I grew up in a Christian home and truly understood my desperate need for Christ around 8 years old. That is when the idols I developed in my life proved untrustworthy and unsatisfactory. I attended a nondenominational church.
I would have never expected to participate in a Baptist collegiate ministry after high school. My sister, however, had become part Christian Challenge’s activities and encouraged me to come along.
I had participated in a two-week mission trip in high school. It shaped my expectations of a FOCUS summer. I expected the experience to be works-based and have no focus on evangelism. So, when I was encouraged to do a summer project my freshman year, I hesitated because I did not feel equipped or convinced.
I started being discipled by a Christian Challenge staff member, Sophia. During our discipleship meetings, I realized the depth of value and fruit that abiding in God’s Word could produce. My relationship with Sophia influenced and developed my understanding of the Gospel and my confidence to verbalize absolute truth to others. It prompted my heart’s desire for my friends and strangers of the world to be saved, even for women in South Asia to be saved.
By my sophomore year, I was confident that God was directing me to go elsewhere for the summer. I was also peaceful and confident that I would go overseas with collegiate missions the next year. The summer of my junior year approached and I had no doubts. I applied and was accepted to be a Christian Challenge summer missionary through FOCUS. CC staff surprised me by asking me to be a team co-leader for the South Asia team. That was only the first unexpected event of many more that summer.
My summer in South Asia was priceless. My team of two boys and two girls faced difficulties, but God’s steadfast love continued every morning. God was faithful in the midst of our faithlessness. Our challenges - not always encouraging - pushed me to depend on my time in the Word, time in prayer and on God-given energy.
Throughout everything, we planted and watered spiritual seeds in our city of ministry - how glorious and wonderful! We made so many sweet friends and enjoyed sweeter conversations about Jesus. Some of our new friends feared death and admitted that they lived hopelessly and just pursued whatever felt right. We told them about Jesus who paid the penalty of death that they deserved for their sin. We told them that He loves them tremendously and offers life if they repent and believe.
I remember engaging an Uber driver in conversation on the way to a local garden. I was exhausted, but we began talking about temples, mosques and then Jesus. He said a Christian friend asked him to drive to them to church every week and that he sometimes join them at worship services. He squeezed his arms and patted his chest when he explained that during worship “it cries out, it cries out.”
The driver’s comment vividly reminded me of the very active, incredibly omnipresent God - who is the Creator of the whole world - and his immense love for people. God reminded me that He is working in the hearts of the city’s people - before we came, while we were there, and will be after we leave. That summer reminded me of the life-giving opportunity and command, to go and share Jesus with the world.
I did not expect the personal difficulty I faced when leaving the city, no longer having those face-to-face relationships and no longer being able to remind them of the Gospel.
I applied to go overseas again in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic fouled those plans. I had to trust God’s unfailing sovereignty while facing that unexpected disappointment. After receiving the news that I could not go, I wrote a condensed excerpt of my thoughts.
“Before we first found out about our summer being canceled, I had just read Matthew 26, where Jesus is talking to God and says, “not as I will, but as You will.” I felt God ask me if this was my heart towards Him through all the uncertainty. After we found out, I was later in my quiet time, and I started Matthew chapter 28, the Great Commission. What does no longer going to share the Gospel in SA this summer look like through the lens of the Gospel? The commandment is the same! God’s will and sovereignty is the same! Ecclesiastes 7:13 says “Consider the work of the Lord, for who can make straight what He has made crooked?” What a unique and challenging time to cling to the trustworthy and loving God that we know Him to be.”
“I’ve been reading Isaiah since and chapter 8 talks about us not having the fears of this world, but instead having the fear of the Lord. And, when we have the fear of the Lord, “He will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense.” With everything [that is] going on God has been reminding me that my only fear should be of Him, and He will become my sanctuary. It’s been very sad and very hard, but I’m confident that last year I saw my God in the city of South Asia. And, I know He’s with my friends, and with the M’s of all the other cities, during this time. I trust that He is as ever active and faithful to the cities whom we, as students, won’t go to this summer. He is as ever active and faithful in our lives with where we will go instead.”
Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” That verse has been evident throughout my life - even in joining CC to going overseas. It will hold true indefinitely, as God is wonderfully sovereign and good. God used my FOCUS summer in SA to remind me of my responsibility as an ambassador of Christ and of the urgency and joy I should have to tell others of the life-giving gift in Christ.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to tell my friends in South Asia about Jesus. I recognize God’s faithful and consistent character displayed across the world. And, I am graciously reminded of the necessity to share this Good News wherever God has me.