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?
Nathan Murphy, BJU Alumnus
Nathan Murphy graduated from BJU with a BS in Business Administration in 2017, and an MA in Biblical Studies in 2019. Nathan serves as a missionary to the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona.
I was an overwhelmed freshman, sitting in my chapel seat and wondering how I could possibly get through college and do anything meaningful along the way. Dr. McAllister walked to the podium and announced that a juvenile detention facility would soon be opening only a few miles away. He then made a Gospel-anointed plea for students to get involved at this exciting and difficult ministry venue.
His poor secretary… dozens of us emailed him (as directed) with a desire to plug in somewhere. A planning meeting eventually took place in Lecture B, where an array of outreaches formed to fill the programming schedule at the Greenville County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). Only a few of those ideas lasted in their initial form, but God honored the overflow of creativity and the Gospel desire in the room that day.
We were all learning on the go. In fact, the Center for Global Opportunities came into existence partially in response to the coordination and communication that fell to us students in the early years of ministry at the JDC. The proudest I ever felt of BJU as a student was watching the CGO be created and staffed up to keep Gospel needs and opportunities from falling through the cracks. If you are a current student, you have been given a fantastic resource. Earn it. Throw yourself into ministry on campus, off campus, and around the world… especially when you feel overwhelmed by college life.
By my junior year, I was leading a “Life-skills” outreach to the JDC on Saturday mornings. Behind that resume item lay hours of anxious preparation, enough self-doubt to hospitalize the most self-promoting person I know, and the memory of more capable leaders who had graduated. I wasn’t a ministry major. I didn’t have a car. And I didn’t have a smartphone quite yet either, which is equivalent to walking five miles to school in the snow—uphill both ways. A typical Saturday morning found me ironing out the game plan of who would do what, who would drive, and who was going. With a reluctant resolve, I would slide a compact Bible into my back pocket and ask God for grace. I would then meet up with an ensemble of friends and acquaintances, and we would embark on our journey to the JDC. Regardless of what was happening in our lives that weekend, we had carved out the opportunity to “build redemptive relationships with at-risk youths.” That was our mission statement.
One source of wisdom and encouragement was Mr. Andy Martin, who serves on staff at BJU. I went along on his outreach several times to learn under his leadership and have more overlap with the kids currently at the facility. I also sought out the patient counsel of my trombone teacher, Dr. Overly, whose love for jail ministry made him a valuable resource. I always leaned heavily on peers for feedback and leadership. Whenever possible, I had someone else “emcee” the outreach so that I could focus on giving a challenge or teaching a life skill. I also enjoyed being the “emcee” and watching other people refine their preaching and teaching skills. That allowed me to better read the cues of the kids and detention officers.
If you are a college student, try to view ministry opportunities in terms of “seasons.” Juvenile detention was neither my first nor my last season of ministry during my time in Greenville. You will hopefully get to experience a variety of ministry settings, but God shapes those who faithfully throw themselves into whatever opportunity is in front of them.
It may seem impossible to “commit to anything extra,” but you can commit to a season. Consider the stakes. Everyone needs a cause. But if we fail to make the Gospel our cause during the college years, we will eventually look to the world for a cause. This has become a trend with Christian college graduates who failed to prioritize personal ministry. If you wait until you are rested and ready for every Gospel opportunity, your diploma will mean very little to you when you hit 26. Am I saying that you should live a slightly unhealthy or unbalanced college life so that you don’t have any regrets? Well, you probably already do. And if not now, then just wait until senior year. We all sacrifice resources for things that give us meaning, so choose your cause carefully. With eternity in mind, you can invest for a season of outreach and then prayerfully re-evaluate. Remember the stakes.
My older sister gave me some life-shaping advice as a freshman: “You don’t own your weekends.” They aren’t a loophole to spend entirely on fun, on homework, or even on ministry. Weekends must instead be viewed in smaller segments of time and invested appropriately. At the time, I thought it was a college advice, but it has turned out to be a ministry advice. A college degree is earned in small, intentional segments of time, but so is Christ’s Church. For the rest of your life, you will make small decisions to exchange comfort, convenience, and career confidence to build the Church. For the rest of your life, you will be presented with unseen and unsung opportunities to invest in eternity. Hitting the snooze button or clicking “play next episode” sidelines us from the advance of Christ’s Kingdom. Once more, the Church is built by small, sacrificial decisions to prioritize the feeding of Christ’s sheep.
Don’t underestimate the spiritual opposition you will face when you wake up on a Saturday morning, having to make a decision with how you will spend your time (1 John 5:21). Don’t underestimate the weight you will feel as you look into the eyes of people who were questioning your motives even before you arrived. Don’t buy into the lie that meaning can be found while grasping for predictability, comfort, or even community. Your mind can be at peace with God even when nothing is certain. The busier you are, the more you need an outlet. The more you are being invested in, the more you need an outreach.
If you are leading an outreach, surround yourself with a good team. Give people opportunities while you shoulder the responsibility. Take notice of unlikely people and find out what they are good at. Invest in future leaders with an open hand. Your investment will bear fruit in God’s timing even if your own outreach never visibly recoups on your investment.
God may put a thorn in your flesh in regard to your outreach—a logistical complication, a health condition, a class, or a person, but the fears you surrender daily to God will grow you. Experiencing weakness while remaining faithful is a participation trophy we receive for God’s glory.
Start now to build your expository ministry, whether you are a preacher or not. In addition to your devotional books, invest in a few commentaries. Have your own interactions with God’s Word and let the truth you mine from the Scripture spill over wherever you go.
Make this season of your leadership a success, but realize that leaving a ministry legacy amidst the high turnover-rate of a student body is both unrealistic and meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:16). You can hand over a finely tuned machine when you graduate, but God’s choice of replacement may be just as reluctant and dazed as you once were.
Today, a large portion of my ministry is at a tribal detention center in Arizona. My central focus is on the adult men, but I continue to use the avenue of Life-skills to reach juveniles. I’m still “building redemptive relationships with at-risk youths.” My undergrad diploma is meaningful because I know what God taught me during each season of ministry. Several of the kids whom my outreach team invested in at the JDC are either serving life sentences or dead, and the ups and downs of our college years stand against that backdrop. Although we made all kinds of cringy mistakes, we had a cause. I often felt like I was just putting in a rep for God’s glory. As it turns out, that’s how it is supposed to work. I expected outreach to shape my skillset, but God used outreach to shape my soul.
Jalen Ontoy, Junior Biblical Studies Major
To say that I have greatly learned during my pastoral internship would be an understatement. My time in Shannon, IL has given me much exposure to pastoral ministry.
I realized that pastoring takes intentionality. It takes intentionality to lead biblically and blamelessly. As Christ’s under-shepherds, it is our delightful duty to lead both the family and the flock. This does not happen overnight, however. This only happens once people come to trust us. But how do we build trust? We build trust by lovingly caring for others. This aspect of ministry is called shepherding. We shepherd the sheep by our genuine interest and involvement in their lives.
By God’s grace, shepherding came easily in Shannon. The population of the village (Shannon is too small to be considered a town.) is 800 people, and it only takes two minutes to drive across the village. Because the community is small, people naturally have more intimate relationships with others, especially at our church of less than 100 members. Every single night of our internship, Nik (the other intern) and I would have supper (They refrain from the term dinner in the Midwest apparently.) at a church member’s house. This allowed us from the very beginning to build personal relationships with the church. Some families had us over once a week, which gave us the ability to experience life with them. We spent hours with them going shooting, watching movies, boating on the river, or even babysitting their kids. All these unique opportunities gave us the chance to truly know the people we were ministering to.
Almost every Sunday night we would have a fellowship at a church member’s property. This allowed me to spend time with the youth group specifically. We would play basketball, volleyball, gaga ball, and other various games. This was a fun time because it gave me the chance to know the kids in an informal setting. Because of my age, I was able to relate to them and understand them. This opened the door for me to minister to some of them as well.
Shannon Baptist Church started in 1962. Today, there is one founding father remaining. This godly man has impacted many souls for God’s Kingdom, including mine as well. Each time we went to his house, he would share stories from the past. He told us of his amazing wife who entered eternity over ten years ago. Through this, he stressed to us the importance of finding a godly wife who was passionate about people and committed to ministry. His testimony opened my mind to the necessity of surrounding myself with godly mentors.
My main mentor this summer was Pastor Tim Lehman, the head pastor at Shannon. He has served God faithfully at Shannon for over 25 years. The main lessons I learned from him occurred outside of the church. Pastor Lehman graciously allowed us to stay with them in their home during the internship. This was the biggest blessing of all because it showed me how a pastor should deal with his family at home. The consistency that Pastor Lehman showed both “on and off the court” ministered to me in tremendous ways. His family taught me that there is no false dichotomy between ministry and fun. There is joy in doing things together as a family. Whether it was chilling at home to watch TV or going outside to cut wood, I found that making the most of every opportunity with family is extremely important to the success of the home, and therefore the success of the church.
Even though I learned many good truths about ministry, I also learned many hard truths as well. I realized that ministry is not easy. Pastor Lehman told us of how division in the church caused a split over ten years ago. He told us of countless individuals he spent hours discipling who no longer attend and even criticize the church. He told us of changes the church made that surprisingly caused separation. Yet these painful stories reminded me that nothing worthwhile is easy. My main responsibility is to faithfully serve God. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
Overall, I left this internship amazed with God’s goodness and sovereignty. It was not luck that led me to this internship. God actively worked in my life to bring me to Shannon because of what I would learn. His goodness renewed a passion within me to pursue pastoral ministry. Yes, I am uncertain of where He will lead me. And yes, I am uncertain of the hardships it will bring. But I am certain that as I stay satisfied in my Good Shepherd, He will lead, and I will follow.
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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.