Jacob Stupke, 2021 Cross-Cultural Service Graduate
It’s easy on a day-to-day basis to forget that our lives are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s easy to slip into thinking that life revolves around us and lose track of our ultimate purpose. This summer, I’ve been reminded that God is using my life and everyone’s life to accomplish His plan for humanity – His plan of redemption.
God opened the door for me to spend eight weeks in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, this summer for my internship. For the first time, I was able to experience life in a foreign culture and see how God is expanding His kingdom across the world. Puerto Maldonado is a jungle city located on the outskirts of the Amazon Rainforest with a population of roughly 100,000 people. The city sits right in between two rivers that flow together, providing the reason for the city’s original location. Along with the many people in the city, there are many small tribal villages scattered along the edges of the riverbanks. Both the people in the city and the people in the tribal villages need to hear about the good news of Jesus Christ.
During my time in Peru, I was able to experience many new and exciting things such as meeting new people, tasting new foods, seeing and hearing different wildlife, and working alongside a growing local church full of new believers. I also experienced some not-so-exciting things like feeling overwhelmed by the culture and not being around anything familiar, as well as feeling inadequate and unable to help like I had hoped. One of the biggest challenges that I worked through on my internship was thinking through how I, or anyone else, could be motivated to dedicate their lives to full-time service for God. As I was struggling with different feelings throughout the trip, I sometimes questioned why I was there. I struggled with the purpose of the internship and what was motivating me to fly across the globe to spend two months away from everything I loved. And I struggled with the idea that I was considering doing something like this for the rest of my life. God had laid a burden on my heart for missions, but now that I was there, I was questioning where God had led me. As I worked through these thoughts and feelings by praying, reading God’s Word, and talking with other people, God showed me what it was that would motivate me or anyone else to spend their lives serving God.
In 2 Corinthians 5 verses 14-15, it says “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
I realized that the only way someone can dedicate his life to serving God is by having an overwhelming sense of God’s love for him. If one does not recognize God’s loving-kindness demonstrated in God sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins, then he has no motivation to daily serve God. Life becomes about living for yourself and doing what you can to be successful and happy. But when you understand the gospel, when you understand your sinful state before a holy and just God and understand that you don’t deserve anything good in this life, that Jesus has died to pay for your sins and rose again so you may have new life in Him – then you begin to see where your motivation comes from. If we are children of God, then we must no longer live for ourselves, but rather we must live for the One who gave us eternal life.
2 Corinthians 5:19–20: In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
When God opens our eyes to the truth and shows us how much we’ve been forgiven, we soon become overwhelmed by His goodness to us. Not only has God shown us such amazing grace, but He then miraculously uses broken and sinful people to carry out His ministry of reconciliation, His ministry of redemption for humanity. God loved me enough to die for me and save me from my sin; He wants me to daily recognize Him as my loving God and Savior, and He wants to use me to share what He’s done in my life to bring other people to Himself.
As I was struggling with being on the mission field and wondering why I was there, God showed me that I needed to be completely overwhelmed by His unconditional love for me. When we understand everything that God has done for us and given to us, then we have the motivation to dedicate our lives in service to Christ in whatever context we find ourselves.
God has given us the ministry of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, and He is drawing people to Himself throughout the world, using people like you and me. We need to recognize God’s amazing love and be moved to serve in whatever capacity God is calling us.
Nicole Hardin, Cross-Cultural Service Major
This week’s blogpost is the latest prayer update from one of our BJU Cross-Cultural Service interns in Africa.
We are in our final week here. The time has flown! For the first four weeks, we met four times a week with a language tutor for three hours a day. This last month, we have been focusing less on the everyday lingo and more on biblical terminology. Our first day, we began by reading a prayer in Arabic. This was our first time reading full sentences! I definitely felt like a child learning how to read, but it was an amazing moment when I actually knew the sounds that matched the characters! I didn’t know what I was reading, but I was reading!
We continue to build our relationships with the new friends we’ve made. Since the only basis of knowledge they have about religion is from the Quran, they seek to find similarities between the Bible and the Quran. But as we expressed the great exchange Christ has made for us, they have seen Christ is different! Rather than trying to get to God by our own good, the One who knew no sin was made sin, that we might become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Cor. 5:21). All the friends we’ve been able to share this beautiful truth with have commented that this is good! We are praying they would desire to know the truth and that they would taste and see the Lord’s goodness!
As I come to the final week of this internship, I’m reflecting on the many ways my perspectives have been challenged and changed in the best way possible!
Prior to this trip, I found myself finding my worth in my own works. I thought that my value was based on my performance – what I could accomplish. But God has been so gracious to show me that, just as I could not earn my salvation, I cannot earn my sanctification. It is all by the power of the Holy Spirit that works in me. If there is anything good that is seen in me or accomplished through this vessel, it is in spite of me. I am weak, but the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me. This causes me to live in freedom from the expectations that restrain.
Another new perspective God has graciously given is an understanding of life in another country. One of the main reasons I chose this internship was that veteran missionaries are opening their lives up for us to see how they live in a different context. No doubt the culture is different here, but the same thing God requires of me here, God requires of me anywhere – to love Him with all that I am and love others as I love myself. Loving others may look different here than in the States; for instance, it may look like sitting at a coffee shop with one person for six hours just talking about normal day life. We wouldn’t do that on a regular basis in the States, but this is how people in this culture build trust and belonging. But, taking care of myself, doing laundry, meeting with friends – this is all a part of everyday life. This perspective has shown me the necessary task of being faithful wherever I am in doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. The servants here have learned to live out the truth in everyday life, and I seek to do the same.
Lastly, I want to share what I’ve learned about discipleship. The goal of making disciples is not to build buildings with large auditoriums for large numbers of people to gather. The goal of discipleship is that others would be able to take what they have heard and “commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This takes time, trust, commitment, and enduring patience to invest and pour into others as you live life beside them for the long-term. Life is not always exotic and thrilling. Sometimes life is messy and hard, but having a constant trust in the Lord and enjoying the small gifts our faithful God gives breeds a life of thanksgiving. Faithful obedience to love those around you and commit to the Lord’s will is more rewarding. People need to hear the Word God has given, so they may believe and be reconciled to God. The missionaries here are trusting in the Holy Spirit’s power to work through the Word of God to create spirit-led change in those around them.
This is just a glimpse of the new perspectives I am bringing back that have changed the way I approach everyday life. I am so grateful for all your support and prayers along the way!
I leave you with this beautiful promise:
1 Peter 1:22-23
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”
Abbie Rocha, Senior Early Childhood Education Major
I came into this summer not really knowing what to expect and excited for a new adventure. But as we delved more into our work on the island, I discovered that this summer was not just supposed to be an adventure. I had come to the island of Guam to serve the church and to glorify God. I fell in love with Guam from the first day that we arrived. Everything around the island is green, the people there give you all kinds of food, and the ministry of the church is so encouraging and refreshing. For the first month of the summer, we jumped into teaching summer classes. Their summer program is called Cool School. Many parents send their kids to school for the summer to make sure they do not fall behind and forget everything they learned during the school year. God has been so good to continually humble me throughout my time here. As I struggled with jetlag, I had to remember that I could not do this on my own. God showed me in Philippians that this summer I would not be successful according to Him if I tried to do it all on my own. I saw the reality of that truth every day in my classroom. The days where I focused on myself and on trying to be the best teacher were the days I struggled the most. The days I focused on glorifying God and loving my kids were the days that I really connected with them and felt God working.
Most of my students had really no concept of who God is, and most had not ever heard about God at home. During the second week of teaching Cool School, I started sharing a devotional in the morning, realizing how little they knew about God. Through this small time in the morning, I was able to have more conversations with my students about God and about who He is. Sometimes I wondered if I was even making an impact spiritually with my kids because of the language barrier, but one of our mentor teachers told me something really encouraging. She told me it isn't you that is going to make anything happen. The most important times are often the most random times where God works in their lives and allows you to have those random conversations. Even what you think is random, could be the opportunity God is using to plant seeds in their minds.
Though I did not see any of them get saved over the four weeks I had with them, I know that God’s Word never returns void. Our class theme verse has been Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Through God's strength, I was able to plant seeds in these little minds that I know will eventually sprout.
I saw the power of God work during our camps, both junior and teen week, and was reminded of the real power of the Gospel. I started off teen week disappointed that I was not counseling but determined that I would have a good attitude about it and that God had put me where He had for a reason. Instead, I was working on the flex staff, and our job was to take care of all the behind-the-scenes things that make camp happen. All week, I waited for a window of opportunity to talk to the girls about God and the Gospel. It wasn’t until Thursday that all of a sudden God opened the door. I was just sitting on the bleachers and talking with a girl about random things when I had an urge to ask her about what she had learned this week. Earlier that night, one of the leaders told me that she had run away when she tried to talk to her about spiritual things. I asked her if she had thought about the question Pastor Saunders had asked in his sermon on Wednesday. He had asked what you are trusting in for your salvation. She thought about it for a minute and then replied, “I don’t know.” So, I asked her, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” She said, “No.” I started to get excited and asked her, “Well, do you want to find out how you can get saved?” She said, “Yeah.” I took her back to a back room and walked through the Gospel with her. Praise God right there in that back room she asked Christ Jesus to be her Savior. It wasn’t a grand spectacle. It wasn’t a response after a salvation message like I was anticipating. And, her response wasn’t due to my sharing such a compelling message. All I did was listen to God and share the Gospel with her. I was so overjoyed and excited to see the happiness in her face. I gave her a huge hug, and she started running around telling everyone that she had just gotten saved. She ran into the kitchen where her sister was and yelled it. Her sister gave her a weird look and asked, "What do you mean you got saved?" I asked her if she wanted to find out. She nodded yes, so I took her back with her sister to that same back room and walked her through the same thing. That same night, she also asked Jesus into her heart!
God's goodness truly amazes me. These sisters reminded me that God is always working and that His will and plan is so much better than mine. He did not need to use me to bring these girls to Him, but He graciously allowed me to have this opportunity to share the Gospel and see Him work. During junior camp, more than half of my cabin got saved! Six of my girls accepted Christ! At the beginning of the week, I could tell that many of them were confused about salvation. Many of them did not even understand what being “saved” meant. As the week went on, we walked through the Gospel during every devotional, and the more I talked with them, the more they understood what God had done for them. One by one, they accepted Christ, and it was so cool to see the power of God to bring them to Him. They were all from military families, too, so this is probably the only opportunity that they would have to come to camp.
As I left the island, I could not help but thank God for all He had done and how He had shown Himself strong. I was overwhelmed by His goodness this summer, and I already miss the island so much! I cannot wait until I get the opportunity to return!
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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.