Max Burak, Sophomore Bible Major
Why? Why Me?
Why do I have to wake up at 5:30 every morning?
Why’d I have to turn down that counselor spot at the Wilds?
Why do I have to work two jobs while some of my friends get to do whatever they want?
Why does my family not make nearly as much as some of the other families in ministry?
If I’ve got to witness for God anyway, why can’t I be doing it on some exciting trip across the world?
Why? Why? WHY?
These were the questions that regularly popped into my mind during the first few weeks of summer. I was frustrated.
Growing up as a “PK” (pastor’s kid), I’ve heard Mark 16:15 more times than I can count. The verse of course talks about going into “the whole world” to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After spending a year at Bob Jones University, and having numerous summer opportunities thrown in my lap, I was ready to live out this verse! I was ready to go out in the world for God and come back to school from a rewarding summer full of a fruitful harvest of souls!
However, going back to Ace Hardware and Tim Horton’s to work wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for this past summer. Listening to old men babble on and on about their latest car problem isn’t my favorite thing in the world, and having a middle-aged business woman yell impatiently for her mocha isn’t exactly my cup of tea…or coffee for that matter.
But, I wanted to get back to school for sophomore year, and my bank account wasn’t going to allow that unless I got some serious money, which is why I couldn’t afford to take a counselor spot or go on a mission trip.
So, there I was, sharpening lawn mower blades and toasting asiago bagels.
Then one day, while unloading a truck with one of my co-workers (we’ll call him Timothy), something came to mind. Tim was still working. Now, before you wonder why that’s odd, let me explain.
I had met Tim the year before, one of the first guys I ever met on the job. He’s two years older than me, has short dark curly hair, and treats everyday as a party. I had never met someone quite like him. He quickly became my main witnessing “target.”
Of course, in a work place, between a steady flow of customers and a strict boss, there aren’t exactly prime opportunities to strike up a deep spiritual conversation with a fellow co-worker. So, I resorted to the only other thing I knew. I prayed for him like I’d never prayed for any other unsaved friend. I continually thought of Colossians 4:2-6 where it talks about having an “open door for the Word.” I prayed. I prayed every night for Timothy.
Then, the week before I left for freshman year, I heard the news that he was getting his long awaited apprenticeship and wouldn’t be back by the time I returned next summer.
At school, I continued to pray. I tried to remember him every night and would even mention him in prayer meetings.
So, long story short, I get back and he was still working! He told me that the apprenticeship had fallen through and that he’d be sticking around a bit longer.
Interesting. Maybe God would provide a witnessing opportunity after all?
Back to prayer. Shoot him a text. More prayer. Ugh, how could I get a time to talk to him about the Gospel?!
Then, finally, on a slow Friday night, we had ended up on the same closing shift (which is rare).
There we were, stocking nuts and bolts, and I saw my chance for a conversation.
“Tim, don’t you ever get tired of going out every night and getting drunk?”
He surprisingly responded, “You know Maximillz, yea, I do.”
Well, one question led to another, and suddenly, we were talking about family, then religion, then… eternity.
Tim was close to tears, we had somehow gotten away with talking for two hours about where he was spiritually and how he could fix his sin. I’d never felt the Holy Spirit work like that before. It was absolutely incredible.
He had some more questions, and after we closed, we headed over to the church where we sat with my Dad.
We talked for another solid hour and Tim prayed. I honestly don’t know if he came to accept Christ as Savior that night. I don’t know if he fully understood, but I do know that God had answered my prayers. He had given me that open door to share the Gospel.
I was utterly blown away. I can’t even describe it. It was amazing!
Then, the next week, Tim got an apprenticeship and I never worked with him again.
After that experience, God gave me other conversations with unsaved co-workers. He opened my eyes to why he had me back in those jobs. There are many stories I could tell you, but this is the one that sticks out to me. The Lord revealed my selfishness at that point.
At the end of summer, I was asking some new questions to myself.
Why did I doubt God could use me anywhere?
Why did I complain so much?
Why did I think I needed to go somewhere else to proclaim God’s truth?
Why does school have to start so soon?
God is good! We shouldn’t doubt His plans. He’ll provide witnessing opportunities as long as we are willing to serve Him and go where he wants.
Jeriel Ontoy, Sophomore Communication Major
I could not see. I stumbled along the steep mountain path guided by a team member wielding a cheap flashlight about five feet away.
Dim city lights and dark silhouettes of rice paddies, which rested at the base of several mountains, scattered the landscape for miles on end. Every ounce of my energy had quickly faded away as I desperately struggled to reach the peak of the mountain.
Suddenly, a blaring chant hauntingly groaned in every direction. Its call, a startling shock to me, was a typical beckoning for the Javanese people to arise from their pre-dawn breakfast and perform the first of five prayers during the holy month of Ramadan. At that moment, I felt the physical darkness of early morning, but I also sensed the spiritual darkness of hundreds of thousands of people who were metaphorically fumbling up a mountain of rituals and regulations trying to appease Allah. My heart was burdened for these lost souls.
Who would give these seekers answers to their questions? Who would give them peace?
This summer I was privileged to be a member of the Southeast Asia team (SEA Team), which was led by Dr. Oberlin. Our team ministered in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia for six weeks. Our team was involved in a variety of ministries, ranging from cleaning a small church in Indonesia to teaching ESL classes as a bridge for the Gospel in Thailand.
Some highlights of the trip were preaching and teaching pastors and church leaders at a pastor’s conference in the Kachin state of Myanmar, counseling at a missionary kids’ camp in Dolphin Bay, distributing Gospel literature in Bangkok, running a children’s program at two different Singaporean church camps in Malaysia; lecturing at an evangelism conference in Singapore, and expanding my knowledge of the relationship between Islam and Christianity in Indonesia.
Looking back at the lives our team impacted, I am overjoyed to see how God was actively working through the SEA Team to see Christians all around the world discipled. I believe that too often, we as believers can become so narrow-minded and comfortable in our “American Christianity” that we forget that God is working to draw all “nations, tribes, and tongues” unto Himself. Being able to witness personally God orchestrating events expanded my view of the sovereignty and grace of God.
There are so many stories I wish I could tell you about how God’s name was magnified as people were directed to Christ. One amazing event occurred with Burmese pastors and church leaders.
Many of these pastors had no Christian resources, no proper training in hermeneutics, and no biblically-based view of discipleship. To try and remedy this situation, our team held a conference with the goal of equipping these leaders with tools that they needed to be effective in their various ministries. While the men on our team were busy preaching, teaching, and creating sermons with the Burmese pastors, the ladies on our team discussed the importance of biblical counseling, dependence on God’s Word, and prayer-saturated ministry. At first, this task was somewhat depressing because our team received very little feedback, and it seemed that the group was not comprehending the material. We spent every night preparing notes for the sessions and pleading with God to do a great work among the church leaders.
On the last day, something changed. The leaders finally began to understand the information. I was thrilled to see these servants of God have their eyes opened; they were equipped with Biblical truth that they, in turn, can bring back to their congregations and instruct in ways of righteousness.
Back to the question above, who will give the seekers the truth? Who will provide them with the answers?
As I reached the peak of the mountain, the sun began to rise. Its warmth and light were a comfort to a weary hiker. This is the Gospel: allowing the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus to shine brightly into darkened hearts and minds so that those who tread in the drudgery of darkness may be converted and transferred into the kingdom of light.
You and I must share the truth of the Gospel! I understand that you might not have the opportunity to preach in Singapore, but you can testify to your unsaved relative. You may not ever counsel teenagers in Thailand, but you can share the Gospel with those whom God has placed in your life right here in Greenville.
God’s Gospel is powerful, but if we allow our sin or unwillingness to hide the Gospel, we hide the Gospel from those who need it the most. We must remember that God is arranging all of history to bring Himself glory by pointing to Christ, the Savior of mankind. He has called you and me to be His ambassadors.
Reach beyond yourself. Proclaim this Gospel. Turn the world upside down.
Karina Lehner, Junior Cross-Cultural Service major
Sometimes I wonder how God could possibly use me and why He would choose to.
I am so weak. I am not an eloquent speaker. I do not have a large ministry…
How could I be used by Him?
This summer I was reminded that God can use faithful followers who are willing to embrace the ministry He has given them, however big or small it is. He uses the words and actions of imperfect people who have the desire to share His Gospel.
I was reminded of these truths this summer as I stepped into another culture – a culture within the United States that I have never experienced before. The people in this culture live in a small community, dress alike, are often wary of outsiders, and are part of a cult.
It is a community of Mormons belonging to The Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the FLDS). These fundamental Mormons are both isolationists and polygamists. They are devoted to a man named Warren Jeffs, whom they believe to be their prophet and whom they unquestioningly obey.
Colorado City, Arizona is one of the places this group has chosen to settle and is where I had the opportunity to go to this summer with a number of teens and adults from my home church. This town of 4,800 people consists of FLDS Mormons, many people who have left the FLDS church or have been kicked out, and a handful of Christians who are living there to reach these two groups. The couple that our team went to help, Brody and Liz, are some of these people. They were the first Christian couple to move into this community in Colorado City.
During the ten days we were there, God provided so many ministry opportunities.
One was to help people practically. Our team did many manual labor projects for locals, especially people who are no longer in the FLDS. Our goal in this was to demonstrate Christ’s love and also to show that the believers in Colorado City truly care about the people in the community. Things like this help Brody and Liz build relationships with people and continue to break down walls for more effective ministry in the future.
On Sundays we were a part of the Bible study held in Brody and Liz’s home. This small gathering of brothers and sisters is the church in Colorado City. And it’s a beautiful thing. It was a good reminder that the body of Christ is so much bigger than the local church back home. You who are reading this right now – you have brothers and sisters in Colorado City. I’ve met them. And one day you will too.
Our main outreach was through events for kids that we held at a local park. The evening consisted of free corndogs, water games, and a Bible lesson. The pastor on our team challenged us to have the goal of constantly looking for ways to start conversations with people and lead the conversation towards spiritual things. This is something I want to do all the time, not just on a mission trip. I need to be actively pursuing people with the desire to share truth with them. These few hours in the park provided some of the best times on the trip to share the Gospel with people.
One of these conversations was one of the heaviest I’ve ever had. The girl was 16 years old, her family left the FLDS a number of years ago, and because she has been lied to by the FLDS church her whole life she doesn’t know what to believe. In our conversation I could see that she has been searching for answers and trying to find meaning in things that don’t satisfy. She admitted to me that there was an emptiness inside of her that wasn’t being filled by anything she was desperately trying to shove there.
And she knows. She knows it can only be filled by God but she is running from one more thing that she believes will let her down. My heart ached so much after that conversation.
Amazingly, I was also able to have a brief interaction with a girl about my age in the FLDS. A few years ago, she never would have talked to me, someone not in the FLDS.
This girl who has grown up in a cult is a real person. She is someone with a name, and a sense of humor, and a soul. She is someone who, at this moment, is in her polygamist home with her 30 siblings waiting for the day when she can get married and bear children. Then the life she feels is empty can finally have purpose. This is what she has been taught.
Another conversation…and once again my heart ached.
When we talk about a people group or a country or a cult, we need to remember that they are individuals – real people who desperately need Christ. I think when we talk about reaching people with the Gospel we can, without realizing it, picture a number and not lives. Like talking about the FLDS and not thinking about their stories.
Though there were many times of heaviness, throughout the whole trip my heart was also filled with so much joy.
God is working. He is working in Colorado City, and He is working through the humble ministries of people like Brody and Liz who are simply living passionately for God and for the advance of the Gospel in the location God has led them to.
Real life, everyday ministry is not supposed to be glamorous, and it doesn’t always have the results we hope for. But God calls us to be faithful – embracing where He has placed us and actively pursuing the people He has placed around us.
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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.