By Delaney Tufts, Features Editor

Over the summer, Vindicated class member Rachel VanLaningham and her teammates Ian Tan and Cy Marshall of the Merciful class, and Visionary class member Emily Nelson were selected for Asbury’s Summer Ministry Team (SMT) and sent out on a mission to minister to kids across the country. Starting the first week of June and ending on July 31, this team traveled to four camps and two Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) within an eight-week period. The name they selected for their team was SMT Laminin, which refers to the cell protein that holds our bodies together, similar to how Jesus holds us together.

Besides bonding with her team, the Lord had something else planned that VanLaningham was unaware of at the beginning. The lesson started to develop during one of the night services at the third camp they went to. The pastor at the camp was talking about the armor of God, but all Rachel could think about was the negativity that was being thrown at her.

“After the service, I was just sitting in my chair and all I could hear were insults and mean words all in my mind, things like ‘You’re worthless,’ ‘You’re not worthy of love,’ ‘People don’t really care about you,’” she said. “I went to bed with those thoughts and woke up the next morning telling myself it didn’t matter and that I just needed to focus on the kids.”

At the next camp, VanLaningham and her teammates had to intentionally go out and seek the kids to talk to them. VanLaningham found this task harder for her, because she felt like a hypocrite.

“I was dealing with so much baggage. When we went through training before those meetings, they would tell us that we needed to talk to the kids, especially the girls, about their worth,” she said. “Since I was the counselor, I was supposed to be telling these girls that God valued them. But I didn’t even believe that about myself.”

On the fifth day of that camp, VanLaningham was listening to the pastor talk about God conquering sin and death and already winning the battle. For the first time in her life, she finally understood and accepted what this meant from a different perspective.

“All I could think was that I didn’t have to listen to the thoughts and the insults,” she said. “I didn’t have to listen to any voices or lies that Satan had thrown at me, because God had already won that battle. God made me in his image and I am worth so much in his eyes. I am now claiming that victory as my own.”

Ever since that moment, she has been embracing that power she now realizes she has and has been standing up for her faith at school. She wants everyone to know that “they too have that power within and they don’t have to listen to any lies that are being thrown at them,” she said.

She said she would do this all over again, because being in a place of ministry led her to being vulnerable, leaving room for the Lord to change her. When asked if she would recommend this experience to other people, she said, “Yes, hands down, yes. It’s a life-changing experience for sure.”

Photo by Will Menser