Pastor Joe Fant, Pastor at Community Baptist Church in South Bend, IN
Summer is just around the corner! For most of us, the word summer is synonymous with vacation, sleeping in (finally!), extra time hanging out with friends, and other activities that the school year’s schedule limits. For many, summer means working at a camp, going on a mission trip, or doing a required internship. Sadly, for some Christian college students, the word summer is associated with the reality of spiritual failure, lack of accountability, and reduced time in the Word, in prayer, and in church life.
As you head out for the summer or make plans for this summer, I would encourage you to keep three things in mind:
Stay in the Word!
It sounds like a basic given for any Christian, but this part of your life often gets thrown out first. You must plan effectively and be intentional if you want to keep your relationship with God vibrant throughout the summer months. Take a vacation; just don’t take a vacation from God. Sleep in; just remember to spend time developing your relationship with your Father. Use a little of the extra time that you have to keep your relationship with God thriving. Cleanse your way this summer by paying diligent attention to the truths of the Word and applying them to your life (Ps. 119:9). You are going to spend time developing and deepening relationships with friends and family this summer. The God of the universe wants to deepen His relationship with you. Give Him the time He deserves.
This summer, look for areas to serve. Just because your personal responsibility of school is on break does not mean that Kingdom work takes a break! Plug in and help with the VBS at your church. Teach a Sunday School class. Help your youth pastor with the teens. Seek out godly leaders in your church and ask them to mentor you. Make it a priority to be a blessing to your pastor by asking him how you can pray for him. Guys, maybe ask to meet your pastor for lunch every couple of weeks to just talk and pray. Girls, seek to do the same with your pastor’s wife. This next suggestion may sound silly but try to establish an exercise routine—bodily exercise profits a little and reminds us that spiritual exercise profits for eternity (I Tim. 4:8). Stay active in your church attendance. Every one of us needs to gather together with our church family on a regular basis for worship, spiritual accountably, discipleship, and fellowship. Don’t neglect gathering with the body of Christ. You need them and they need you.
In my years of working with college students, I found that the hardest time for young men and women to stay pure was when they left the discipline of their daily routine. The routine you have developed at college is in for a summer shake up. Expect to struggle! Have a plan. Stay accountable. Know the friends that you are going to have to avoid and have a plan to talk to them about what God is doing in your life. Know your danger zones and discuss with a spiritually-minded friend how to avoid sin and temptation. Above all, PRAY! Pray that God would deliver you from temptation. Pray that God would allow you to have ministry opportunities like you have never had before. Pray that God would give you the grace to stay pure.
What a wonderful blessing it would be for you to look back on summer 2019 with joy and no regret. Let this summer be a summer of spiritual victories!
Ben Peeler, Bob Jones Seminary Student
I do not know what mental image or emotions come to your mind when you think about summer camp. Maybe you are like me and would be homesick Monday afternoon, 5 minutes after you arrive. My friends never seemed to suffer from “homesickness” like I did. For many of them, camp was not just the highlight of the summer, but it fueled memories and jokes for the remainder of the year. But regardless of how nervous I was or how much I really did not want to be there Monday afternoon, Saturday morning rolled around—I would have to say goodbye to my counsellor and cabin mates whom I did not want to leave. There is something special about any camp that takes children and teens out of their normal schedule and gives them the opportunity to experience unique things, meet new people, and get away from life’s distractions. There is something even more special about a Christian camp. I was a frequent attender of summer camps during my junior high and high school years. I had the opportunity to work at three separate summer camps during my college years. I now have the opportunity to attend summer camp as a youth sponsor and am so excited!
I want to offer three reasons why as a college student, you should commit to working at least one summer at a Christian camp.
Serving becomes a lifestyle
Jesus explained to His disciples in the book of Mark, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45) College is a very selfish time. Students are consumed with their homework, their schedules, their jobs, their friends, and their futures. Those are not inherently bad but can become consuming if not kept in check. Serving at a summer camp makes it obvious, quickly, that life is no longer about you. Your energy, time, and resources are spent serving campers who often use and abuse your good efforts.
While that goes against your nature, fed by college, eventually you adjust and even find serving others to be rewarding and fulfilling. Fellow counsellors struggle alongside you, encourage you, and work with you to accomplish one goal: pointing campers to Jesus. Then the summer ends, and you return to school, but you do not return unchanged. Rather, you carry with you that heart for service. You begin noticing the needs of your roommates, teachers, and friends, and try to help where you can. A life spent serving is never a life wasted.
Christ becomes your main motivation
I can remember meeting my camper who was able to attend camp because someone had paid his way. After about 3 minutes of talking with him, I realized that if someone had not paid his way, there was no way he would have chosen to come to camp. His language was foul, his jokes were crude, and his personality was abrasive. By Wednesday I was ready for him to get back on his bus and go home, because he was corrupting the other campers in my cabin. But I continued to pray that the preaching and personal time in the Word would change his heart. I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I sat with him Friday night and heard him cry out to God asking for forgiveness for his sins. What motivates someone to persevere and continue to pour into the life of a teenager? When you strip away all other motivations, the only thing that remains is Christ. Loving and serving others find their strength in the cross. You stop loving people because it makes you feel good. When you are running on little sleep and every part of your body aches, it no longer feels good. You stop serving people because it is easy, or it is the “cool” thing to do. You serve and love people because Jesus Christ perfectly demonstrated love and self-sacrifice by His death on the cross. Summer camp places a college student in positions to show the grace of God to those who are, like us, underserving.
The Gospel becomes real
This is not to say that a college student cannot experience the gospel in a secular job, but summer camp offers a unique opportunity. As the college student is submerged into a culture of constant spiritual warfare, the gospel ceases to be a nice thought, and it becomes one’s sole life-source. Every part of camp--from carrying a camper's luggage to playing a meaningless game for the hundredth time--immediately takes on more meaning. Steps are intentionally taken to break down walls so that the gospel can take hold of their hearts. As the college student returns to school in the fall, they cease to view the Dining Common as just a place to eat. They stop seeing societies as just a time to make friends and memories. These everyday experiences can and must be leveraged for the sake of the gospel. When they are, lives are changed. One final unique aspect of camp is that the college student has to verbalize their faith. One camp I worked at offered thirty minutes a day for a cabin discussion. I took each day and walked through a different aspect of the Christian Faith. We discussed the origin of sin, the narrative of the entire Bible, the life of the Apostle Paul, and why the Bible must be treasured. Through those seemingly large topics, I was able to meet my campers where they were at spiritually and proclaim the gospel in 4 unique ways every day. But for me to speak and teach, I had to study and confirm what I believed about the gospel. I remember coming back to school that Fall, and because those 4 topics were in my head every day for the previous 12 weeks, I could not help but share it with my roommates and friends who needed to hear. I have seen many summer camp workers return to school, and their passion for the gospel burns so brightly that they make an immediate impact. The gospel is not merely for the unbelieving, but it is truly for everyone. The good news of Jesus Christ never loses its power, and working at a summer camp positions you to be captivated by it all the more.
As I conclude, I wanted to make something clear. Jesus died on the cross and rose again, giving power to His church: the body of believers, fitly joint together. Jesus did not die for “summer camps.” He also did not die so that we could waste our lives going through the motions of “cultural Christianity.” All para-church organizations exist to encourage the church. Summer camps are an invaluable training ground for a young Christian. You will never regret committing a few weeks of your life growing, serving, and loving others as you stretch yourself and train for a life of ministry to Christ and His church.
Kaitlin DalPorto, BJU alumnus
During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to travel on the Southeast Asia (SEA) mission team. This team was very unique in that we only carried a backpack to five different countries, during our six-week trip. It was an amazing experience! I learned so much, not only from the missionaries and church leaders, but also from the people that we ministered to.
You might be skeptical about going on mission trips because of the expense, I was too; but little by little money comes in. Churches who aren’t able to go may still be passionate about missions and would love to help send you! I’m sure you’ve heard stories about how God has provided money in amazing ways for mission team members. God will give what is needed to do what He has called you to do!
So why should you “give up” a summer to go on a short-term mission trip? Not only are we called to go, but going on a mission trip will also open your eyes to the world, the gospel, and the body of Christ in a way you never thought possible. Mission trips grow your understanding of culture and challenge your ability to share the gospel with those who surround you every day.
There are many reasons for going on a short-term mission trip. One of the main reasons is to learn what your role is, in missions. Missions, the Great Commission, is not an option. It is something that God has commanded us to do. It does not matter where you are, you should be working to further the gospel. It is important to know how to pray for, send/give, help, and encourage our brothers and sisters on or off the field. It’s difficult to effectively and sincerely do that without seeing the ministry first-hand.
One of my favorite memories from the SEA mission trip was talking with ladies from the church in Kachin State, Myanmar. While there, the mission team helped with the sessions at a pastor’s conference. We had been there for a few days before we were able to really connect with the people. Although there was a significant language barrier, we were still able to have special fellowship with these dear sisters in Christ!
Another highlight of the trip took place in Thailand, where we were able to be part of the Southeast Asia Missionary Kid Camp! Our team members were “counselors” for the week. I loved how the missionary kids enjoyed being together, learned about God, and had fun (regardless of what others thought). Being at this camp helped me to realize how often MK’s are overlooked, whether on the field or on deputation. Missionary kids have a major role in their parent’s ministry.
In Bangkok we got to help one of the churches with their English class outreach. There I realized the usefulness of teaching English as a tool to build relationships and share the gospel.
I think the most eye opening and convicting experience happened in Indonesia. The religion there is predominantly Muslim. One day we went to an island a couple hours away. We had to take several different water taxis and ferries and basically island hopped to get there. It was not an easy journey. Once there, we noticed that everything was closed and there seemed to be no one around. We were told that the island was 100% Muslim and today was a special holy day spent at the mosque. After the service time ended, we were able to talk to the man with whom our friend has been building a relationship with for several years. We only spent a couple hours there before our long trip back. To see the dedication and effort put into simply building a friendship, not even sharing the gospel yet, was so convicting. How much do I go out of my way on a daily basis to share the gospel?
One of the biggest things that God taught me was the unity that we have in Christ. I was able to see it all throughout the trip. There were countless times when we were with people who ate different food, wore different clothes, sang different songs, lived a different way, enjoyed and gave value to different things, and even spoke a different language. We had literally nothing in common it seemed. But you know what? We did. Christ. And we could worship and praise Him together! Attempt to share with one another what He has done for us! Pray for one another in our own tongues, because we serve an awesome God who can hear prayers in any and all languages. Our Creator made both me and the sweet older lady in the mountains of Myanmar to each play a specific role in the Body of Christ. To see and meet my brothers and sisters in Christ literally around the world is an experience like no other! Knowing that we serve the same God and will spend eternity together praising Him is an incredible thought.
One of the conversations we had with a missionary in Thailand opened my eyes to a valuable reality. The most critical part in missions, and really in life, is to have a gospel minded focus. Geography does not define missions. We have a single goal in life: to glorify God and share Him with those around us. While it will be carried out and implemented differently based on the place or situation, that doesn’t change what God has called us to do, nor does it make serving in your own neighborhood inferior in any way to that of one serving in the heart of Africa.
God used this trip in many ways. Yes, I was able to learn much about the world, different cultures, believers in various contexts, and a better understanding of the body of Christ. And that alone is incredible and life changing! But, through this trip, I met a family with whom I’m now serving on the field. It is a story I love to tell because God’s hand and leading in it are so clear.
My church in the US supports the Wagner family, currently serving in Myanmar as they help to translate the Bible. Every week we pray for a different supported missionary. Over Christmas break the Wagners were the missionary family of the week. Because I was with them the previous spring I decided to message them that we were praying for them. Several messages later they asked if I had plans for the fall because they needed someone to come and homeschool their three oldest kids. I was shocked but so excited about the possibility. My major was International Studies, so think history, politics, culture, language. I had never seen myself teaching nor did I learn anything about it in college. But I did have a desire to spend more time with a missionary to learn if God might have me serve in that way eventually. This was a perfect opportunity!
I have been in Myanmar since the end of August last year. Collectively, my time here will soon be almost exactly nine months. I have definitely done and seen some incredible things! No, it hasn’t been easy or the “glorious life abroad” that some might envision. I am just living my day to day life here. I go through the same (if not more) sin issues, struggles, and heartaches (albeit with less ice cream). I’ve had the joy of seeing the work and fruit of Bible translation here. I’ve visited villages, made friends with local people, and grown to love it here!
It all happened because I went on that SEA mission trip almost 2 years ago. This opportunity wouldn't have come up had I not been on that trip. Just because you go on one of these short term trips doesn’t mean you’re signing up to move across the world. God may call you to do that. But no matter what, through a trip like that you will be better able to serve the church and the body of Christ as a whole, all while accomplishing the great commission.
How are you working to carry out Matthew 28? What steps are you taking to “go”? If this is something that you have struggled to do, a short term trip is a perfect way to open your eyes to your role in God's mission around the world and in your own neighborhood.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.