How UMA Stretched Me Out of my Comfort Zone
By Jessica Yelle, MS volunteer and awesome content creator
It is hard to believe the transformation that has taken place within me during just one year’s time of serving as a volunteer leader with Urban Mountain Adventures. In the months preceding my choice to join UMA, I was unsettled by how self-centered my daily routine had become: amidst the challenges of my first semester in graduate school, moving away from home, and planning my wedding. I felt the deep desire to step out of my self and serve others in some capacity. Little did I know then that I would spend a year serving alongside UMA and close out 2018 with a radically changed heart towards leadership.
Upon discovering UMA, I fell in love with their local neighborhood approach to loving and building relationships with kids, talking about Jesus, and experiencing different outdoor adventures. But the position available for me to fill consisted of public speaking and taking on the authoritative position of middle school bible study leader, and when it was offered to me, I was challenged to face a fear I had long submitted myself to: the fear that I was not good enough. I was afraid that I was not good enough to speak into young lives, not good enough to talk about the Bible like I knew it cover to cover, and not good enough to lead without flaw. By God’s grace I accepted the position, and oh how He would transform my heart through it!
My weekly get-togethers with our middle school girls at UMA have been so fun, filled with crafts, picnics, yummy dinners, sleepovers, scripture memorization, and many other memorable times. However, two experiences with our bible study girls stand out in how God changed my perspective about being a leader. One weekend in the spring, the leaders took four of our girls on a camping trip to a site outside of town, in the woods by a creek. I had mentally prepared a list of activities we could facilitate for the girls including scavenger hunts, road trip games, story-telling time – you name it and I had it. We arrived at our camp site, parked our car, and before I could even get a word out, the girls asked if they could get their swim suits on and jump in the creek. They delighted in the creek for hours- we had to entice them with calls of a prepared dinner to pull them out of the creek as it started to get dark out! I came into the weekend with my plans to utilize my knowledge and skills to best serve them, but God showed me how He was more than enough for them. Their heavenly Father had great plans in store for them that weekend, plans that were higher than mine and designed intentionally for each of them, based on the desires of their hearts (Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 139; Psalm 37:4). How I failed to realize that by simply bringing them to the site of His creation, that He was enough to satisfy them: He showed himself to them as their Creator, restoring their souls through their playing, frolicking, and delighting in His streams and natural wonders (Psalm 32).
The second distinct time God challenged me to see my role with UMA in a new light was when our leadership team decided to share our testimonies with the girls. With seven leaders, we decided that one of us would each share our testimony every other week, and give the girls the opportunity to anonymously ask questions regarding the content of each testimony. The last time I audibly shared my testimony was years ago, and I was a little nervous in preparing so I evaluated and re-evaluated on a weekly basis what content to discuss, and how to share it. But one night’s testimony put all my fears to rest. Now usually, with more than ten girls in our group, it often took a significant amount time to get everyone settled down and to share a lesson without major interruption. But during one leader’s testimony, I remember looking around the room and the girls were almost completely silent, absolutely captivated by what our leader had to share. Surrounded by our girls and leaders in the living room of UMA’s Charlotte House, our testimony-sharer beautifully weaved her story and present struggles with an invitation to hear the gospel. I sensed a noticeable difference in the atmosphere after the girls listened to what Jesus did for them on the cross, and how he reconciled them to God, and the simplicity yet profoundness of her testimony shook me. All she did was point her story to Jesus. It all came back to Jesus. He was the leader who our girls needed, not me. Praise God he would humble himself to ask me to join Him in ministering to these girls- it was not necessary, but an honor and privilege.
Through my year with UMA, God has shown me that a challenging task requires not my ability to meet the task, but dependence upon His strength and power. God has humbled me to see that He is greater than I. I had managed to take a servant role with self-centeredness, thinking that it was all about my ability, capability, wisdom, and knowledge that would make or break my service. But it is all about God, who alone qualifies me to serve Himself for “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). My unique leadership style effects the girls, absolutely. My preparedness or lack thereof effects the weekly meeting, certainly. But ministry is about calling people out of darkness and into light, out of wandering in the wilderness and into His loving presence, calling people to adore Him, not I for “he must become greater and greater and I must become less and less” (Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 40:3; Psalm 95:6-7; John 3:30). I am so thankful for the opportunity that UMA has given me to step far out of my comfort zone. Was it uncomfortable, full of uncertainty, and challenging? Absolutely, and it’s because it was uncomfortable, full of uncertainty and challenging that I was blessed with the gift of coming face to face with God’s sovereignty, glory, and love for His people. Thank you UMA for this amazing opportunity.