Chantel Dewar, MDiv Graduate Student
In September of 2020, I began thinking about the idea of taking a team to St. George, Utah. Besides having a connection through my brother-in-law who is the assistant pastor, I had a desire to minister to Westside Baptist church and help them out with their Sports Camp. In February of 2021, we had a finalized team and began having weekly meetings to discuss details and to pray for the trip.
I think the biggest prayer request that was answered for me was our team. The group dynamics were better than I could have imagined, and, over the course of the week, the five of us became like family. We saw God working in great ways during our week there. We were able to develop relationships with the kids, as well as with other workers from the church. It is amazing what a group of believers who have never met can accomplish when they come together for the same purpose. We saw kids grow throughout the week and become more confident in their abilities in sports. Most importantly, we were able to see the gospel go out to about sixty kids. Most of these kids come from Mormon homes and would never go to a Bible-believing, gospel-preaching church. So, sports camp is a unique opportunity to reach these kids and their parents with the truth of the Gospel.
The day that had the most impact on me was Wednesday. Pastor Greg Wright brought our team out for breakfast and answered any questions we had about the Mormon church. He explained to us that the only hope they hold to involves being married and having a lot of kids, and, if you are a woman, you are totally dependent on your husband to get you to a higher realm of heaven. It was then that I was left in awe of how much God loves us. He doesn’t make our salvation dependent on any human. He loves us so much that He gives us salvation when we believe on His name and accept Him as our Savior. I was struck with how simple the gospel really is and was brought to tears thinking about how much God loves us and gives us so much grace when we don’t deserve it. It left me with a new burden to share that simple message with those who are caught up in the lies that works will save them and that their salvation is dependent on other, equally imperfect people. I shared this thought with the team that morning during our team devotions, and we took prayer requests. There were specific things that we prayed for that morning that we saw answered that evening at sports camp.
Because my undergrad degree is in Cinema Production, I was recruited to help with the video/photography team. I developed a less-than-stellar attitude because I wanted to be working with the kids, not just documenting the camp. I shared this struggle with the team and asked them to pray that I would have a better attitude about the role I had been put in. That evening, due to work circumstances, one of the other workers was not able to make it, and I was pulled in to help with the kids. I was amazed at how the Lord worked that out.
I already mentioned the beauty of the Gospel. However, I want to emphasize one part of Sports Camp that was really imprinted on my heart: presenting the Gospel to children. Evangelist Rob Watkins was the speaker that week. He uses Gospel Effects and ventriloquism to present the Gospel message to children. I sat in many of his presentations and tried to imagine being one of those kids hearing the gospel for the first time. I was amazed at how precious it is to share the Gospel with children. I think of what Jesus said in Luke 18:16-17 “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” How many times do we underestimate the understanding of children? The Lord has made the Gospel so that it can be understood by children, and we are to go to Christ as little children would go to their father.
Our team prayed for the kids and their parents every day. We prayed that God would make their hearts open to His Word and that we would remember that we cannot save them but that it is God who brings them to Himself. We prayed that we would show them Christ’s love and compassion. We prayed that the seed would be planted in their hearts and that the Lord would send other believers into their lives to water those seeds. We prayed that we would love them like Christ does. If we are not doing what we are doing with the love of Christ and for God’s glory, we are doing nothing. I believe that we all grew in our faith that week. We were able to see God working in other people’s lives and in our own. We were taught a great lesson about the love of Christ and the awesome hope we have in Him.
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
If you have a story of how God has used you this summer in ministry or evangelism, please leave a comment or consider writing a post of your own at www.bjucgo.com/submissions
Benn Silveira, Graduate Student in Biblical Languages and Literature
Serving the Homeless
I think it is fair to say that many Christians have questions about how to effectively serve the homeless population in their local area. Some question whether to give money or even their time to a homeless person. Some are not sure whether to focus primarily on their spiritual need or to address their physical need before the spiritual need. There needs to be a balance between being too gracious or too closed off to the homeless population. Well, where is the balance? I propose that the balance is friendship: friendship with the person whom you seek to help. Why is friendship important for serving the homeless? First and primarily because of Christ’s example. He befriended thieves, adulterers, etc. (Jn. 4; Lk. 19:1-10); he befriended sinners (Mk. 2:13-17). Please keep in mind that Jesus’ purpose for intentional interaction was not to condone sin; instead, it was to be present with them and to show them his love as well as the truth of the Word. In fact, Jesus’ friendship is like a mini picture of the gospel. Part of the gospel includes the good news that God chose to make his dwelling among sinners, not the righteous (Lk. 5:32; Jn. 1:14). Therefore, befriending a homeless person reflects a gospel attitude. In short, if we earnestly want to reach our homeless population for Christ, then we must first set aside our stereotypes, expectations, and discomfort, and intentionally choose to get to know the homeless person as a friend, like you would for any normal friendship. May the Lord give us a heart of compassion to befriend a person without a home!
Now that I have briefly talked about the heart of homeless ministry, allow me to address the head of homeless ministry. By head I mean the mind, that is, discernment and wisdom. My experience at the Pacific Garden Mission (PGM) this summer has taught me that Christians need to have both compassion and wisdom when serving the homeless. Jesus’ command to his disciples to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16) as they ministered has become a fitting verse for serving the homeless population. By wise, Jesus does not mean you need to be thoroughly educated, though that is honorable; instead, he means you need to have discernment. Jesus’ command is in the context of warning his disciples about future persecution; this context of persecution certainly warrants wisdom from God. What happens when you don’t exercise wisdom? You have a gentle dove who is naïve; in other words, you have a person full of compassion but lacking discernment for how to show that compassion. There is a saying at PGM that captures the need for wisdom: “Sometimes you’re hurting more than you’re helping.” By having a heart of compassion but no discernment, sometimes you end up enabling a homeless person’s problem more than helping them. So how do you help the homeless person without hurting them? The answer: godly discernment. I say godly because true discernment comes from the Lord, and therefore the believer needs to depend on God for how to interact with each homeless person. This brings up another reason for wisdom: Every homeless person’s life and situation is different. Therefore, be very careful not to stereotype men or women who are homeless. I confess that I am guilty of stereotyping homeless people. However, during my time at PGM I have realized that each one has a unique situation; this is another reason why befriending a homeless person is important. Without getting to know his situation, how are we able to discern whether he is truly in desperate need of a godly friend to show him the love of Christ? In the same way that we need wisdom to tell the sheep from the wolves, we also need wisdom to tell the homeless person who does not want help from the one who does. Please do not rely on your local rescue mission alone to do that type of discerning for you; instead, rely on God’s wisdom, which is perfected over time, as you discern how you can best help.
Sharing the Gospel with the Homeless
Assuming the Christian understands the gospel message, it is necessary then to share it boldly to a homeless person. Bold evangelism may obviously sound necessary, but sometimes, whether to the homeless or others, we might be tempted to shy away from presenting the full gospel message. To be bold does not mean to be fearless but to speak truth despite difficulty, and difficulties can come in different forms for each person. Whatever your difficulty is when evangelizing, overcome it with boldness, which is empowered by the Holy Spirit (another reason to depend on God for ministry). Homeless men and women need to hear the same gospel message that you heard when you got saved; therefore, boldly share the full gospel message to the homeless and don’t hold anything back. Take heart, the Lord will give you the words to say (Mt. 10:19-20)!
If boldness includes speaking the truth despite difficulty and trust implies dependence and confidence, then bold trust means to trust God in the midst of difficulty. In terms of homeless evangelism, the difficulty for me lies in trusting God that my evangelism is not in vain. The nature of homeless ministry is discouraging because many homeless men and women receive the gospel message with gladness but soon return to their own ways, while others don’t even want to talk about the gospel unless you’re also going to give them money. As Christians, we should not be surprised by how the homeless receive the gospel message because how they receive it is not different than how people in Jesus’ day received it. In fact, Jesus used an entire parable known as the Parable of The Sower to explain how the heart of man receives the gospel message. Some receive the gospel, but it doesn’t last; some receive it with joy, but the joy is only temporary; others receive the gospel message and are changed permanently into a new creation (see Mt. 13:18-23). Boldly trust that God will do the planting and watering as we faithfully do the sowing.
Taylor Sams and Miles Scarboro, 2021 Graduates
What happens when two students (Taylor Sams and Miles Scarboro), that have never been on a mission trip, lead a team to a place they have never been? Well, they see God’s providence in action! Truthfully, this city team began as a far-fetched dream with a great deal of obstacles before us. Where do we find a team? How do we get sufficient finances? With what pastors should we partner? What should we do if our car breaks down in the middle of Detroit? Yet God’s sovereign and gracious hand perfectly guided the Detroit City Team together. Within a matter of weeks, the Lord burdened three awesome students (George Marks, Karis Martin, and Markena Wilson) to join the team. After much prayer and preparation, we became official. The flights were booked, the money was raised, and the pastors were contacted. We were headed out to Detroit!
Before serving in any ministry, especially one so unfamiliar, we knew that determining our purpose was essential. At first, our temptation was to view ourselves as the “savior” of these churches. We assumed our team would be the catalyst for transforming a small, dying church into a thriving body. Although I’m being mildly facetious, our purpose certainly placed far too much emphasis on our own abilities and exaltation. Thankfully, after more discussion and prayer, our team devised a new strategy. Instead of being their “savior”, we would just act like the church. Crazy concept, I know. But as we read in Ephesians 4:16, every believer is a vital member of the body of Christ. Although some roles are different, each connect to and benefit one another. Therefore, our team sought to pour into a local church body while they also poured into us. Our goal became quite simple. The Detroit City Team existed to listen, learn, and love. We were to serve as learners rather than saviors.
By God’s grace, the Detroit City Team was ready! For our first week, the team joined the ministry of Dave Doran, Jr. at Resurrection Church. Amazingly, Pastor Dave has lived in the Detroit area for his whole life and has carefully designed his ministry to fit the environment. After learning about Resurrection’s influence on the surrounding community, Pastor Dave sent us out to various church plants. During that week, our team had the privilege of visiting six churches. While visiting each church, the team helped with any maintenance tasks and had greatly impactful conversations with burdened, driven pastors afterwards. Although each church was different and faced a unique set of struggles, we could easily recognize their overwhelming heart and love for the Lord.
As the week came to a close, the team met together to reflect, discuss major lessons, and pray together. After hearing each member talk, two lessons were most evident. First, each church displayed a deep connection toward their community. All too often, churches remain within their own comfortable, Christian bubble. The community beyond the church walls is kept predominately unknown to many long-time members. Yet as we visited these Detroit church plants, each pastor placed special interest in those around them. Many of the pastors served in local community centers, fellowshipped with other churches, and removed unnecessary barriers to gospel conversations. Instead of playing it safe and doing the bare minimum, these pastors heeded the active command of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) through consistent and revolutionary evangelism and discipleship. In addition, we witnessed the necessity and beauty of serving sacrificially. During our various conversations with the pastors, not one portrayed church planting, church revitalization, or ministry in general as an easy task. In fact, many of these leaders faced loneliness, hopelessness, betrayal, turmoil, and confusion. Yet even through tiring and busy schedules, they still pushed forward. Why? Mark 10:45. Christ came to earth not to live an easy life but to serve humbly and sacrificially. As believers, we get to be partakers of this same privilege. As one pastor put it, “trials will come, so make sure you have thick skin and a soft heart.”
For the second week, our team traveled to Hamtramck, a small town within the Detroit city limits. Even though it is only two square miles, Hamtramck is home to the largest Muslim population in the United States, along with nine other European countries. The two countries with the highest representation are Yemen and Bangladesh. Despite preconceived notions of the dangers that may be present in a city with a high Middle Eastern population, Hamtramck is one of the safest communities in the Detroit area. It was exciting for us to get a small taste of what everyday life is like in a place that feels more like a foreign country!
Our team had the privilege of meeting with the pastors and several church members of Grace of Hamtramck, as well as with other believers that live within the area. It was encouraging for us to learn about the different ways in which the body of Christ has come together to reach out to their community. The outreach ministries within Hamtramck include urban farming, weekly park ministries, teaching English as a second language, and the current production of a thrift store on the main street. In each of these ministries, by God’s grace, relationships are formed, opening doors to further gospel advancement.
A lot of what we learned during the first week at Resurrection Church was very evident throughout the second week in Hamtramck, such as the importance of the global church and the necessity of the local church. Even amid such cultural differences and obstacles, Grace Church stayed united together with the purpose of worshiping God, discipling believers, evangelizing unbelievers, encouraging one another in Christ, and caring for those who are in need physically and spiritually. Because of Islam’s ingrained influence on the community in Hamtramck, the spiritual need there is immense! Truly, the laborers are few. But the laborers present are fully invested.
In all, the Detroit City Team was an amazing opportunity for our team to leave the “Bible Belt” for a short period of time and witness the important need for church ministry. May we all portray the same passion as these pastors, relying solely on the commands and promises of God. Paul describes the need and beauty of ministry best in 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
If you too have a story of how God has used you this summer in ministry or evangelism, please leave a comment or consider writing a post of your own at www.bjucgo.com/submissions
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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.