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.
David Nason, Senior Bible Major
As I write this blog, I understand that nothing I write could ever do this summer justice. So much has happened, and I couldn’t possibly write everything that I’ve done and learned. My internship was on the small Island of Palau, located a couple hundred miles off the Philippines. During my internship, I learned that missionary work is living out the Gospel on a day-to-day basis and staying faithful in your personal walk with God. I realized problems are going to keep coming your way as a missionary, but you just have to trust God and rely on His steadfast love.
Included in my summer was the awesome opportunity to love and disciple five high school guys through the program called Project 17:17. Within this program, I had the joy of spending time discipling these guys through the Scripture. It also included spending daily life with the guys. Honestly, a huge part of my summer was just ministering daily. My typical week was full of ministries such as Band of Brothers (College breakfast), One Life (College Bible study), YOB (Youth of Belau), and Thursday night Bible study. Many of the people that we daily ministered to needed to know and see a consistent relationship with God and what that looks like. In a world of unknowns and inconsistencies, people need to know that the God you serve is always the same. He is steadfast along with His promises.
Many of the Palauans struggle with faithfulness in their walk with God. I remember while I was over there, I wouldn’t see some people for weeks at a time because they had done something they weren’t supposed to and felt very ashamed, or would see their wrongdoing as an outlet to continue on to a deeper sin. Keeping Palauans faithful is a real battle. You have to consistently love them by faithfully pursuing them when they are struggling. I had to understand that the cultural and historical background will shape the communication and struggles of the people. Along those lines, one must take time to accommodate in love to their struggles. For example, one thing that you must be cautious of in Palau is rejecting anything that someone offers to you. In Palau, they will take that as your thinking you are better than them and have no need of their hospitality. This in turn could very well hinder the Gospel. That is something we as Americans simply wouldn’t understand.
The Gospel was proclaimed this summer, and 16 souls placed their trust in Jesus Christ! Just before I left, I was able to see a new believer’s class start up for all the converts. God is working all across the globe, and I was blessed with such a great opportunity to be a part of His ministry over in Palau.
Daniel Smitley, Senior Cross-Cultural Major
I'm sitting in a very small apartment living room, jam-packed with about 25 people for a Sunday evening service in the city of Manila, Philippines. I've never been to this church before, and I am enjoying being able to meet and worship with them. Then the missionary hands me his phone with these words written, “Can you preach?" In less than five minutes, with basically no time to prepare, I was up preaching. I wish I could say this experience was the exception to the rule, but I learned to always be prepared for anything. In fact, when people usually think of missions or internships, these kinds of experiences are the reason they go. The purpose is to minister to others and to gain the experience of teaching, preaching, and jumping into any ministry you can. While I enjoyed many of these kinds of experiences, the greatest blessing I received was not the ministry I was able to have, but the ministry that I saw and personally experienced from those on the field.
While interning in the Philippines this summer, I was able to experience an up-close look into the life of a missionary. I was privileged to learn from and be mentored by a man deeply devoted to his ministry. But to me, what might have been the most influential part of his ministry was his personal life. His walk with the Lord and love for His Word was evident and personally convicting. It was also clear that his “ministry” was not separate from other areas of his life. A major part of his ministry is teaching Bible classes at a Bible college. He himself practiced what he taught in the classroom. The truths he was teaching were clearly being played out in various areas of his life. It’s so easy to act one way while you’re ministering in church or at a Bible club but live differently at home or around family. The missionary I was with exemplified what it looks like to live the same way both in ministry and in family/personal life. Sure, I went as an intern seeking to be able to minister and be a blessing, but I believe it was me who received the greater blessing!
During my internship I was also able to spend some time with local pastors, both in the Philippines and in Singapore. During my time with them I was able to preach in their churches, sing special music, work around the church buildings, and lead Bible studies. But by far the most memorable experience I had with them was observing their ministry and not my own. With one particular pastor in the Philippines, his love for people was obvious. Ministry was not just on Sunday for this man—it was every day! One evening, he traveled out to another city to meet with two separate groups and lead Bible studies, and he even made another stop just to pray with a church member whose relative had cancer. This made for a very late night, but if there was an opportunity for the Gospel and ministry, he took it. He was always looking for a chance to share the Good News, even while in the local hospital waiting room or on a dirt road on the side of a mountain buying fruits. Another big influence was a pastor in Singapore. The church he was pastoring was a joy to worship with. It was neat being able to see how this body of believers applied the biblical role of the church into their specific context and culture. But his ministry wasn’t just limited to a couple days of the week either. I was thrilled to be able to see other aspects of his ministry, whether that was visiting with church members who had recently lost a loved one or taking a day off to bring the teens to a Bible seminar. Being able to talk about ministry and gain wisdom from a faithful man of God was great in shaping my own philosophy of ministry! Too often I see ministry as an event, such as singing in the choir or leading a Bible club. But what these men displayed was that ministry is people, and that should be happening all the time, not just at church. Again, I got the better end of this deal—the encouragement I received far outweighed anything I could have given!
Lastly, I had the awesome opportunity to live in the dorms of a Bible college for most of the summer. This meant I was able get to know and build good relationships with many of the students. As I grew to know them more, their testimonies and desire for ministry were inspiring and rebuking to my own life. As college students, it’s easy to focus on training now, ministry later. Maybe you’ve caught yourself saying, “I’ll start ministering after I graduate!” This is folly, and I was shown this by many of the students who were not waiting to minister. A number of the guys would travel for hours each weekend in order to preach in various churches. Other students would travel eight hours every other week in order to help with the music at their home church. But the weekend is to rest and get recharged! No, not for many of them. They had a chance to minister, and they took it. It was an encouragement to see many who were really on fire for the Lord’s work. This is something I hope I brought home with me!
Traveling and doing missions overseas is an awesome opportunity. The need for the Gospel is great, and many still need to hear it! The ministry possibilities in these places are almost endless as well. There will always be a Bible study to lead, a sermon to preach, or a kid’s club to help with. When we go on such a trip, we should most definitely jump into ministry and service. But the next time you get the opportunity to go minister overseas, don’t get so caught up in what you’re doing and miss the blessing and wisdom around you. Take a step back and learn from those who are there, and you may be surprised at the wisdom and help you will receive. But don’t take my word for it, go experience it for yourself!
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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.