October 2009 - Vol. 33

Sarah (front center) with University Christian Outreach dorm friends
Coming to a Decision

.by Sarah Hughes

Growing up as a “community kid”
Here is my true confession: I am through and through a “community kid.” Born and raised in Ann Arbor Michigan, a coordinator’s daughter, with parents who met and married in the community, and years of faithful (read: coerced) attendance at prayer meetings, retreats, and small group—there is no disentangling my personal history from the influence of the Sword of the Spirit. Over the past few years of my life though, I’ve been transitioning and becoming an adult in the community. The process has given rise to some reflection, as non-CK’s sometimes ask me questions like, “What’s it like having grown up as a community kid?” or, more often, “Why in the world did you decide to stay here?” 

There are a whole lot of things that could be said about being a community kid. What I see as most important though in the sometimes tumultuous journey is that for every community kid there comes a time in which they need to make a choice. At some point a decision of ownership is necessary, a personal yes or no to this thing their parents brought them into without their informed consent. The story I want to tell of my life as a community kid is of that choice—how did I come to see the abundant life we have in the Sword of the Spirit, hear the Lord’s call, and choose to take it on as my own?

Afraid to step out of my comfort zone
For the first part of my life, I definitely didn’t realize or understand what this thing was that I had been born into, growing up in the Word of Life in Ann Arbor. In my young mind, I just thought my family went to these prayer meetings every other Sunday afternoon that were, to put it mildly, pretty different from church. I didn’t know quite how to explain it all to my friends, so generally just avoided the topic. Another topic I avoided was charismatic worship. It wasn’t exactly that the worship at prayer meetings freaked me out—I was used to it. But all the raising of hands and praying in tongues and prophesying and talk of receiving the Holy Spirit made me nervous. I was afraid to be asked to do something that would make me look strange or involve stepping out of my comfort zone, so I would keep my hands firmly grasping my songbook with eyes glued to the page so as to avoid being called on to do anything more—“See God, I can’t raise my hands or close my eyes, I need to hold open the songbook to read the words…” I realized vaguely that other people were receiving life from all of this and part of me wanted that, but another bigger part of me was afraid. 

Sarah in Detroit with students

A mindset of service and mission
When I got into high school, I began to notice that things my family did were different in other ways and that this community thing influenced my life in more than just going to weird prayer meetings. For example, my family actually made an effort to sit down for dinner together and make family time a priority—something most of my friends, even Christian friends, didn’t do. We celebrated the Lord’s Day together almost every Saturday and my mom would make amazing challah bread—another thing my friends didn’t have and were really jealous of when they got to taste her bread. I was also encouraged to go on a lot of mission trips. My parents wanted me to have a mindset of service and an outward focus. I spent a lot of time in Detroit with my aunt, Sue Cummins, and went to Mexico on a mission trip—both awesome, formative experiences for a young teen. As a part of these mission trips, I worked with small groups of other teenagers serving the poor and needy in construction projects, soup kitchens, and orphanage visits among other things. These interactions helped me realize how much I had been given and needed to give back. During the mission trip to Mexico, I received baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was the beginning of the Lord working powerfully in my life to release me from fears that had previously chained me. 

When I graduated from high school and began to enter into life more on my own though, was when I began to more fully experience and also understand the abundance of the life we have in the Sword of the Spirit with strong, supportive relationships with fellow Christians, a common vision for mission, a rich personal relationship with the Lord, and life in the Holy Spirit. Part of this came as I got involved in University Christian Outreach (UCO) at the University of Michigan. Suddenly, the “community” I was a part of wasn’t about my parents and their friends, but about my peers. Living on a sometimes brutally anti-Christian campus, support and fellowship became vital, and I was tangibly blessed by the way my peers in UCO came around me and called me on—community life. 

Living for a season in another community
Another eye-opening experience came in being able to spend time with the Jerusalem community in Belgium. I am convinced that every community kid should spend some amount of time living in a community other than the one they grew up in—they need a chance to see what community is all about from an outsider’s perspective. I was hugely blessed to have the Collet family in Belgium open their home to me and allow me to be a part of their life and community for three months. Although far from home and everything I knew, I was yet able to be a part of a people who were living in a way that I was familiar with—meals together, family as a priority, celebrating the Lord’s Day, charismatic worship, small groups, ecumenism, and covenant relationships. I got a taste for the abundance of the international life we have in the Sword of the Spirit—the fact that there are people all around the world working to serve the Lord and fight for this distinctly Christian lifestyle and who would welcome me into their homes just because of the bond we share in the Sword of the Spirit. 

Sarah and mates "chill out" in the UCO summer household

Experiencing the Lord’s invitation to community
But it was actually at my first Summer Conference with the North American Region that I most clearly experienced the Lord calling me to be a part of the Sword of the Spirit. I was deeply struck that weekend by the beauty and power of trans-generational worship. The worship times blew me away with their depth and richness; a beautiful harmony of voices loudly proclaimed the Lord’s praises, followed by earnest attentiveness in listening for the word of the Lord and expressions of wholehearted dedication to serve him. I remember thinking how it was such an awesome combination: You had the energy and zeal of the young people, ready to worship and dance all night, combined with the wisdom and endurance of the older folks, people who had been faithfully serving the Lord, praying daily, and listening to his voice for years. Something about the worship touched my heart, and I remember looking around and thinking, “These are people from all walks of life who really know and love the Lord. They have chosen for ecumenical, charismatic, covenant community, things which have shaped and continue to inspire my heart. These are the kind of people that I want to live my life with.” Later during the conference, a prophecy was given that was something to the effect of, “For those of you have not yet decided if life in the Sword of the Spirit is what the Lord has for you, this is your invitation to answer the call.” And I thought, alright Lord, that’s me, I want to answer that invitation and make this thing my own. 

So here I am today, continuing to grow in and experience this sometimes crazy, but abundant life in the Sword of the Spirit. The more I taste and see as an adult this call the Lord has placed on my heart, the more deeply I understand and appreciate my parents’ decision to be a part of the Sword of the Spirit and want to make similar decisions with my own life. From coerced-community-kid beginnings, I’ve come to my own decision and it looks like I’m here to stay.  

Sarah Hughes is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. She is actively involved in student evangelism with University Christian Outreach.

Sarah (left front) with her family 

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