fear of being spurned by someone I love is what’s kept me from seeing the big picture. My own selfish and cowardly fear of rejection has prohibited me from revealing truth and spreading the news of a love that has transformed my life. But I think meeting Robin, the little blonde girl you see me holding in the picture, played an instrumental role in helping me overcome that fear. And she doesn’t even realize it.

It was meeting such a sweet and innocent soul that helped me realize that people are worth the fight. No matter how terrified I am of having my own words thrown back in my face, I know that I have to try. I know that I must show love to each and every person I come into contact with because without love, we are lost.

My time spent in Ireland reignited the desire to share openly the joy I have in my heart, and I know it was because it was new and exciting. It was a daring adventure in a foreign land, and it brought back the exhilaration of spreading the gospel. However, it also reminded me that I should feel this way all of the time, even when I’m home, not just in a foreign country. Because the people that I see everyday are the ones to whom I should be reaching out. I wholeheartedly believe that my purpose in school is not solely just to do homework and have a few laughs, but to demonstrate faith, encourage hope and freely joyfully give love. Love, which of these is the greatest.