Samuel Henry, BJU Alumnus
God gave me the opportunity to be part of the BJU mission team to Antigua, an island in the Caribbean. We were led by Jonny and Kathryn Gamet, a couple that works in the communications and sports departments at BJU. Along with the leaders and their four children, the team consisted of four guys and six girls. It was extraordinary to see how God used each and every one of our talents to further His work on the island.
Antigua is a beautiful island in the middle of the Caribbean in the West Indies. It is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, holding around 100,000 people. Our team arrived at 2 pm on May 7, 2019. We were met by two missionary couples who we worked with during our time on the island. We worked with the first couple, Nathan and Renee Owens, the most. The other couple, Ken and Nancy Kirkland, helped open many doors to go to different schools, churches, and Bible clubs.
Nathan and Renee help lead the work at the Caribbean Radio Lighthouse, the main organization with which we served. The radio lighthouse spreads the gospel through a 24/7 radio broadcast to most of the Caribbean islands. The lighthouse reaches over two million people on more than twenty islands. Many of these people live in small villages and get their information primarily from radio updates.
During each day we were on the island, the team got split up to work on different tasks, both inside and outside. The first and most substantial task was the 200-foot AM radio tower. The group got up at 5 am and left for the tower site. Our task was to take down the guy-wires one at a time, paint them, and then raise them back up. Since Antigua is a humid island, the wires start to rust after about a year. To keep the wires sturdy, we first scrape the rust and burn it with acid, prime the wire, and paint it. The full project took about a day and a half for all twelve wires.
The process for each wire was straightforward. First, we detached the wire from its anchor. Then, Nathan detached it from the tower. Two to three guys slowly lowered the wire using a pulley. Once the wire was down, one person would paint it with red oil-based paint while the guys slowly lifted the wire back up. Once the wire was back up, Nathan would secure it back to the tower, and we would secure it to the anchor.
We were able to take water breaks and lunch breaks throughout the long, but rewarding, days. We had lots of fun times during the project. First, we got to work while two cows roamed around the field. They were both quiet but got nervous if we approached too closely. The cows got too close to the wires a few times, so we had to scare them off. There was also a very loud donkey and a lot of horses. Next, the wire painter looked like a butcher when he finished. The paint got all over the suit, making it look like some kind of murder mystery. It was quite a humorous sight! Lastly, we got to paint the shed on site after the tower was finished – a much easier task than painting the tower itself.
The next project that about three team members worked on regularly was the radio production work. The team members were assigned to create scripts for the radio station for kids’ programs, ads, and a few other topics. This assignment posed a great opportunity for the team members to apply their majors: English, Communications, and Journalism. They got to write the scripts, record themselves reading the scripts, and edit the recordings to add music and eliminate mistakes. The team also got to invite some of the island children over to record some kids’ question and answer programs.
The rest of the time we were there, we got to work on many kinds of projects. Some examples include working on the radio compound, helping at home, painting the FM tower, and doing a few other tasks. One thing that I personally got to work on was the website (http://www.radiolighthouse.org). I really enjoyed the development because it allowed me to apply my skills as a computer science major in a way that helps the gospel reach more people. I got to add a few pages such as testimonials, podcasts, and a few other random things.
After the projects were done every day, we would visit a beach near the compound to play some games and cool down. A team favorite was a game called spike ball, which is like volleyball but with a trampoline. The water at the beach was very cool, which helped with the heat of the day. Thankfully, no one got stung by sea urchins!
Outside of projects, the team took about a day and a half of tourism. We got to try the island soda (called “Ting”), visit a historic site, see some beautiful views, and shop downtown. Shopping was a fun experience. The vendors would track our eyes and point out whatever we were looking at, encouraging us to get it, in whatever way possible. There were at least 20 vendors with similar products in one section of downtown. Also, the ice cream was incredible and refreshing after a hot day of walking around in the sun. Finally, we visited an island restaurant on the last full day of the trip to experience some great food. Later that night, we also had a bonfire and sang songs to recap and praise God for the work He allowed us to do.
When we weren’t working on projects to help the missionaries, we went to Bible studies and chapels at schools. Most mornings, we would go to schools and do puppet shows, play games, sing songs, and give a message during the chapel time. We got to sing “His Mercy is More” as a team song, and we sang “Behold Our God” as a special. Jonny Gamet would bring the message for the school chapels. The Bible studies were also a great way to really interact with the kids and share the gospel more tangibly. The structure was similar to the chapels but more interactive. For the Bible studies, team members would bring challenges to the kids. It was so encouraging to see their smiling faces and their eagerness to learn more about God.
Another way we helped share the gospel was through the churches. On the one Sunday we were in Antigua, we went to two churches. We helped with Sunday School and led the songs, and Jonny brought the messages. It was encouraging to talk to the islanders and see their energy and joy in Christ. Those times are definitely experiences we will not forget!
We want to thank everyone for their support and prayers. It means so much to have so many people caring and praying for all of us, and it’s so uplifting to see all that God allowed us to do during our time there. He gave us wonderful weather, sweet times with kids and at church, and great missionaries to work with.
Putting it all together, Antigua was an amazing ten days! It flew by, but I know it impacted each and every one of our lives. It was so encouraging to put our skills to use for something that impacts so many lives with the gospel. We’re all thankful for the lessons that God taught us and can’t wait to see how the Caribbean Radio Lighthouse goes on to impact many more lives!
Kimberly Cornelius, Intercultural Studies Graduate Student
This article is also posted on her personal blog Journeys of Grace with the title "The Hands and Feet of Love"
For about a week last October, when going on this trip was just an exciting possibility, I couldn’t get enough of Southeast Asia. I was looking up pictures, reading about current events in that area, and asking my Korean roommate about that part of the world. It seemed so exotic, so fascinating. I pictured ancient temple ruins, sleepy rice fields, cities teeming with people and traffic, dusty country roads, and long, slow rivers. I could imagine our team passing out tracts, playing with the missionary kids, learning from the missionaries, worshiping with other believers in different languages, and helping with ESL opportunities. We would likely spend much of our time sitting around kitchen tables, sipping exotic tea, asking missionaries questions, and learning about how God led them to Southeast Asia and how they’ve learned to do ministry in a different context and culture than their own.
Now, looking back on our four weeks in Southeast Asia, I wouldn’t say that my concepts were entirely wrong. We did see and do those things. We toured the famed temple Angkor Wat in northern Cambodia. We did English camps in Vietnam. We rode in the back of a pickup truck down a bumpy country road in Laos. We navigated the swarms of people and traffic in Bangkok, Thailand. And all along the way we met with missionaries, learned from them, got to know their kids, and worshipped in their churches with believers who didn’t even know English.
I was expecting all those things. But what I wasn’t expecting was how normal everything felt.
As an Intercultural Studies masters’ degree student, I chose this team because I was interested in exploring areas that God might have me return to in the future, whether short or long term. But I wanted more than just a typical, mission trip experience; I really wanted an accurate picture of the life these missionaries lead. And, as it turns out, their lives aren’t made up of life-changing adventures and experiences.
In many ways, these missionaries’ lives look like mine. They make food, clean their homes, care for their family members, and do ministry in their local church. They share the gospel with those around them, but they don’t have evangelistic outreaches every day of the week. And even though they are living lives of sacrificial service to God, they still need to sit at Jesus’ feet every day in their personal pursuit of Christ-likeness.
At the beginning of the trip, all the team members had to journal about what they wanted to learn by the end of our four weeks. My main goal was broad; I just wanted to learn more about Christ-like love. Mission trips don’t automatically sanctify anyone, but I knew that I would have many opportunities to witness love in action, especially through my interactions with the missionaries we would meet.
In connection with my goal, I decided to read 1 John during the trip, and the first three verses of this book particularly struck me.
1 John 1:1-3 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Much of the wonder of the gospel is that God came and dwelt with mankind. Jesus took on human flesh, and people could see Him, hear Him, and touch Him. He became flesh so that He could live among us and ultimately die in our place. As a result, we can have fellowship with God Himself! Something I’m realizing is that true love is close and tangible, not distant and abstract. God loved the world so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world, spanning the great barrier that stood between God and man.
Sometimes overcoming the barriers between two cultures and two countries seems insurmountable; but that is exactly what missionaries must do. In leaving their homelands and their families so that people of another nation might know the joy of fellowship with God, these missionaries are following directly in the footsteps of Jesus. As they live alongside a people who are not their people, sharing the truth of the gospel with them, missionaries experience the joy of welcoming new brothers and sisters into the one family of God.
In all honesty, this is exactly what every believer is called to do—to walk among unbelievers, to speak to them, to reach out and touch them, sharing the good news of the gospel as they go. Some believers do this in their hometown, while others move across the country. Still others move to the other side of the world. But ultimately, each place is just a normal place with normal people who are lost in their sins and desperately need to hear about the incarnate Savior from normal Christians.
I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of the trip at all—Southeast Asia was incredible, and visiting Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam was an amazing opportunity, one that I could never forget. I saw the crowds, I saw the apparent poverty (by American standards), I smelled the meat markets, I walked in the dusty streets, I ate the rice and the noodle soup (sometimes several times in one day!). I rode the river boats, the sky trains, the taxis, the tuk tuks, and a motorcycle (but no elephants, unfortunately . . . maybe next time). I felt the humidity, watched the pounding rain storms, and walked barefoot in the moist, clay dirt. I met with Filipino, Lao, Thai, Khmer, and Vietnamese brothers and sisters in Christ. I visited the Buddhist temples, saw the spirit houses, watched the monks worship idols, and smelled the incense, and my heart cried for these people who are so lost in darkness.
This is Southeast Asia. A very different place from America, and yet, in its own way, a very normal place. So much more than an exotic place to visit and tour and so much more than a life-changing experience waiting to be had, Southeast Asia is a place where normal people live out the Great Commission.
Southeast Asia doesn’t need adventurers who come for the experience; Southeast Asia needs faithful men and women who are willing to share the gospel in an undramatic, average place. Southeast Asia needs believers who are willing to commit years of their lives to meeting new people, learning a new language, and adapting to a new culture. Southeast Asia needs patient believers who may not see the fruit of souls saved until a decade or more into their ministry. And Southeast Asia needs weak Christians who must rely fully on God for the strength to be faithful day after day, year after year, and decade after decade.
Am I a Slave Too?
Erin Martin, Nursing Student
Every chamber of my heart is drawn to Utah. I cannot help but want to drag everyone I know with me. So, for this team, I grabbed four friends who are mildly to somewhat seriously interested in living in Utah in the future. Nine days and three churches. Every time I arrive in Utah, my respirations (temporarily) plummet to zero from encountering the breath-taking beauty of Utah’s towering mountains. But, after a few days, the view was not its most magnetic aspect for the five of us. Utah, Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I don’t think I actually realized how deep the veins of the LDS church run in Utah until we arrived at our first location – an Airbnb in Provo (the home of BYU) – where there was no coffee maker. Odd, but not really a big deal, right? Until I remembered – true, devout, and very practicing Mormons don’t drink coffee. (Don’t worry; we found plenty of phenomenal little coffee shops scattered throughout.) According to our Christian friends in the Salt Lake area, some cities would have over ninety percent claim to be part of the LDS church, while the other ten percent is predominantly non-religious, most likely completely turned off by the deception of the LDS church that has been exposed to them. Other areas are more fifty-fifty. Still, the great majority does not know our true God.
As we toured the temple square, we were prompted to consider the true difference between the five of us in our twenties and the two sisters, also about the same age, who gave us the tour. We and the sisters both would say that we are spending our lives serving God. We would both want to be distinct from other non-religious people. We would both serve our local church and have been taught stories about Jesus since we were knee high to a grasshopper. Our religion has been part of who we are and has shaped how we think and what we do. How do I even have the right to say that I am right? How can this even be determined? Through faithfulness to our respective causes? Well, honestly, I believe that some very serious LDS are much more faithful to their set of religious beliefs than I am to mine. And, all of the very serious Mormons go on their mission for a year and a half to two years. That’s so much more than some little, two-month, summer mission team (or, in the case of the Salt Lake City team, nine days). Is it following more rules? They again would totally trump me in the ability to memorize and apply all the rules in their handbook. The real difference is the faith behind our faithfulness. To a Latter Day Saint, their faithfulness is faithless. Their salvation is not “by grace . . . through faith . . . the gift of God,” but by good works through following the rules of the church (Ephesians 2:8). As with many religions, a Mormon’s righteousness, and, therefore, his eternal destiny, is based completely on his relationship with the temple – being baptized in the temple, being sealed (married) in the temple, making promises in the temple – and on living a relatively moral life.
What makes us different? As we spoke to the pastors, one truth became incredibly clear: personal righteousness has nothing to do with the person himself at all. Personal righteousness is only ever from Christ. I know; you already knew that. I mean, really, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 5:17 pretty much spell that out for us. But, we do get to have a friendship with the One who created us, who gave us life. A friendship with the One who we reject (no not just in the past tense). A friendship with One who still begs us to bring our anxieties to Him and exchange them for inexpressible peace (Philippians 4:6-7). He rescued us from ourselves, from trying to be good enough. You know? The One who created the entire universe. He created all those things that I could barely even begin to comprehend in biology class. He is the One who wants to be my personal best friend and chases after me even when I am sprinting away from Him! Because He loves me. That’s the difference. It is not at all my being a good kid. It is totally God’s being the incredible Father and Friend. He also takes the position of being in control of my life with His kind wisdom that graciously gives me what He knows is good and best (instead of what I think I need or deserve).
While I may know these truths in my head, living with my thoughts and actions affected by them is a little more challenging. I can be pretty good at acting like I am more righteous than you because I do all these super-duper good things and do not do the really bad things. Am I a slave to myself, too? Or am I just another religious girl in her twenties that has a bunch of rules and likes to tell you that I am right and you are wrong or that you should follow my rules and act like me?
Utah begs me to stay because of the people who are hopelessly obliged, bound, enslaved to their religion or to the absolute abhorrence of it. I know that what I have is not just religion but a Lord and Friend who has overwhelmingly shown His love and personal care for me. While my eyes are perpetually glued to the majestic scenes around me, my heart is even more passionate about sharing the light I have in a place filled with darkness.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:6-7
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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.