When it comes to missions, about a million ideas pop into our minds. Some of us are thinking of a Moses-type figure, climbing hills with a faithful staff and a beard long enough to scrape the ground. Others envision a woman in an airport, flipping through a colourfully stamped passport, Bible tucked under one arm, and a dusty backpack slung across her shoulders. Or a man, scribbling Hebrew or Greek in his notebook, while his team waits to hear his speech on how to save the world.
Okay, maybe we’ve slipped into stereotyping missions (and missionaries) a little. I’ve seen both young and old, seminary degree or not, experience in missions or not, participate in God’s mission.
I recently met with three university students and discovered that the journey with missions is as exciting, mysterious, challenging, and hope-filled as we could imagine.
Why did you decide to go on PRAXIS?
I first heard about PRAXIS through my mentor. She said I would really benefit from this trip. The next day, we had Missions Night on campus, and what really stuck out to me was the aspect of us strengthening our relationship with God. I forget that my foundation should be my relationship with God—not just doing things for him. For me, it’s so easy to get caught up with exciting things, like missions, sharing the gospel, attending Christian conferences, or having Christian friends. I read John Piper’s, “Let the Nations Be Glad,” and learned about the prosperity gospel. I asked myself, “What is the gospel I’m believing in?” Am I believing in a God that only gives gifts? Or am I also believing in sacrifices and costs that he told us and had to warn us about? I think it’s important to reflect on what I believe, because if I’m just building on top of this shaky ground, I’m missing the crucial part.
Also, I saw the people we would minister to, like the homeless, indigenous, and refugees, and I thought, “Well, these are the people group that I’ve been interested in.” Going to a school in downtown, I see these people in my community and I hope to learn how to love them.
What was your greatest fear in going on missions?
I think the scariest part is inviting people to “join me,” especially at church because I’m asking you to trust me. At church, you’re asking family friends, people that are friends with your parents. They have watched you grow up and they may have high expectations. I’m at the age where I’m supposed to take care of the younger ones, so in asking for support I’m asking for them to raise the bar, to put their expectations on another level. I’m afraid I’ll let them down.
How is God helping you battle this fear?
In a sermon, my pastor shared that he grew up in the same church since he was in high school. He said when you grow up in one church, people have seen you do stupid things, but they give grace, and that’s part of growth. It reminded me that I’m not the only one who feels like I might look bad because I made poor decisions before. I also did a presentation at church, and my sister’s feedback made me feel like I sounded dumb, but people still supported me prayerfully and financially. The fact that they’re trusting me, showed me that it’s not so much about how I perform because they’re not expecting perfection from me.
What did you learn about your faith in preparing for missions?
I remember sharing the gospel, and I said, “From the point you believe to the point after you believe it’s all about trusting God. He offers salvation and you trust, you’re believing that he’s faithful to what he has done and also that God will keep you, and the Holy Spirit will help you.” I thought, “Okay, so you’re saying all of these things, but do you actually believe them? Do you practice it in your daily life?” I can’t just talk about trusting God. What’s the point of trying to help someone else understand that when I’m not doing it myself? Like, is it really that great? Or that powerful? If it is, then the hope of the gospel should show in your life.
What drew you towards Desert Rain?
Two things: I came to faith last year, so I was searching for areas where I could take steps of faith and obey. I asked, “What would challenge me? What would make me trust God more?” Desert Rain fell right into that because I heard it was a relational place, and I thrive in community. The second thing was need. I remember some students could not go because not enough people signed up.
It’s really just looking at his word, and seeing the Great Commission and saying, “God how can I participate in the work that you’re already doing across the world?”
What did you learn about God in preparing to go on a mission trip?
I started a job at Centennial College, and I realized that in the face of suffering I have Christ, but in their moment of suffering they turn to other things. God is so amazing, so powerful, and yet he’s such a personal God. He invites us to come to him, and he loves to listen. Seeing myself as a child before his eyes has really showed me how much of a father he is, so that’s something I’ve been holding onto as I go into DR. I have an earthly father who really loves me, but no father is perfect, and I quickly fixated on love being as feelings and not so much provision and sacrifice. I came to an understanding that God’s love is not just feelings, but he shows his love, and his love gives, and he gave the ultimate, his son, and that really stirred my heart to share with people.
The other thing was in support raising, I learned a lot of lessons with God about trust. In areas of lack of trust, I feel like I’m prone to anxiety, and I’m learning that anxiousness is a form of control, which is rooted in pride. I learned to see the reality of God’s word and live by surrendering to God through prayer and seeing his heart for his people.
What was your greatest worry in preparing to go on a mission trip?
I don’t speak a lick of the main language, so in my humanness I tend to focus on: Will I be efficient? Will I be able to even have a conversation with someone? I can define success as the number of people I talk to or the intensity of the conversation, but my fear is: Will I even have an opportunity to talk to someone? Also, focusing on my own strength, thinking, “Oh, I’m not on the same faith level of others maybe I shouldn’t take big steps of faith, maybe I should just focus on my own walk.”
How did God calm these worries?
When I feel fear or if I feel that I’m doubting myself, I go to God’s word and see how much of his heart is for me. And prayer. I think asking God, asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. I bring my fears to God and say, “God, this is what I’m lifting up to you, give me more of yourself.” God showed me his sovereignty, so for every person I meet at DR, I know I’m not meeting them by accident. God knows I’m going to DR, he knows the people I’m going to meet. Even if it’s just one person, it comes down to, “Will I be faithful to him?” Even if I can’t speak the language, “Will I show other ways that I can communicate God’s love?”
How did God cultivate your heart for missions?
It’s been a long process of God working in my heart and in my mind. My culture is dear to my heart, the people, the way that they live. I love being with them. I realized we have so much in common, yet are so different in the way we see life, in the way we see truth and hope. I started getting a desire to understand my faith and to be able to communicate that effectively.
Also as a Waterloo co-op student you don’t really have time to do anything and finally I now have time to go, and someone in our weekly meeting said, “Yeah apply for mission trips, there’s Desert Rain, this, and this.” And I was like, “Oh my goodness! How did I forget about Desert Rain?” Like I’m always advocating for missions and I completely forgot about it.
What kind of obstacles did you come across in preparing to go on a mission trip?
I got a lot of push back from my family because they know a lot about the dangers in this location. I told my mom I’d been thinking about Desert Rain and that I really want to go, but she said to me, “Nicole* don’t go, I don’t think this is good, I pray that God gives you wisdom, and I don’t think you should go.” I brought that before God saying, “Lord do you not want me to go? Is this of you? Are you trying to communicate to me through my mom or is this the devil just getting at her fears, or what is this?” I became very anxious about all of the factors like, “What if someone does this? What if someone yells at me? What if – you know? How do I handle myself in the city? Will they start speaking to me in another language? What do I do?”
How did God help you overcome these obstacles?
God did a really cool thing in my mom’s life. We were chatting on the phone, and I said, “Oh how was church this morning?” And she said, “Nicole*! This Sunday, I went to church with my friend, and the pastor talked about missions, and about going to the world and making disciples and how as Christians everybody’s called to spread the good news. And you know what Nicole*? God really spoke to me. As your mother, I just want to protect you and make sure that you’re my safe baby and that nothing happens to you. But I haven’t been encouraging you in what God would want you to do. I want you to go, I want you to tell people about Jesus, if this is something God wants you to do, follow the Spirit’s guidance. I’m sorry if I ever got in the way of what God wants to do.”
I started crying over the phone. I didn’t have to say anything I just prayed to God for him to transform my Mom’s heart and he did, so that was just affirmation.
When it came to safety, there’s so many people on this trip with me and they’re still stepping out in faith to do this. I thought, “Lord you’re going to pave the way,” I know it’s not up to me to protect myself. I think God’s prepared my heart from a long time back, through conversations I’ve had with friends with different beliefs. I always see God come through. He always makes a way to just speak through me, let me love them, so I trust him. Also, I’m quite a logical thinker, so I spoke with my leaders and others who’ve been to Desert Rain. And bringing it before God, “You my know my fear, you know what I’m thinking about, you know what’s on my heart, help me trust you more, help my unbelief.” He continues to give me peace that surpasses my understanding. I really don’t know why I’m not scared anymore. Also, filtering the voices and people telling me things. You know, thinking, “Is this of God? Or is this cultural prejudice, or is this the devil getting at me? And my worries, or their worries?” So asking the Spirit for discernment is huge.
*Names have been changed.