Bruce from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine
Ah, but those times when we can meet together are comforting, refreshing, and wonderful! We are reassured and fortified from God’s Word. We rejoice in opportunities to fellowship and to express that joy in affectionate and exuberant greetings. We jubilantly sing songs of praise to the God who is our Rock, our Fortress, our Shelter from the storm, our Shield . . .! We observe the return of some who have wandered away and perhaps been disciplined from the flock. We see unbelievers attending and have been excited to see folks respond to the Gospel and find unassailable and eternal peace and joy in Christ!
Believers are helping to convey those who flee to Ukraine’s borders. We have been feeding and housing folks who stop for a night in transit. Mostly, these are believers, but we have been aiding unbelievers too, as you should expect. We move funds (as well as we can) to those who are displaced into other locations. We take provisions to folks who are shut-ins; one of my students carries such tasks throughout the week. Another student has driven multitudes to western areas and borders. Another, displaced with his young family to the Carpathian mountains, is filling a temporary ministry as a youth leader in a Baptist church there. We all wonder when we may return to our former ministries; it is a constant request to God.
Surely my personal feelings and meditations (such as the following) are not unique. Maybe 2 weeks ago, when Ukraine’s refugees were then estimated at over 2 million, I remembered Luke’s report in Acts 8:4. The early church’s activities had been centered in Jerusalem but persecution after Stephen’s martyrdom thrust them out from Jerusalem and they went everywhere, preaching the Word. Ukraine has been the best evangelized of all the former Soviet republics. As such, and as the largest country in Europe (apart from Russia), Ukraine likely has more believers than any country in Europe. Isn’t it likely that God’s plan for these refugees – the ones who are genuinely His – is that they be His messengers of the Gospel to the spiritually cold countries of Western Europe? It must be so; I plead with you to pray that the eyes and hearts of every one of those believers would recognize their opportunity and responsibility and would be up-and-active! Just imagine, if even 1% of the now more than 3 million refugees are true believers, it would mean that over 30,000 potential missionaries have been “let loose” upon those nations! Doesn’t that stir something in your heart?
I’ve been curious from the start of this violence that any fears I’ve had were experienced before the invasion. Once underway, an inexplicable peace and calm has guarded my heart, almost without interruption. And when that peace and sense of security is jeopardized, I run back to the Scriptures for the sweetness of God’s comforts. The Psalms have assumed a new life for me. I read cries for help and attestations of faith that echo the very cries and convictions of my own heart! My heart cries, “O God, how I thank you! You must have written this passage for me; for us who would hide ourselves under your loving and mighty wing today!” I read so many of these psalms . . . I melt into tears of wonder and joy! God’s Word is for me—for us! He knows where we are and what we are experiencing and feeling; He cares! He won’t leave us nor forsake us!
Though I have prayed often for His protection and for further opportunities to serve Him in this life, I fully realize that it may not be in His plan that I re-emerge, alive. As a child of God and as His servant, it isn’t of primary importance that I live. What is of primary and compelling importance is that God be glorified! Paul has said it . . . “by life or by death.”
If God arranges that the Ukrainian forces continue to stymie and push back the aggressor, the shout from we who belong to Him will not be (as we hear around us even now), “Slava Ukraini!” (that is, “Glory to Ukraine”). Rather, let it be, “Slava Christu” . . . “Slava Bogu” (that is, “Glory to Christ” . . . “Glory to God”)!
I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and will glorify Your name forever.
(Psalm 86:12 – NASB)
Isaac Perry, Ministry & Leadership Major
When I transferred to BJU as a Sophomore Ministry and Leadership major in the Fall of 2020, I had just begun to take my spiritual walk with Christ seriously. I knew the university would offer me plenty of opportunities to get personal, hands-on experience in ministry. I was excited for all the possibilities. However, one opportunity came unexpectedly through my society. About half-way through my first semester at BJU, I found out about the Epsilon Zeta Chi (Z) missions team. Z missions team is an opportunity for our society to take a trip to a city in the United States, support the church there, and spread the gospel.
Since EZX is a fairly large society, anyone interested in going on the trip applies, describing their salvation testimony, desires for going on the trip, and goals for growth through the experience. Last year was my first opportunity to travel with the missions team; and by God’s grace, myself and eleven other men from EZX applied and were selected for the team. Our team of twelve was composed of many different majors—Business, Biology, Education, Bible, and more. In other words, it was not just the ministry majors going out and spreading the gospel. Tentmakers and preachers joined arm-in-arm to testify to the gospel of the grace of God, just as God intended for the body of Christ.
My first experience on the Z missions trip was different than normal. As I am sure many of you can relate to, COVID-19 threw many wrenches into the plans that we were making. The typical Z missions trip happens over spring break, but not this one! This trip was pushed back to the first week of summer break. To make matters more interesting, our pre-planned destination was San Francisco, CA, one of the most restricted cities in the US at that time. While our man-made plans were being frustrated, we trusted that God knew exactly what He was doing. We trusted that in spite of changing regulations, difficult airlines and changing ticket prices, and many doubts and wonders, God would do what was best. Unsure of whether or not we would actually be able to go on this trip, we began to focus our hearts, study San Francisco and its people, and fundraise and dig into the preparation for the trip.
Perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects of missions trips is the preparation. Everyone on the outside of this particular trip only sees the seven-to-eight days that are actually spent on the trip, but our entire second semester was taken up with reading, team-building, and weekly meetings. Even though we were sure to get the necessary prep work done, we made sure to have a great time doing it. Getting to know the guys on the team better, seeing their hearts flourish with love for the gospel and for people, and experiencing the unity that only the gospel can bring are all memories that will last for a lifetime.
During our prep, we discussed particular goals from the very beginning that we believed God desired for us to have. The primary purpose of Z missions trips is to provide a vision so that men’s hearts would be burdened for the gospel. We want to expose the guys in society to the vast and always-growing need of the gospel. What greater goal can anyone ever have! There are a few different ways that this primary goal is functionally carried out.
First, the trip is designed to encourage our men to partner with local churches in urban contexts after graduation. BJU is a great place to be, but eventually we will all graduate, and new students will move into our old rooms. Our lives will move on from here and hopefully into churches around the world where we, with other believers, will engage to spread the gospel. By God’s grace, this trip will help EZX men become comfortable with and passionate for partnering with their local body of believers.
Secondly, we desire to use our talents and abilities to serve local churches. There are many ways that we do this, and with each different destination, there are different approaches. Often times, we clean around the church facilities or work with our hands. We always encourage the local body of believers where we are serving in any way that we can, as well. Perhaps EZX’s favorite, though, is through songs and the ministry of the Word in Sunday School and sermons.
Thirdly, we always schedule times to sit down with the pastors of the church that we are supporting in order to hear their philosophy of ministry, especially how their church effectively ministers to their specific demographic. This happens in either a formal classroom setting or a casual conversation over dinner. Either way, we consider learning from experienced pastors and ministers of the gospel extremely important. They have soaked in the Scripture for years and have seen many different situations and circumstances. Their experience is invaluable.
Lastly, one of the unstated goals of the missions trip is to create a bond among similarly minded men for the gospel. When twelve guys spend weeks together preparing for a specific goal of sharing the gospel in a certain place to a particular people, a different kind of unity is formed—one that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. The friendships I gained continue today, and the brotherhood that was deepened only grows stronger as we see the lasting effects of our efforts for Christ.
Eventually, the preparation ends, and it’s time to pack up and head out for a week. Finally getting to San Francisco was incredible. The missions trip as a whole felt like a fast blur of ten days. From relationship building with the homeless in the poorest quarter of the city, to street evangelism in small groups, to helping the church clean up around its facilities; we were busy each day we were there. We spent much time under the wise and shepherding hearts of Pastor David Innes and Pastor Dan Pelletier, learning how to spread the gospel and care for the needs of a broken city and broken people.
Early mornings and late nights led to long days filled with encouraging conversations, opportunities for growth, and divine appointments with those in need of the gospel. I was personally under the assumption that the city of San Francisco would be filled with atheists and God-haters. They are there, but not how I imagined them to be. Many people I spoke to believe in some god: Hindu Pluralists, Muslims, and more. Preparing for and having these conversations challenged me to deeply dig into the Scripture to find out just Who the God of the Bible truly is.
By God’s grace, we had many good gospel conversations, speaking to seekers and believers. More than once, through lines of conversational-inquiring about what people believe, we found that God’s Word is true, that He has built His church, and that the gates of Hell will not prevail over it. At the end of it all, this missions trip gave me a much deeper burden for the lost and hurting, and it changed the way that I view the suffering and searching soul. I know each of the men that embarked on this journey with me felt the same way by the transforming power of the grace of God.
This spring break, the Z missions team will be heading to Logan, Utah to support the new church plant Gospel Peace. While certain nuances of our goals may shift depending on the place we go to serve, our God is unchanging and our primary goal remains the same—providing an opportunity to gain a burden for the lost. Would you pray for us as we prepare our hearts and fundraise, and would you pray for the hearts of those divine appointments that God has called us to; especially for the LDS community that is prevalent in this area of the United States? Our desire is to glorify God through sharing the gospel and supporting Gospel Peace; and by God’s grace, we will do just that.
Elizabeth, BJU Alumnus
I grew up on the mission field in Cameroon, Africa, and missionary biographies were a staple in my home. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat as I read Rosalind Goforth’s account of escaping China during the Boxer rebellion, shedding tears with Anne Judson as she buried her first child in Burma, cheering Mary Slessor on as she pounded a hippopotamus with her frying pan in Africa, and praising God with Darlene Rose in a prison in Japan. So, I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve wanted to do missions ever since junior high. When I went to Bob Jones University, I chose to major in elementary education, because I knew that would be something I could use on the mission field. While I was there, I was heavily involved in Missions Advance. I loved learning about missions all around the world; I remember hearing missionaries speak from India, Philippines, Yemen, South Africa, and France, to name a few! When we didn’t have a speaker, we would have prayer requests listed for different missionaries and parts of the world. After the presentations were done, we would all scoot our chairs in little groups and pray. Sitting in those plastic chairs, listening to the murmurs of people praying all around me, and lifting my own heart up in prayer gave me a taste of true gospel advance. I knew God was working even as we prayed. Even though there were so many other things I could be doing (and yes, there were times I skipped and did those other things!), I never regretted it when I went.
Fast forward a couple years to about three weeks ago when I took a survey type trip to a restricted access country with my one year old and husband (Yeah, a lot can change in a couple of years… let’s just say Missions Advance is a good place not only to pray, but also get to know your future special someone!). My husband and I are interested in missions to a restricted access country, so we spent about two and a half weeks visiting “workers” in a predominantly Muslim country. We rented a car so we could travel to several different cities and get a feel for the whole country. During one of these trips to a nearby city, as I watched the countryside fly by my window, I started to reflect (as somehow long car rides tend to make you do) on what we had been able to do and see so far. I was struck by how hard it would be to do missions here in this country; the people did not seem open to the gospel. Even after years of service, missionaries there only met with two or three believers. I wondered, “Would it be better to go to a place where people were more open to the gospel, where they wanted to hear about Jesus? The people here just seem so anti-Christian and…. closed. Islam is everything.” These thoughts troubled me and made me wonder if we were right for this country.
The next day, I read Matthew 8-9 for my devotions. As I read, I noticed a theme unfolding:
But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed… When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith…” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matt. 8: 8,10,13)
And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matt. 8:25-26)
And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven. (Matt. 9:2)
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” (Matt. 9:27-29)
As I read, I thought about my troubled questions from the day before. I pondered, where was my faith? Do I, like the blind men, believe that He is able to do this? How can I do anything but to echo their response of “Yes Lord”? Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus was pleased by the faith of people on earth. He is pleased by my faith that He really can draw people to himself and save them in a closed, Muslim country.
Since we have gotten back to States, I’ve continued to reflect on how God uses faith to reach closed countries and how prayer is inseparably linked with that faith. In 1887, the Goforths, missionaries to China, were appointed the task of reaching a new province in China with the gospel. It was one of the most anti-foreign provinces in all of China. When Hudson Taylor heard of their new mission field, he wrote to Mr. Goforth, “Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees" (Rosalind Goforth, How I Know God Answers Prayer).
If I want to go to a restricted access country, or do any type of missions, it must be preceded by and saturated with faith-filled prayer. Now that I’ve graduated from BJU, and missions advance, prayer group, society prayer meetings, etc. are gone, I pray a lot less for missions. I’ve had to ask myself, am I praying for the lost? More than that, am I praying with faith? Not only for missions but what about for unsaved family members? For some reason, it seems like it takes more faith to pray for the salvation of an unsaved family member or friend than for hundreds of Muslims across the world! Am I praying for the lost and acting on that faith?
What about you? Are you praying for the lost? Are you praying with faith? Are you willing to act on that faith and share the gospel—across the world, on an extension, to your unsaved friend or family member? Maybe you, like me, feel inadequate. Maybe you believe that God could save people in some missionary presentation, but not your unsaved grandfather. Maybe you believe God could use Hudson Taylor or some brave missionaries from the past in the dark jungles of Africa, but you wonder, “Can he really use me today? No cannibals, prisons, frying pans, boxer rebellions, but just ordinary me in ordinary Greenville, SC?” When God asked Gideon to save Israel from Midian, Gideon responded:
“How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you.” (Jud. 6:15-16)
What more could we ask for? The Lord will be with us! With God all things are possible. Where is our faith?
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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.