by Jesse Papirio, Compass, May 8, 2014
One of the things that sticks with me most poignantly from my time at Compass when we studied at Gordon-Conwell is a bible study that probably no one else remembers. We talked about “the Lord of the harvest” in Luke 10, the discussion was mostly about how the Lord calls us out into the harvest field – but I remember thinking about the name “Lord of the harvest” and how the name itself promised a harvest if only we are willing to go into the harvest field. That promise in itself is what has convinced me that all other sacrifice is worth the cost, because the Lord has promised that we will reap a harvest if we are willing to answer his call. I am convinced that nothing else in the world is as fulfilling and full of wonder and adventure as God’s will.
In the midst of all the voices saying otherwise, an ear for the quiet voice of the Lord is something that was certainly honed in my time at Compass. Working with Margherita in the street children’s outreach in Mexico City was one of the clearest pictures I ever saw of the hands and feet of the Lord. I learned more and deeper of the love of Christ in that experience than maybe anywhere else. My capacity for love and compassion have been irreparably increased by my proximity to servants of the Lord who are laying their lives down to share the love of God with the lost and broken, those who are truly “the least of these” that Christ spoke of.
In my time at Compass, I got to experience service and witness sacrifice for the gospel, but it was joy-filled and full of adventure and wonder. I got this picture of what giving up your life up in service to the Lord can be (Isaiah 43:4), I am convinced that in spite of the sacrifice and pain, even greater joy and adventure result—what greater reward than to participate with the Lord in gathering souls for his Kingdom! At the time I thought La Vida was simply a team building exercise, but I got to climb mountains and witness the magnificence of what the Lord’s hands have done. I survived a day lost on the side of a mountain, stranded in the wilderness in the pouring rain unable to find shelter or prepare food – surely I can withstand the spiritual warfare of the evil one when he tries to discourage and disqualify. I can look to the truth of what the Lord says about me when bitter, lost people say all kinds of evil about me—I know that these are only light and momentary trials because in those seminary classes I began to realize the glory of God’s long love story for the world. I got the chance to step away from everything my parents, my coaches, and the world said I should spend my life pursuing and I got a look at missionary community that I may never have seen otherwise.
I was a top student in the most competitive nutrition program in the country. To develop my education and skills in nutrition practitioning, I did my clinical work with the Rhode Island hospital research team, working with refugee populations; I spent my internship with the Florida State athletic department developing a new nutrition construct for optimizing peak performance. I volunteered as a leader for Young Life all four years of college (as a result of the decision I made at Compass to turn down a track scholarship in favor of volunteering). Despite the competitive and demanding nature of my academics, ministry was always my priority. I was driven by a great sense of urgency for the importance of what the Lord was doing for the kingdom, the depth of which Compass helped me to realize and understand.
It has always been on my heart to pursue ministry as a vocation, but as I began to excel in my field of study I was trying to discern what God’s call was for my life. I feel strongly that just as Christ met the needs of the people he ministered to as a vehicle of delivering the gospel, nourishing a person’s body and soul go hand in hand. It is not simply a matter of feeding the hungry – there are many missions that already do that, and do it well. In a modern and educated world there are still massive people groups lacking basic resources that could improve quality of life and have enduring impact. What a great way to bring the gospel to communities in need! The next step to pursue my nutrition career after undergrad would have been to continue on to graduate school and get a master’s degree and certification to become a registered dietician. As much as I enjoyed my education and was afforded every opportunity to excel (in a very lucrative field), I made the unpopular decision to apply for YL staff after college to the disappointment of my professors (and my mother).
I get to carry the gospel into the lives of hurting and broken high school kids every day, and I have the incredible privilege of watching them cross from death to life! At a time when they are deciding who they are, what they believe, and how to serve as Christ served the world, I want them to experience the wonder that Christ has in store for them. What better way than to let them share in a piece of what God is doing in the world like I did when we went to Mexico City? I know for my own life and in the lives of the teens that I have had the privilege to bring along with me, there is nothing that displays the enormity of the love of God like participating in what he is doing for the Kingdom. So this is where it all comes together in God’s call for my life, when I decided not to pursue nutrition as a vocation I didn’t hear God saying “no”, but rather “not yet, I have something better”. Two years into my time on Young Life staff I was given this opportunity to develop an unprecedented program that I am uniquely gifted by the Lord to be able to do. I get to use my passions and skills, I get to serve the Kingdom, and I get to bring people along with me to experience the glory of the Lord.
The great thing is that I wasn’t satisfied with what I experienced at Compass. It gave me an unquenchable thirst that I will spend my whole life chasing. Compass taught me much less about the destination of God’s glory than it did of the grace and wonder of the eternal journey towards him, and that is a wild adventure that I love and have only just begun. God used Compass tremendously in what he was teaching me about the trajectory of his will for my life and about himself as a whole. I am so thankful that I had this unique experience to focus my call, that after Compass nothing could distract me or fool me into thinking any other pursuit was as worthwhile as following the call of the Lord.
Jesse Papirio participated in the Compass program through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2007. She currently serves as a Staff Associate/Acting Area Director for Young Life in Buffalo, NY. She is involved in ministry training of leaders and volunteers as well as direct ministry mentoring and outreaching to high school and middle school students. Currently, Jesse is developing a nutrition missions model with the goal of generating sustainable health and economic growth in deprived regions across the globe.