Some people go on short-term mission trips thinking they are going to share the Gospel with a lot of people. Sometimes that happens. Other times, it does not. When you add a cross-cultural dimension to the trip, the further cross-cultural you go the more challenging it becomes to share the Gospel, unless of course you are already familiar with the language and culture you are serving in.
James B. served with Silk Road Catalyst this past June. He did receive opportunities to share the Gospel but learned that it was just as important for the students he was seeking to share with to believe that he cared about them. Why? If they did not believe he cared, they likely would not have listened to him. While not everyone we show care for will listen to the Gospel, nor do we wait months or years to open our mouths to proclaim the Gospel for the first time, showing we care about them is important in Gospel sharing.
As you read James' experience below, I hope it will encourage you to stay the course as you seek to be salt and light among the lost around you.
President, Silk Road Catalyst
I had a lot of expectations in mind before coming to East Asia. I had hoped to learn how to share my faith effectively, to make friends, and to get a taste of what Asian culture is actually like. I received everything I expected in much greater proportions than I had imagined.
The people of Eastern Asia are starving for the truth and seek for it fervently, regardless of the risks seeking the truth may present them with. Several of the students that I spent time with while I was there outright asked me about Christianity with very little provocation. They wanted to know why I believed, and I wanted to share it with them. It made it very easy to share my faith.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for us of course. Almost the whole week I felt exhausted and I was almost always confused about something. The city streets are like a maze in some places and talking to English students requires a surprising amount of energy and patience. Staying engaged with my purpose for being in East Asia while navigating its unique customs and mannerisms and being tired for most of the trip was intense.
The first day was the most overwhelming with the least obvious progress for our goals. We met somewhere around 15 to 18 students all at once while doing a scavenger hunt in an inter-entangled mess of streets, signs, and thousands of people. It was all that I could do to simply stick with the group and try to introduce myself to a few students. As it was, none of the people I met on the first day turned into friends. I hoped and prayed that God would use some of the brief and vague conversations that I had, but at the end of the day, I was just glad to go back to the hotel.
The second day we hung out with some more students, but not even close to the crazy numbers of the first day. At first it was just two students (I’ll call them Jane and Kaylee here, but that’s not their real names) Jane had lots of questions prepared for us and wasn’t afraid to ask them rapid fire. We were more than happy to answer what they wanted to know, mostly simple questions about the US and who we were. But then her more shy friend Kaylee began to talk with Jane quietly in their language to the side, and out of the blue they just asked directly “Are you all Christians?”.
I answered yes, and from there the conversation became much deeper than mere culture pleasantries. They asked cautiously about why we believed, and I shared a small amount of my testimony, and ultimately told them that I had heard God speaking, and that God speaks in a lot of ways, and if they wanted to see if he was real and if he really cares, then all they had to do was earnestly look for him.
For the rest of that day it just felt like we were hanging out with some new friends in a large city. The language barrier wasn’t so bad once we had a couple of English students with us, and for the most part people were able to understand at least the bare minimum of English to get by. We tried to model Christ for them through the way we treated them and each other, and found ourselves growing closer to these students on a personal level.
The rest of our days in the first city we stayed in followed a fairly predicable pattern; exploration of the city early in the morning, breakfast, a small worship service and orientation on the roof of the hotel, appointments and fun with the English students, English club in the evenings, Dinner either before or after that, and then some late night activities, Bible study, and bed time.
We often went to malls and stores to spend time together. We had a lot of our conversations in department stores while casually window-shopping. We didn’t have too many terribly deep conversations about religion a lot while in stores, although I did meet a girl who claimed to be Christian while we were in a shoe store at one point who seemed to need a bit of encouragement. For the most part however, our conversations were more to get to know each other better and to navigate the complexities of the city. This is not to say they weren’t important conversations, on the contrary they were probably just as important as the talks we had about serious subject matters. It was this light conversation that later lead them to open up more to us and share their deeper feelings and ideas.
They had to know we legitimately cared about them as people before they were willing to talk to us about a God who cares about them, or what it means to be a Christian. To be honest it wasn’t hard to grow attached to these English students. Before long I think we all genuinely cared about each other as friends. They were hungry for truth and encouragement, and when we were kind to them they responded with kindness tenfold. As long as we were patient with their English, they were infinitely patient with our ignorance of Asian ways. When we showed interest in what matters to them, they showed incredible interest in what matters most to us.
At the end of the trip, I had the bittersweet feeling of leaving one family to reunite with another. I can only hope and pray that we’ll be able stay in touch online, until some day God brings us back together again.
James B is a recent (2018) graduate of Warner University in Lake Wales, FL. This was his first trip to East Asia.
Recent Journey to India 10/15/2015
The Remarkable Three 07/13/2015
Presence of Legitimacy 07/06/2015
Work or Missions? 06/26/2015
Too old & Inexperienced 04/14/2015