What did God teach me on the mission field? Gratitude = Strength.
I’ll have to admit that when I signed up to go to East Asia for short-term missions with Tapestry, I went in half-blind. I signed up because I knew we would be working with youth students which I did have a heart for, however I knew practically nothing about the current culture or dynamic of the area we would be ministering to. However, despite my lack of preparation, God was gracious enough to not only bless our team’s mission work but also equip me with fundamental lessons for my upcoming season of life.
The first day of the youth camp was more discouraging than encouraging since both the students and teachers were acting up during activities and sermons, and at times the group felt uncontrollable. I started feeling nervous about spending the next 5 days with the group.
That first night, however, God showed our team a glimpse of what He had in store for the rest of the week when after the last sermon we held an altar call. To my surprise, many of the students as well as the teachers raised their hands to recommit/commit their lives to Christ, even though throughout the day they seemed unreceptive to the teachings. That night as I saw the majority of the kids on their knees crying for Jesus, I was blown away by how God was evidently for this camp, regardless of the fact that I thought differently.
As the week went on I saw the camp grow exponentially more hungry for Jesus, and at a rate I’ve never witnessed before. One distinct memory is that some students started fasting with our team during meals and worshipping and praying with us instead of eating with their friends. Some of these students were the same students I thought I’d have the most trouble with, the students that on the first day would fall asleep during prayer. By the last night of the camp, I was so in awe of the power of God’s transformative love on these students and teachers that I couldn’t help but give my genuine thanks to Jesus, not only for working so profoundly in this small corner of the world but also for allowing me to be a part of His mission.
Coming to East Asia, I had a plethora of reasons to feel anxious for what I had to go home to back in the States. However, I truly believe that God sent me to East Asia to trust that doing His work would prepare me far better spiritually and mentally than if I had stayed at home. So even though I would be transitioning to a new school that fall, I was so thankful for the season God had placed me in the present moment that my worries towards the future minimized significantly. That experience clearly communicated to me the real strength of gratitude.
“Sure gratitude = strength, that’s a nice little phrase, but why should I go on missions?”, you may ask. Although I really miss the students and new friends I met in East Asia, God graciously allowed me to keep some “gifts” to take home with me. One of them being the mission team itself. Before STM, I felt pretty uncomfortable at church and never felt a sense of community. However, because my team members and I have developed a deep bond throughout training and missions, within a large church I felt like I had a family to turn to, which meant a lot being a foreigner of the LA area. We’ve even had reunions celebrating almost every holiday since our trip last summer (Catan quickly became a family tradition).
In addition, God had placed a deep conviction to continuing serving the youth by serving them at Tapestry. I have been genuinely blessed with amazing students as well as a staff team that cares for one another and encourages me to go deeper with my walk with Jesus.
With STM season just around the corner, I would highly recommend at least checking out the info sessions and take seriously your slightest interests in going. Although I had to let Him take my hand and jump into unknown waters, the Lord has led me into what I would visualize as an ocean of love, community, and experiences that have only nudged me closer to Him. In the end, I can firmly say it was 300% worthwhile.