“What do you want?”

That was the very stark question, posed in a book I read very recently. The writer was keen to point out that it is, in reality, the most fundamental question associated with Christian discipleship.

Our wants and longings get to the very core of what we think is important and what we truly value. Jesus’ command to ‘Come and follow me’ is really just an invitation to synchronise our lifestyles and choices along with His. It’s putting him first. It’s about wanting what Jesus wants.

What do I want to do when I receive the invitation to travel with a group of young talented medical students who seek to work alongside a church in Kenya? That was the question in my mind the summer before I took up my moderatorial responsibilities. This team was facilitated by Rev Paul Bailie, CEO of Mission Africa.

Our wants and longings get to the very core of what we think is important and what we truly value.

Here was a bunch of young committed Christians who desired to make the most of their summer break from studies and were willing to go overseas to work in a school for the poorest of kids and engage in a variety of other outreach activities. The team was a group of friends, my own daughter included, who approached Mission Africa with the idea for a short-term mission trip. Based in Kikuyu on the mission station of Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), these young adults had the incalculable joy of sharing the love of Jesus with kids in a school run by Thogoto parish for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: teaching, evangelising, singing, dancing and having fun. These were long days in the school, making the most of the time and opportunity, getting alongside the children and making a difference for God. It was a joy to encourage the inspirational teaching staff – all of whom were volunteers giving sacrificially to serve God. Time was also available to minister within a care home for the elderly, another expanding role as part of the work of the local church and to speak to 400 slum children of God’s saving power.

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As medical students they had time to visit one of the local hospitals and consider options for themselves in years to come, perhaps as part of their medical elective. And what cultural experience for students would not be complete without interaction with local university students, comparing notes and approaches, sharing their experience of knowing and following Jesus; and of course, joyous, active participation in worship on Sundays in local churches? The people we met were inspiring, despite hardship they were dancing, singing and praying because of the joy they had found in Jesus. What an inspiration. Truly they enjoyed God.

Today, I could ask the question of any of the student team, “what do you want?” and I know the answer is to be part of what God is doing in our world. From the days I spent with them, I recognise their youthful passion and can see how their desires align with the Kingdom of God. Here are young adults who hunger and thirst after God and crave to be part of a world where He is all in all. They want to make a difference and can now see that they have.

Jesus isn’t simply content to give us new ideas, but he’s seeking that we follow him without reserve.

Why did I go along with them? Well, I had ministry openings in a different way, meeting local church leaders and assisting Mission Africa develop maintain older links and investigate possible new opportunities. I also had the occasion to speak to the student team, lead them in their evening devotions and be around to encourage over that time.

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If Jesus were to stop me and directly ask, “What do I want?” What would I say? For Jesus isn’t simply content to give us new ideas, but he’s seeking that we follow him without reserve. I want to be part of what Jesus is involved in here. I want to willingly encourage those who have sensed the call of Jesus upon their own lives and who are daily chasing after him. Oftentimes it will take us out of our own routine and the ordered neatness of our own plans and to be involved in something God lays in front of us. What a privilege as Christians who are a little bit older to give time and energy so that those who are younger on the path of discipleship can catch a glimpse of what God is doing. What a personal joy to help others find enjoyment in God.

Can I encourage our church leaders and ministers to get alongside those younger people in our churches and be part of the work of igniting their passion for God and mission. That might actually mean going with them on a team and sharing in their learning and exploring, or facilitating their plans. It all boils down to what you want.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of the Presbyterian Herald and is reused with permission.