The first time Ella Miller heard about mission trips she wanted to go; however, she wasn’t old enough. She had travelled before but never on a mission trip. She loves Jesus and kids, and her sister is involved with global mission work. For those reasons, she knew she wanted to go on a mission team. When she heard about the high school mission trip, Ella jumped at the opportunity and applied. Not long after, she and a team of high schoolers and leaders began preparation to go to New Orleans to serve inner city youth.

Citylight partnered with Urban Impact Ministries (UIM). The focus on the trip was to serve alongside UIM and with another mission team from Iowa to seek, love, and serve the neighborhood’s families and kids through a day camp and community events. The UIM team has engaged in God’s Mission to the vulnerable over the past 34 years building real relationships through which Jesus can bring love, hope, and healing. The Citylight high school team, including Ella, was excited to be a part of this mission.

“I was excited and nervous,” Ella shared. “I’ve been away before but not on a mission trip. It would be all new. But preparing as a team was fun. Going with friends would be fun.”

The 20-hour van ride down was the perfect way to start the adventure and to get to know one another better. The trip included 15 students from CLS Midtown and CLS West and five leaders.

The first day they were there, the team met with the mission team from Iowa. Each member began to plan and prepare for the week’s day camp. UIM hosts a day camp that includes events and classes that cover enrichment, bible, sports and arts during the week from 12-4 pm including a lunch. The day camp runs for 7 weeks every summer, with church groups that come down to UIM from all over the U.S. to help serve. Some of the curriculum was familiar to Ella including many of the cheers they memorized to yell as a group throughout the week. One cheer had the whole group yelling out colors that represented God’s truth.

“Red is for ‘Jesus died for me,’” Ella explained. “Blue is for ‘all people are sinful.’ Yellow is ‘I want Jesus to be my best friend’ and green is for ‘God loves me.’”

The camp launched well with over 50 kids attending each day. The day camp is free to surrounding families and one of the only ones offered in the city. The camp not only provided the kids something fun over the summer but most importantly a safe space.

“I am thankful for UIM there,” Ella said with a smile. “They are always there for the kids and families. Serving alongside them has helped me see what God can do through me. There’s so much more He can do through me. I want to see that more and be used more.”

There were many highlights from the week for Ella with one that involved one little boy from camp on the last night.

“We went to a park every night to play games,” Ella explained with excitement. “We were shouting our cheers we had learned. The just finished the cheer with the colors and I saw this little boy and I started talking about it. I told him what Jesus had done for me and for him. We went through the colors and he didn’t say much. I knew he was a thinker and quiet. I shared what Jesus had done to my heart and how he changed me. So, I asked him “do you want to give your life to Jesus?” I knew that he had heard this with all the people over and over pouring into him all summer. All the teams explaining to him about Jesus. But this time, it broke through. He looked at me and said “yes!”

At the end of this, the little boy ran off for the water fight. Ella thought he just wanted to do that and was unsure if what had happened was genuine. At the end of the night though, the boy grabbed Ella and gave her a hug and said “goodbye.” She knew then he did hear and did accept Jesus as his Savior.

Ella’s eyes have now been opened even more to the power of Jesus and how he wants to work in and through all of us.

“Jesus opened my eyes to the fact that we all are the same,” Ella said honestly. “He loves us all the same. I have decided I want to go on mission and tell as many people as possible. Since giving my life to God a few years ago, I’ve seen God completely and not what the world believes. I had anxiety too but because of Jesus that was taken away. Now, I don’t know what I would do without Jesus. I still worry, but I have tools like praying and reading the bible.”

Ella wants everyone to know this freedom and truth. Seeing firsthand a little boy accept Jesus to serving on a team of faithful friends and servants of Christ makes her overjoyed and even more excited for the future.

“You know I’m just so thankful for the people at UIM and for this team,” Ella revealed. “They are always there for them and this week serving with them helped me to see what God can do through me. There’s so much more God can do through me. I want to see that more and be used more. I am changed and it all makes me want to serve in kids more and serve here, at home school, and my church.”

Ella is already planning her next trip to serve alongside UIM. She already misses the kids. She concludes with this prayer:

“I pray for that boy and for change in the family line and for him to bring a light in the home. I pray that he is not afraid to tell his family. I would tell him I am praying for him, and to not give up. God still has him, and will always, and no matter what. I would also remind him of all those Urban Impact people that are there for him. He can always talk to them.”

We follow Jesus today because He has been relentlessly faithful to pursue and redeem the ones far off, you and me. And now He invites all of us to join with Him on His Mission to redeem all nations! So as a church, we GO and serve alongside our global partners in the Mission He has called them, and be sent back on mission wherever we are at. If you are interested in learning more about our short-term opportunities, please email Luke Manna:

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