Daniel Hudson, Seminary Student
Every semester, BJU sends out ministry teams to various churches throughout the Southeast and other parts of the US. I think we’re all familiar with some of these teams, especially as we see some in chapel on a regular basis. As students go out on the weekends, they encourage churches and represent the university to prospective students.
But not all prospective students.
Last year, Julie Aguilar, a graduate student in the seminary pursuing a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies, noticed that an important demographic wasn’t being reached by the mission teams: Hispanic churches. Almost 17% of the U.S. population identifies as Hispanic, and Hispanic churches are easy to find not far from BJU and throughout the Southeastern United States. And of course, most Hispanics speak Spanish. Therein lies maybe one of the reasons that Hispanic churches haven’t received too many BJU ministry teams in the past—all BJU ministry teams were operating in English.
Julie herself comes from a Hispanic church, so she knows the opportunity for serving and recruiting the University could have among Hispanic and bilingual ministries. Seeing an opportunity, she put together the first Hispanic ministry team fall 2021 that visited two churches in South Carolina. This semester the team has doubled into two teams and is hoping to visit more churches in the greater area. Last semester I had the privilege of leading the team made up of Zane Johnson, Macy MacArthur, Josh Fox, Keila Cueto, and Gabriela Gonzalez.
Now, I have to clarify—I’m not Hispanic, and I grew up speaking English. But the ministry team is really for anyone who’s interested, though you do need to be able to speak Spanish. Some of our members are Hispanics from the US, some are from other Latin American nations, and some have learned Hispanic culture by choice. I fall into the last category—Spanish was my minor during undergrad.
For me, I was attracted to the team because I loved the vision—I had been praying for more ministry opportunities with my Spanish, and I was excited for opportunities to serve and lead. For others, it’s a matter of giving back—investing in the kind of churches they come from. For all of us, it’s an opportunity to serve the Lord with what we have. On a typical Sunday, we get up early, drive to the church, serve in Sunday School and kids programs, sing special music, share testimonies and preach the morning message. It’s definitely a stretching and rewarding experience. After the service, we spend some time eating with the teens and telling them about BJU.
Sending ministry teams out lets BJU connect with potential students and shows them that we don’t overlook the Hispanic population in the United States. I personally think it’s a great way of communicating that we are all the body of Christ, even coming from various countries, ethnicities, and language groups. The team members get practical experience serving in various churches and learn how to adapt fast in real-life situations. In the end, our greatest goal is to glorify Jesus Christ and encourage the church.
So, what can you do? Well, a lot really. Please pray for us that God will provide opportunities for ministry and bless us in it. We need prayers for safe travels, preparation for teaching and preaching, and grace to encourage and serve each church. If you come from a Hispanic church or know of one that would appreciate a ministry team from BJU, contact Julie Aguilar and we’ll find a time to visit. And if you speak Spanish yourself, contact Julie about possible opportunities to serve with us in the future. We’re excited to see how our team could grow in the future.
Two big lessons stand out to me from all of this: 1) develop what you have and realize everything about you is intentional in God’s plan, and the Lord will use you in ways you maybe can’t see now. Maybe you’re taking Spanish, and honestly, it’s just a program requirement to you. Whether it’s that, or any other class or skill you’re learning, realize that God has you there for a reason, and He can use those things for His glory. Don’t lose any of the opportunities He gives you! 2) Pray for ministry opportunities and God will give them to you. I had prayed about opportunities for a while, and then God opened up this door in a way I wasn’t expecting at all. When we give ourselves to the Lord, He will use us.
God has put us in a particular context—Greenville, South Carolina. And that context has specific people in it. Let’s be salt and light right here. Sometimes, that requires a little creatividad.
MLK Day 2020 Recap.
MLK service projects are a wonderful opportunity for students and community organizations alike. First, the students. There is a certain joy that Christians experience from obeying the commands of Christ. MLK service projects provide the opportunity to love our neighbors in a very practical, hands-on way. There is also excitement about serving with fellow students. Finally, students connect with organizations and find ways to partner in the future.
Second, our partnering organizations. Each year, we hear from many of the organizations how thankful they are for our students. All across the community we are able to spend a couple hours here and a few hours there to have a big impact and let these organizations know that we appreciate them and support their efforts to reach Greenville. MLK service projects are loved and enjoyed by everyone involved. Thank you to all the students, faculty, staff, and alumni that invested their day in serving!
We worked with Greer Relief, an organization serving people experiencing poverty in downtown Greer and in several other communities. We moved piles of furniture, clothes, school supplies, and even some TVs and mattresses out of their storage facility. It was great to hear from their director about the various avenues of help they offer to the community. Serving the community does not have to be complicated. It can be fun! (Hannah Lovegrove, Senior)
I had the opportunity to serve with Meals on Wheels for MLK Day. I got to interact with several people when I dropped off their meal for the day. Each person was so gracious and thankful that we took time out of our day to serve them. God taught me to appreciate what He has given me including the comfort of not having to worry about where my next meal will come from. He also helped me realize that there are people who are hungry and hurting even in Greenville, and being able to minister to them is an incredible opportunity! (Jessica Teruel, Junior)
I helped lead a ministry at Griggs Memorial Baptist Church. Our students repainted their fellowship hall and finished painting a classroom. We were thankful for the opportunity to bless one of our local Greenville churches, and we pray that lives will be changed as a result of our humble efforts. (Ben Peeler, Grad.)
I had the privilege of serving the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in Greenville. Upon arrival, my group was instructed to branch out into the surrounding neighborhoods. We were to greet residents on behalf of the school and the center and have them complete a survey pertaining to the activities conducted in the area. Feedbacks from the first set of houses were consistently insightful, but one interaction I had truly impacted my experience. A lady on the last stretch of houses we visited described the murder, prostitution, and drug trade that occurred right before her eyes. This attracted me to the solution she stated next. She suggested, in lieu of continuing down the same path, there to be a mentoring program for the youth of the community. A positive influence in the lives of young people could redirect the footsteps of the minds of the future. If one would just take the time to positively pour into souls whose worldview is still being molded, I believe there will be a decrease in activities similar to what she said. As mentioned, this conversation impacted the way I now view the importance of mentorship. (Noah Jackson, Freshman)
Jackson Lawson, Senior Biblical Studies Major
I have been going to a juvenile detention center since my freshmen year, three years ago, along with other students from BJU as an evangelistic outreach opportunity. I’ve gone a few times on other outreach ministries, but I’ve made the detention center my regular outreach all along because I have found it to be such a unique opportunity, an opportunity to invest in teens who not only have been through a lot, but who need the gospel and need believers to come alongside them with the word of God that provides the answers to our deepest questions and the power to meet our greatest spiritual needs.
I am regularly reminded of the huge opportunities there are among those in difficult situations in life, especially when they find themselves hitting rock bottom. So many of the teens are already living a life full of challenges (whether they are poor, are surrounded by ungodly friends, don’t have a father in their life, have made little progress in school, are around substance abuse, etc.). This outreach has proven to be a huge opportunity as I have talked to many teens who have hit rock bottom and are seriously considering how they are going to respond, move forward, and think about God in relation to their situation. There are so many prisons alone that provide this type of unique opportunities for believers to share the gospel (not to mention homeless shelters, addiction recovery centers, and other Miracle Hill like programs).
Now, some might think that a detention center ministry is one that sees little fruit, ministers to a tough crowd, and isn’t all that fun. At times this has been the case, but week after week we plant the seeds of the gospel, water already planted seeds, and have seen professions of faith periodically as God has given the increase in His harvest field as we labor. My increasing desire is that other students will come to experience the joy of ministering to this type of crowd as they learn how they can better minister the gospel to individuals who are at cross-roads in their life. Some of these teens appear to be hardened toward God and spiritually misled or confused, but some are readily open to hearing the gospel (often for the first time!). I don’t think there has been an outreach week that has gone by without being spiritually challenged or encouraged by a conversation I had with one of the teens.
In many cases it appears that God is using their difficult situations to bring them to remember what they’ve learned about Him in the past, to be open to what we are teaching them from the Word, and even to reevaluate their own former profession of faith. Some have made a profession of faith (praise the Lord!), and one of our leaders has made follow-up visits with multiple teens and members of their families over the years after they have gotten out. I have been reminded and grown to trust more in God’s constant working in other’s lives through my involvement in juvenile detention center ministry. I have definitly experienced the joy of seeing and being a part of His work. Some weeks are rough with little interest or engagement with what we teach and talk about from God’s word, which are discouraging at times. But the longer I go, the more encouraged I am on those weeks that we see little effect.
My group teaches a Bible memory verse and a song, gives a message from the Word, and (my personal favorite) has a small group discussion following the message. During the small group, we ask them their thoughts about the message and what questions they have. We get to know them and share the gospel with them. The number of teens fluctuates from week to week, as well as the number of familiar faces we see over a longer period of time. One thing I’d like to see happen for the teens who have, or make, a profession of faith is for them to be able to go to the Scriptures for themselves to know what it teaches about salvation. So many of them only know what they’ve been told, what they’ve heard preached, or are only familiar with John 3:16. We can provide them Bibles to read, suggest where to start reading, and follow up with them if we see them the next week; but for them to be able to go to a couple verses in the Bible to know what they believe about salvation (which they can then share with others) is something I’d like to see more and more.
Going into a detention center to minister the gospel to teens is definitely a reminder to be dependent on the Lord through prayer. Seeing Him work in them to be open and receptive to the truths of His Word is an encouragement in and of itself because we are all without hope apart from His intervention in our lives. For those who come to faith in Christ in a ministry like this, it may look more challenging and a lot different for them to live out their faith than what we are typically exposed to, but it is only by His grace that any of us have come to know Him, and it will only be by His grace that anyone faces the challenges in this life in a way that brings Him glory. It is comforting to know that His grace is sufficient not only to save us, but also to use us in saving others, and to make us all more and more like Christ.
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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.