Nicole Hardin, Cross-Cultural Service Major
This week’s blogpost is the latest prayer update from one of our BJU Cross-Cultural Service interns in Africa.
We are in our final week here. The time has flown! For the first four weeks, we met four times a week with a language tutor for three hours a day. This last month, we have been focusing less on the everyday lingo and more on biblical terminology. Our first day, we began by reading a prayer in Arabic. This was our first time reading full sentences! I definitely felt like a child learning how to read, but it was an amazing moment when I actually knew the sounds that matched the characters! I didn’t know what I was reading, but I was reading!
We continue to build our relationships with the new friends we’ve made. Since the only basis of knowledge they have about religion is from the Quran, they seek to find similarities between the Bible and the Quran. But as we expressed the great exchange Christ has made for us, they have seen Christ is different! Rather than trying to get to God by our own good, the One who knew no sin was made sin, that we might become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Cor. 5:21). All the friends we’ve been able to share this beautiful truth with have commented that this is good! We are praying they would desire to know the truth and that they would taste and see the Lord’s goodness!
As I come to the final week of this internship, I’m reflecting on the many ways my perspectives have been challenged and changed in the best way possible!
Prior to this trip, I found myself finding my worth in my own works. I thought that my value was based on my performance – what I could accomplish. But God has been so gracious to show me that, just as I could not earn my salvation, I cannot earn my sanctification. It is all by the power of the Holy Spirit that works in me. If there is anything good that is seen in me or accomplished through this vessel, it is in spite of me. I am weak, but the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me. This causes me to live in freedom from the expectations that restrain.
Another new perspective God has graciously given is an understanding of life in another country. One of the main reasons I chose this internship was that veteran missionaries are opening their lives up for us to see how they live in a different context. No doubt the culture is different here, but the same thing God requires of me here, God requires of me anywhere – to love Him with all that I am and love others as I love myself. Loving others may look different here than in the States; for instance, it may look like sitting at a coffee shop with one person for six hours just talking about normal day life. We wouldn’t do that on a regular basis in the States, but this is how people in this culture build trust and belonging. But, taking care of myself, doing laundry, meeting with friends – this is all a part of everyday life. This perspective has shown me the necessary task of being faithful wherever I am in doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. The servants here have learned to live out the truth in everyday life, and I seek to do the same.
Lastly, I want to share what I’ve learned about discipleship. The goal of making disciples is not to build buildings with large auditoriums for large numbers of people to gather. The goal of discipleship is that others would be able to take what they have heard and “commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This takes time, trust, commitment, and enduring patience to invest and pour into others as you live life beside them for the long-term. Life is not always exotic and thrilling. Sometimes life is messy and hard, but having a constant trust in the Lord and enjoying the small gifts our faithful God gives breeds a life of thanksgiving. Faithful obedience to love those around you and commit to the Lord’s will is more rewarding. People need to hear the Word God has given, so they may believe and be reconciled to God. The missionaries here are trusting in the Holy Spirit’s power to work through the Word of God to create spirit-led change in those around them.
This is just a glimpse of the new perspectives I am bringing back that have changed the way I approach everyday life. I am so grateful for all your support and prayers along the way!
I leave you with this beautiful promise:
1 Peter 1:22-23
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”
Abbie Rocha, Senior Early Childhood Education Major
I came into this summer not really knowing what to expect and excited for a new adventure. But as we delved more into our work on the island, I discovered that this summer was not just supposed to be an adventure. I had come to the island of Guam to serve the church and to glorify God. I fell in love with Guam from the first day that we arrived. Everything around the island is green, the people there give you all kinds of food, and the ministry of the church is so encouraging and refreshing. For the first month of the summer, we jumped into teaching summer classes. Their summer program is called Cool School. Many parents send their kids to school for the summer to make sure they do not fall behind and forget everything they learned during the school year. God has been so good to continually humble me throughout my time here. As I struggled with jetlag, I had to remember that I could not do this on my own. God showed me in Philippians that this summer I would not be successful according to Him if I tried to do it all on my own. I saw the reality of that truth every day in my classroom. The days where I focused on myself and on trying to be the best teacher were the days I struggled the most. The days I focused on glorifying God and loving my kids were the days that I really connected with them and felt God working.
Most of my students had really no concept of who God is, and most had not ever heard about God at home. During the second week of teaching Cool School, I started sharing a devotional in the morning, realizing how little they knew about God. Through this small time in the morning, I was able to have more conversations with my students about God and about who He is. Sometimes I wondered if I was even making an impact spiritually with my kids because of the language barrier, but one of our mentor teachers told me something really encouraging. She told me it isn't you that is going to make anything happen. The most important times are often the most random times where God works in their lives and allows you to have those random conversations. Even what you think is random, could be the opportunity God is using to plant seeds in their minds.
Though I did not see any of them get saved over the four weeks I had with them, I know that God’s Word never returns void. Our class theme verse has been Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Through God's strength, I was able to plant seeds in these little minds that I know will eventually sprout.
I saw the power of God work during our camps, both junior and teen week, and was reminded of the real power of the Gospel. I started off teen week disappointed that I was not counseling but determined that I would have a good attitude about it and that God had put me where He had for a reason. Instead, I was working on the flex staff, and our job was to take care of all the behind-the-scenes things that make camp happen. All week, I waited for a window of opportunity to talk to the girls about God and the Gospel. It wasn’t until Thursday that all of a sudden God opened the door. I was just sitting on the bleachers and talking with a girl about random things when I had an urge to ask her about what she had learned this week. Earlier that night, one of the leaders told me that she had run away when she tried to talk to her about spiritual things. I asked her if she had thought about the question Pastor Saunders had asked in his sermon on Wednesday. He had asked what you are trusting in for your salvation. She thought about it for a minute and then replied, “I don’t know.” So, I asked her, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” She said, “No.” I started to get excited and asked her, “Well, do you want to find out how you can get saved?” She said, “Yeah.” I took her back to a back room and walked through the Gospel with her. Praise God right there in that back room she asked Christ Jesus to be her Savior. It wasn’t a grand spectacle. It wasn’t a response after a salvation message like I was anticipating. And, her response wasn’t due to my sharing such a compelling message. All I did was listen to God and share the Gospel with her. I was so overjoyed and excited to see the happiness in her face. I gave her a huge hug, and she started running around telling everyone that she had just gotten saved. She ran into the kitchen where her sister was and yelled it. Her sister gave her a weird look and asked, "What do you mean you got saved?" I asked her if she wanted to find out. She nodded yes, so I took her back with her sister to that same back room and walked her through the same thing. That same night, she also asked Jesus into her heart!
God's goodness truly amazes me. These sisters reminded me that God is always working and that His will and plan is so much better than mine. He did not need to use me to bring these girls to Him, but He graciously allowed me to have this opportunity to share the Gospel and see Him work. During junior camp, more than half of my cabin got saved! Six of my girls accepted Christ! At the beginning of the week, I could tell that many of them were confused about salvation. Many of them did not even understand what being “saved” meant. As the week went on, we walked through the Gospel during every devotional, and the more I talked with them, the more they understood what God had done for them. One by one, they accepted Christ, and it was so cool to see the power of God to bring them to Him. They were all from military families, too, so this is probably the only opportunity that they would have to come to camp.
As I left the island, I could not help but thank God for all He had done and how He had shown Himself strong. I was overwhelmed by His goodness this summer, and I already miss the island so much! I cannot wait until I get the opportunity to return!
Jillian Sitton, Graduate Student, Biblical Counseling
"God, if you save my baby, I will serve your people all of my days," was Janeen Williams's prayer as she held her two-year-old daughter's hand under the bright lights of the hospital examination room. That day, the doctors found a cancerous tumor in her daughter's left eye, and to remove the cancer, her daughter would have to lose her eye. Desperate, Janeen offered to God in return for her baby's life the only thing she could—her life. Thirty-three years later, I am sitting across from Ms. Williams and hearing her share her story. I listen as she tells me how God led her to PGM with her four children when she was homeless, how God strengthened her as a single mother, how God comforted her through the loss of her children’s father and the loss of her son later. I listen as she describes a God who has become the closest friend she has and her dearest source of comfort and hope. At 72 years old, she has indeed stayed true to her promise to God – to serve His people all her days.
"I tell the Lord every day, just give me a corner where I can praise you all day long, and I would be happy," was 64-year-old Gracie Sander's humble statement as we sifted through a bin of clothing donations. She is a small, quiet woman whose big brown eyes are filled with a steady joy that can only come from Christ. I listen as she tells me all about how good God is to her, how patient He is with her, and how much He loves her. I listen as she speaks of the deep pain she has endured, the loss she has felt, and the brokenness of her soul before Christ. When you talk with Ms. Gracie, what you see is what you get. She is honest about who she is before God – a sinner. She is raw about her flaws and mistakes. And she is genuine and reverent when she speaks about who God is.
In the book of Acts, it is evident that ministry is not a show. It is not a title, a program, or a job description. Instead, the ministry of ministering is the result of blood-covered lives. The book of Acts is filled with examples of ministers doing raw, natural, and authentic ministry. Before Christ, they were fearful and timid; they lacked self-control, were consumed by anger and hatred, were arrogant, self-righteous, and violent. They had different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, different social statuses, and positions. They spoke other languages and served different gods. But under one broken body – Christ's body – they became a family. Paul writes in Colossians 3:11 that, in the body of Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, neither is there slave nor free. The glorious message of the gospel is that I am a part of a large and beautifully diverse family in Christ. No matter what color your skin is or what part of the country or world you are from, we are the same. We are all a part of the same family.
At Pacific Garden Mission, there are staff from Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and various regions in North America. Their languages range from Spanish, Shona, Afrikaans, Bana, Tagalog, and Portuguese. Many have grown up in cultures steeped in demonic activity, satanic occults, and idolatry. They come from backgrounds of drug and alcohol addictions, gang violence, and sexual immorality. Their bodies bear the scars of violence and abuse, and many have been abandoned by those who claimed to love them.
Still, when I walk past them in the hallways, when I sit with them at meals or in offices, when I labor with them through each day, I don't see that. Instead, I see the humility of Christ in Ms. Williams. I feel the deep compassion and love of Jesus in the hugs of Ms. Jackie. In the prayers of Ms. Gracie, my heart is drawn to love my wonderful and gracious heavenly Father. And in the smiles of the men and women at PGM, I see the joy of lives made new through the blood of Christ.
The Pacific Garden Mission is God's instrument in His mission of transformation in the lives of His creation. It is not a perfect place. It never will be. It is broken and brutal and is run by broken and scarred people. Every day is a battle, a test of perseverance and endurance. But every day is also a blessing as the family of blood-bought brothers and sisters labor together to minister God's love to every person who walks through the doors. The ministry of ministering is only possible in a heart that surrenders itself to the Holy Spirit – in a heart that chooses to give each day to the Lord and to commit its actions to Him. At the Pacific Garden Mission, the name of Jesus is made beautiful in the lives of His transformed children. Let this be our prayer as believers: to make the name of Jesus beautiful to the lost and to minister the love and mercy of Christ to our brothers and sisters.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
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. If you are student interested in an internship with PGM contact the CGO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.