Missional Living in Cleveland

“I first started living missionally with Jesus when He opened my eyes on a short-term mission trip”

I’m Shirley Shiflet, and I had the opportunity to share about being on mission with Jesus daily in a small town with you all in this article. I want to share now about one particularly cool experience I’ve had on my journey with Jesus that taught me a lot about living on mission! 

I first started living missionally with Jesus when He opened my eyes on a short-term mission trip to Cleveland, Ohio, in 2015. It was a fantastic week, but what really impacted me was meeting Jesus there in a way I never had before. He opened my eyes that week, and I’ve been 100% His and a different person ever since. This trip was the first mission trip I’d ever been on, and I was amazed at how simple it was to serve Jesus and others. Not easy, but simple. We are made for relationship with Jesus, and helping others in love is a natural outflow of intimacy with Him! I couldn’t get enough, and the minute I left Cleveland, I applied to be an intern at their site the next summer.

The summer of 2016, I got to serve for three months at the Envision Cleveland site! It was awesome! Envision Cleveland partners with churches and ministries in the area to introduce people to Christ and help restore the community. We partnered with local churches and did many VBS programs. We partnered with women and children’s shelters, and got to hang out with kids, build relationships with the people there, and worship together! We partnered with the Cleveland Clinic and made relationships with people with disabilities and served some of them by cleaning their wheelchairs! We painted countless places; we gardened a lot where there was a need. We partnered with a refugee center and refugee programs. Cleveland is the 5th largest depository for refugees in the United States, so I got to learn from people from all over the world only 5 hours from my home! So, I think you get the point, Envision Cleveland partners with a lot of amazing ministries!

As interns, we not only served the community, but we also served the short-term teams that Envision brings in for a week at a time throughout the summer. We met a lot of cool people who were excited about serving Jesus. It was an exhausting summer, but it was so life-giving, and I fell much deeper in love with Christ through it all.

I want to share some things I learned throughout my summer there that I have found essential to missional living.

Intimacy with Jesus is Everything

First, intimacy with Jesus is everything and making that a priority is a must, even on the busiest and craziest days! As interns, we were literally on duty all day every day! We would be serving the community and partnering with all those ministries I told you about, and then we’d bring in the short-term teams, and we’d serve them all day every day in between the times at the different sites. We would get up early to get breakfast ready for the teams before we did devotions and left for the day’s work. We also prepared lunch, and dinner, and cleaned it all up as well. Amidst this business, finding time for intentional connection with Jesus was a must. I knew that the best way I connect with Jesus is first thing in the morning. This meant getting up every day at a ridiculous hour, but I knew it was essential, so I made it happen. Jesus used that time to anchor me in Him for the hard day ahead. So, figure out what you need to do to establish intimacy with Jesus a number one priority and then do it, no matter what it costs. 

Following Jesus into Self-Care

Second, following Jesus into self-care is so important! Part of this was waking up early in the morning to spend that time with Jesus. But it also looked like making sure I spent time doing things that re-energized me so that I could pour myself out once again. Sometimes I would wake up even earlier and go on a run before starting the day. Taking time to be filled by Jesus looked like needing to say no to some fun, optional things that people really wanted me to do to get some alone time in and go to sleep early or paint my nails! Self-care seems selfish sometimes, but it is important to take intentional time to be filled mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically in order to be able to serve with excellence. And just like everything else, follow Jesus in this! He knows what we need! Sometimes it’s to read a book, sometimes it is friend time, maybe even sometimes it’s just vegging out and watching some Netflix. Follow Him in self-care weekly.

Being Discipled is Essential

Next, it is so important to be discipled by someone who is farther along than you and can encourage you when things get tough and call you out when you’re being dumb. My best friend, Kim, lived with me in Cleveland. She is the wife of Brice who was my boss in Cleveland at the site and also my boss now at the church I work at (Jesus has gifted me with this couple in so many ways and so many seasons of life!). She is 37 and the mother of four beautiful children. Our leaders at the site knew that discipleship is essential. So, amidst our busy schedules, we met once a week with our discipler, and mine was Kim! She challenged me to be reading my Bible and prioritizing intimacy with Jesus, and we talked about what Jesus was teaching us, she asked me hard questions, and I walked in the light with her as I shared how I was struggling or being tempted. We laughed and cried together, and the time we spent connecting with Jesus, and each other always filled me! God used her in powerful ways as I was serving there, and today, she lives in Elkins with me, and we still get together weekly to do discipleship! Having someone to seek Christ with is vital! Discipleship won’t happen accidentally. Prayerfully seek out people who are passionate about Jesus to speak into your life.

Discipleship won’t happen accidentally. Prayerfully seek out people who are passionate about Jesus to speak into your life.

Showing Up

Something else I learned in Cleveland is that showing up and saying yes is a huge part of the battle. A lot of people don’t show up. They just don’t. It makes sense, I mean, it’s always easier to not do something than to do something. Especially when that something costs. When you follow Jesus and show up to things He leads you to, He blesses!

For example, I was one of four interns, and Envision did certain programs for the teams we hosted every week. Some of these programs were the same every week for every team. One of the repetitive programs were three lessons that would be taught throughout the week. The first week it was mandatory for the interns to be there. Then in the weeks following we could choose to participate in the lesson or do whatever we wanted. As I said, our schedules were jam-packed, so the other three interns used those times every week for some free time. I felt the Lord leading me to go to the lessons every week. I thought it would be good, I enjoyed them greatly, and I knew God could teach me something new every week if He wanted!

After a couple of weeks, my boss who led my favorite lesson approached me and asked if I wanted to teach the lesson the next time because he noticed I was always showing up and he wanted me to see if I enjoyed teaching. I was shocked, honored, and nervous, but I accepted! If I hadn’t shown up as the Lord lead me to, I wouldn’t have experienced that cool opportunity. I ended up teaching that lesson weekly for the rest of the summer, and it was so awesome, and I learned so much! It was great practice for me as now I teach at least once a week if not more! God knew that I didn’t, and He led me to where I needed to be. Be willing to show up to the things God leads you to, even when it’s hard.

Ask Jesus for Courage

Finally, we must ask Jesus to give us boldness and courage to take faith-filled risks. I think anything worth doing will make us a little uncomfortable. There were countless awkward situations I encountered that Jesus invited me to step into with Him, and I said yes, and He showed up and showed off! That’s what missional living is about! I got to do so many awesome things in Cleveland with Jesus, but it was because I said yes. It is uncomfortable to reach out and show love to a stranger on a bus, it’s uncomfortable to share Christ when you fear being rejected, it’s uncomfortable to sit down and try to communicate with a person who doesn’t speak your language but, if it’s where Jesus calls me it’s exactly where I want to be! Intentionally ask God to fill you with courage and strength and then make the choice to act on faith and not fear when He calls you to do something scary.

Depend on the Spirit

I could honestly write forever about all the things Jesus taught me that summer but, most importantly we must be dependent on the Holy Spirit. He will guide us and lead us to how to serve, who to serve, and what we need to spend our time doing! When I was in Cleveland, I gave them three months of my life, and I did whatever my bosses told me to do. Some of the stuff they told me to do I didn’t want to, or I was nervous about, doing but I did it because I signed onto and it ended up being super awesome.

Being a follower of Jesus is similar. It looks like giving our whole lives to Him and doing what He says every day even when we don’t want to, or it makes us nervous because that’s what we sign up for! He seriously will take us on the most awesome adventures. I have never regretted it a day of my life and the things he taught me in Cleveland I still practice today, and I would challenge you to put into place these disciplines as well. 

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Shirley Shiflet

Shirley currently resides in Elkins, West Virginia. She serves actively in Young Life and is on staff at Elkins Alliance Church. She is married to Justin and they love going on adventures together!

Contact Shirley at shirleyjoyshiflet@gmail.com

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