Garrett Martin, Seminary Student
I remember during my sophomore year of college God started to give me an explosive amount of clarity about how paramount he is and what he does in determining who I am and what I do. He is the ultimate driving force—not just for the general direction of my life or a few isolated priorities but for everything. I saw Christ as preeminent and his glory as my goal. The means to accomplish this goal is my joining in his mission of reconciling the world through the gospel.
I’m sure all genuine believers know this feeling of boiling inside with passion to serve an infinitely glorious God. But the frustration that sometimes follows is questioning what to do with all of that God-inspired, glory-invigorated passion.
What does God want me to do? Not just in vague terms (i.e. “share the gospel,” “disciple people,” “glorify God,” etc.). How does God want to use my gifting, my background, my opportunities? Which gifts should I be developing? What opportunities should I aim for? What does it look like for my everything to be used for his glory?
Essentially, I needed a vision. I knew God’s mission, and I knew my general purpose in life. But I didn’t know what it looked like.
One of the greatest helps in shaping my vision has been going on a city team, and I discovered that my situation was actually one of the primary reasons city teams exist.
What is a city team? City team is an initiative that began two years ago, which consists of student-led groups that connect with local churches in the USA for potential long-term ministry. City teams help students build relationship and practical bridges with local church ministries before they graduate. These teams are open to ministry-minded students from any major because the goal is to match their major with ministry significance in a specific context.
The details of the team are determined by the make up of students—their interests, gifts, etc. For example, I led a team to Denver with four other students who were studying engineering, church music, graphic design, and international studies. Because one student was wondering how she could use her passion and background of non-profit work for the glory of God, we were able to volunteer with different nonprofit ministries through the local churches in Denver. The aspiring graphic designer on our team had multiple meetings with church administrators and leaders to see the various needs of graphic design in their church. The church music major was able to meet with different music pastors in Denver. As a whole, the team was able to spend the two weeks surrounded by church members and meeting with dozens of pastors.
These are the questions that we repeatedly asked in almost every meeting as we served side-by-side with other Christians, drank coffee together, or sat across the kitchen table:
“How did God lead you here?”
“What is your vision for the gospel in Denver?”
“What are some of the most exciting and difficult things about serving here?”
“How should we be preparing while in college?
It was eye-opening to say the least. One of the joys is that these experiences not only provided a tangible vision of how to serve God with our lives, but it also simultaneously amplified our passion to serve Him.
Throughout the rest of my time in college, I found that I was often being pushed forward in my studies by looking back on these experiences. It became my aim; it was the tangible goal and need that I saw with my own eyes and heard across the table as pastors shared their burdens and vision. I’m gratefully surprised with how much those conversations have marked and motivated me. I’m further encouraged as I see students, through these teams, expressing an intensified desire to serve God and some even immediately moving after graduation to be a part of the local church that they first encountered through their city team. This typically doesn’t just happen unless there is an established relationship and a solid conviction that “God can use me there.”
Through these teams, God is spreading a vision for his mission in the church. My guess is that the large majority of students who will read this want more of that vision. So, of course, my suggestion for you is to join a city team. The teams are flexible, inexpensive, and life-altering.
I’ve shifted from a member of these teams to an advocate for them. So if you see the value and God is moving you to consider joining one, please let me know. I’d be happy to connect you with the various city teams that are being planned for this upcoming summer. We’ve had teams go to NYC; Lincoln, Nebraska; Boston; Detroit; Denver; Salt Lake City and Seattle. This year we are expecting seven more teams, some going to the previously mentioned cities and some going to new areas like Chicago, D.C., and Portland.
Please do not exercise aimlessly. God is real, and there are real people who need Him—and by extension, need you. Prepare yourself for them. Give your passion a vision.
Dr. Marc Chetta, Health Professions Faculty
In the summer of 2013, I took 22 BJU pre-med and nursing students to Arequipa, Peru. The local missionary had arranged for us to provide medical, dental and optical care to the Quechua people. They are descendants of the Incans and are considered to be lower class by the Spanish majority. The missionary told us that Quechua have a difficult time getting adequate medical care and when they do, they are given a cold shoulder or are ignored. The students and I decided that when we would see them in the clinics, that we would treat them with kindness and with Christlike love. As the Quechua people entered our clinic area, we would stand and speak to them in their language, acknowledging them with respect. Throughout the week we saw miracles happen. A little 5-year-old girl in great danger of dying from a peritonsillar abscess dissecting down into her neck was bathed with prayer and intramuscular antibiotics. Over the course of four days of treatment, she improved dramatically much to the joy of her mother (and us!).
Around the 3rd day a young lady in her 20’s came to see us (I usually had 2 or 3 students working with me each day). She wouldn’t look me in the eyes in spite of our extreme care and outward show of concern. She wouldn’t even tell us why she was coming to see us. So, I did a quick exam and prescribed some vitamins and other “freebees”. Just before she left, I asked her one more time if there was anything we could do for her. She began to cry and then shared with us that a few months before she had been gang-raped by five men. She was fearful, ashamed and depressed, despairing even of life. The students began to minister to her physically and emotionally. I shared with her that there was Someone who loved her very much and wanted to heal her heart and give her hope. She went on to accept Jesus Christ that day as her Savior and to this day is attending that missionary church. That week, 909 Quechua prayed to receive Christ as their Savior (out of nearly 3000 that came to our clinics).
The 22 students on that trip got to see God in action using us as His tools, His mouthpiece. We imitated the Savior’s M.O. by using the healing arts to break down barriers and show them that we loved them as Christ loved us. We were all changed.
I had the privilege of taking 14 present and former students to Romania this past summer. In a strange twist, we held our medical, dental, and optical clinics in a large concrete auditorium built during the terrible reign of Nikolai Ceausescu. This auditorium had been used to brainwash the local people with atheistic, totalitarian communism. This summer our local missionary and his people preached an evangelistic meeting in the same building. God always has the last say!
When you go on a mission trip to a third world country, it is actually you that gets changed…not just the people to whom you are ministering. One thing going on 28 or so mission trips has done for me is to make me appreciate just how good we have it here in the good ole USA. For example, I took a hot shower this morning. Do you know what an amazing privilege that is? (I’ve had so many cold showers in water that you better only hum in, not sing!) I heard the gospel when I was in college and knew no physical danger when I accepted Him as my Savior. Mission trips have greatly increased the gratitude I feel toward God for where I was born!
So, you see why we go on short term medical mission trips. We minister, see results, and in turn, we are changed forever.
Marc Chetta, M.D.
I was in a friend’s wedding right before my mission trip. On the wedding day, we spent the morning taking pictures. As much as I love my friend, it was quite difficult to bear both the heat and my slightly baggy pants with suspenders (you don’t know what that means until you actually feel your legs and your pants moving separately). We had about two hours to spare before the wedding ceremony, so we ate a quick lunch and waited at the backstage. God was surely teaching me patience! When our pianist began to play a prelude, we knew that it was time to prepare ourselves. The ceremony was about to begin—the groom and the bride were about to become one.
A pastor once said, “This life is a prelude to the real life.” What a wonderful quote: eternity awaits. We are currently listening to a prelude to the Holy Matrimony of Christ and His Church. The “prelude” is not always pleasant, but God uses everything together for good to those who love Him. Our physical death in this world is a mere beginning of the best life that will never end. Christ has lived, died, and risen for us to grant us eternal life with Himself. Suffering and pain are temporary, but joy and peace are unending. Isn’t that amazing?
Why do I talk about this when I am writing about my mission trip? It’s for one reason: I saw so many people to whom this is simply a folklore. I saw many spiritually-dead men walking around as if they are alive. The darkness has blinded their eyes, and this temporary life is all they have. They’ll do whatever it takes to feel secure in this vain life. To them, this life is not a beautiful prelude to eternal life—it’s a dreadful requiem for eternal death.
Ironically, the land of Buddhism does not follow the teachings of Buddha. The general mindset of Southeast Asian people is “do good get good; do bad get bad.” Their goal is to live the best life right now (sounds like a book in the States!). They worship the ancestors and go to Buddhist temples as they hope for material blessings. They’ll try “Christianity” if they can get money out of it. “Why aren’t you coming to church anymore?” a missionary once asked. “Because,” the man replied, “you stopped teaching English. Why would I be a Christian if I don’t get anything out of it?”
For them, religion is a philosophy or a way of living rather than the world’s relationship to a deity—it’s a manual for How to Live a Nice Life 101. A Cambodian student said to me, “I want to study all religions because it seems like every religion teaches to do good. . . We see corruption in the government, and we want to change it. But we can’t. We’re not the government. We’re not the religion.”
As we were looking down at the city of Bangkok from a skyscraper, my friend commented: “I guess… all these people will just populate hell in the future.” More than 8 million people live in the city and 70 million in the entire country of Thailand; about 1% claim to be followers of Christ. It’s a wonderful place to live—food, attractions, shops… you name it. But what’s the point of life without Christ? Is there life?
I remember attending a funeral as a high schooler. People put the body in a coffin and placed it inside a small wooden Buddhist tower. We watched two men as they poured gasoline all over it. When they lit it on fire, we silently stared at the enlarging flame while the widow cried in agony. Ash began to fall from the sky like snow. His physical body burned very quickly, but his soul continues to burn even today. Even though the widow stopped crying, he will cry in agony forever.
The world needs Christ. People need the Savior who will snatch them out from the flames of hell. The “requiem” continues to fade as eternal death approaches them. But how will they hear about Him without anyone telling them? Am I being faithful to the Lord who has given everything to me? Am I being faithful in sharing the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16)?
This is a small portion of what I’ve learned during my trip in Southeast Asia. God has taught me so much through it. Even though I lived there for 11 years of my life as an MK, I barely scratched the surface of the deep spiritual darkness. After learning so much more about the region during my trip, I have a greater burden for lost people and a greater view of the Gospel. I thank God for the opportunity and for His faithfulness to His people.
You are worthy to be praised. You have every reason to pour Your wrath on us, but instead You sent Your only Son to die for us. We ask You that You will send more laborers to the harvest. Thank You for Your willingness to use sinners like us even though You don’t need any help. We are willing, so please use us to share the message of eternal life for the sake of Your Name. We love You, and we want to love You more.
In Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.
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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.