I recently had the privilege to travel to South Asia with my fellow School of Discipleship students to see some of the work God is doing through Gospel For Asia. Something that stood out to me about the trip was the contrasting realities I saw – while I observed signs of extreme poverty and suffering, I also witnessed the light and hope of Christ, shining through ministries like Bridge of Hope, as well as people like the women missionaries, bible college students and pastors. The distinction between the rich and poor was at times, pretty surreal, and was well demonstrated one day as our group drove through some busy city streets. At one point on the drive, I looked outside my left window to see a school bus full of children from seemingly well-to-do families. At the same time, outside my right window, were a few children running along with the traffic, stopping every once in a while to perform a song and dance, most likely to make some money. It was a bit difficult to process, but that experience and others like it have given me better understanding of the reality faced by so many in South Asia. I praise God for the opportunity to have had visited the mission field, as well as for the privilege to have been a part of the work He has been doing through Gospel For Asia throughout this past year.
On Saturday morning I felt excited–not because anything particularly eventful was going on in my life, but because I knew that my friends from the School of Discipleship January class were leaving for Asia that day! Memories of my own long-anticipated vision tour to Asia eight months ago flooded into my mind as I knew it was the January class’s big day to hop on a plane at DFW International Airport for the first leg of the journey to Asia.
Some of my memories of the vision tour were actually intertwined with memories of the January class. The current January class arrived to Texas to start School of Discipleship just as my class (the August 2010 class) left for Asia! During the frenzy of packing that happened on Friday night, January 21, and Saturday morning, January 22, I got to meet two of my future house-mates, Christina and Jolie. I remember how happy I was that they actually wanted to meet us, even though I was a little stressed–especially Saturday morning when Jolie and her family arrived to move her into the apartments! Thankfully, they were very understanding of me as I frantically tried to stuff things into my suitcase and wore the expression of a deer in the headlights 🙂
Anyone who has been on a Gospel for Asia tour to Asia can tell you that it’s a lot of work! Aside from taking care of travel arrangements like applying for passports and visas, practicing songs to share with the Bridge of Hope children and Bible-college students, and learning about cultural do’s and don’ts, the week before the trip includes the inevitable chores of buying last-minute items, packing, packing and more packing. If you’re like me, you decide to do the vast majority of this the night before your departure, hence the deer-in-the-headlights look on Saturday morning.
When you finally make it to the Gospel for Asia office so that all the staff members and families can pray for you before you leave for the airport, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief (unless you’re me, who realized after I got there that I had forgotten my camera. By the grace of God, a very kind staff member offered to drive me back to the apartment so I could get it.) At about 8:30 last Saturday morning, the January students made it to this point. Back home , I thought of them as they gathered at the office for the prayer-bathed commencement of their Asia tour!
Having read their posts on Facebook counting the days before their trip, I knew that they were excited to see Asia, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit of that same enthusiasm–and wish I was there with them. I know that they are not only going to have the privilege of seeing another country in all its beauty and diversity, but they are also going to draw closer to God and to each other. They will have the joy of actually getting to see what a Bridge of Hope center or a Bible college is like. Their hearts will melt as they watch the Bridge of Hope students perform songs and dances and recite Scripture memory verses. They might get to pump water from a Jesus Well. (Hopefully, they will not have to use the Jesus Well to wash their feet after accidentally stepping into a sewage-filled gulley, as I did.) And one of the best parts of the trip is getting to spend time with some of the national works on the mission field. This gave us a chance to see that they are not only godly servants who inspire our humility and awe by making huge strides in advancing Christ’s kingdom, but they are also PEOPLE. As they share their lives with us for a few days and educate us about their culture and ministry work, we realize that they have families, they laugh and make jokes, they know how to get the best prices on souvenirs, and they have unique stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives. Their examples of love and hospitality make a vision tour unforgettable. So all the preparations for the trip–like packing and attending after-work meetings and overcoming one’s fear of bugs and/or cultural blunders–are worth it.
I thank God that my classmates and I had this experience–and that the January students are currently having it! What a gift: He gave us the chance to partner with our brothers and sisters in Asia, and He has also allowed us to meet them face-to-face.
Recently, I was privileged to go to Asia on a Vision Tour with the School of Discipleship students. One of the most impacting parts of the trip was spending a day in a remote village where a Tribal Church had been established.
I sat in a tiny cement Church building worshipping with the local believers. As I watched the believers worship the Lord with such intensity I became focused on one man. He stood in the front and had such an obvious passion for the Lord. He seemed to have leadership all over him. I wanted so badly to find out his story. A few minutes later, I was humbled hearing how God transformed his life.
“My name is Pradeep. For over 20 years I was part of an anti-Christian group that terrorized Pastors and Believers. I was known throughout the region as a fierce man who would beat Christians, burn Bibles and destroy Gospel literature.Often, at the sound of my name believers would prepare to run for their lives.
After 20 years of serving my gods and fighting Christians I found my family more desperate than ever. For two years my family fell sick. We sought relief in our gods and goddesses as well as medicine. The more we tried the worse our situation became. There seemed to be no hope.
Finally, a pastor visited my home and told me, “If you believe in Jesus and pray to Him, Jesus will heal your family.” After sharing about the Lord Jesus, the pastor asked if he could pray. After sitting and watching this man pray I felt the first glimmer of hope for my family in two years.
Over the next few weeks my family was completely healed from our sicknesses. As a result we gave our lives to Jesus.
We have now been serving our Christ for five years. Even today, many believers who have not seen the drastic change in my life are afraid and prepare to flee when they hear that I’m entering a village. I’m so thankful for how Jesus saved us.”
I sat in awe of how God transformed this Saul into a modern Paul. In my heart, I said, ‘O Jesus, I love you so much you are so good, please take us and completely.’