SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–“What I did on my summer vacation” (as told by members of volunteer mission teams from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary):
— Barb, Mandy & Robert: took vocal lessons (Barb) and drum lessons (Mandy & Robert) from Hindu teachers in India.
— Brent & Kristin: landscaped terraces of an agricultural training center in southwest China.
— Wayne: offered impromptu English lessons on village street corners in Southeast Asia.
— Jimmy: learned to play the saz (a Turkish instrument) from a Muslim teacher in Germany.
These are all members of various E-teams, volunteer mission teams led by students from Golden Gate. The San Francisco-area seminary sent out 15 teams — about 85 seminary, college and high school students at their own expense — to the far corners of the globe to minister alongside missionaries and nationals, usually for four weeks. They did this in multiple ways, but always with the same goal in mind: to plant the gospel among people who do not know Jesus.
“It was hard for me to grasp that so many people in India have never had the opportunity to hear about Christ,” said Mandy,* who served in one of three teams to India. “I have heard about him and known about him all my life. I take that completely for granted. It was eye-opening for me to be around so many people who had never heard his name.”
Jason, who served on the same team, agreed. “For a lot of the people we talked to, it was the first time they had ever spoken the name of Jesus, the first time they’d ever had the opportunity. That was a pretty powerful experience.”
Wayne, who co-led a team to East Asia, reflected on the magnitude of the task of taking the gospel to all the world’s people groups, noting, “It’s so huge, it’s something only God can do, and sometimes he does it through us, and sometimes despite us. But he delivers the truth in his own time table.”
Added Barb, from an India team, “I tend to be pessimistic sometimes, and wonder just what God can really do in such a huge place with such a huge task. But the workers there live in faith really well — to see the way they live made a really big impact on me.”
Sometimes the interaction with workers taught team members as much as the ministry. “I was reminded of how difficult it can be to live in a place like East Asia,” Wayne said. “The language, the culture, being in a place where the gospel has not been shared before — it’s very hard.”
E-teams prayerwalked, taught English, learned music and dance, conducted people group research — whatever was necessary to learn, build relationships with non-believers, and share Christ in appropriate ways. Sometimes it was fun — like the “recital” an India team held for their music and dance teachers, to demonstrate how Indian music and dance could be used in true worship of Jesus. Sometimes it wasn’t fun — jet lag and stomach illnesses, the frustration of not speaking the people’s heart language, often seeing little obvious fruit from their labors.
“A mission trip isn’t always a mountaintop experience,” said Kelly, who served in East Asia. “It’s hard work and sometimes you don’t see the results you want to see. It’s not always the great thing you think it should be, but that’s reality and that’s okay, and that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great trip. It’s just the way mission work is.”
*only first names are given due to security issues. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: STUDENTS & TEACHER, REFRESHING IN CHINA and CULINARY EXPERIENCE.