Hey everyone! I thought I would share this piece that I wrote for the Bethel College Study Abroad Office. They send out a newsletter once a semester and they asked me to write down some of my thoughts about my recent missions trip to South Africa in June. While I was traveling along side of 20 some other people, each of our own experiences were unique in there in own way. Here are some of my reflections…
Stepping off the loaded-down plane and onto the ground below, the cool, crisp June air and expansive landscape told me that I was far from home—8,853 miles from home, to be exact—in the beautiful country of South Africa! Last school year, when the opportunity presented itself to run soccer camps in South Africa with my teammates, I felt the strong nudge from God to “Go!” Finally, after several months of raising support, planning, and praying, I found myself amidst the blowing vuvuzelas and green and yellow soccer jerseys of a country on fire for their first hosting of the World Cup. What an amazing platform for ministry we had! And as passionate as they already were for soccer, we were able to incorporate into it something that we were passionate about as well—Jesus!
During our time in Pietermaritzburg, I tried to focus on what God wanted to reveal about South Africa and its people. Throughout the 10 days I was there, my worldviews were challenged as I experienced firsthand the true needs of the people there. In our first few days, we were able to play some friendly matches against a local club team. It was sobering to sport my new shoes and matching practice wear when most of the boys showed up wearing tattered clothes and second-hand cleats. But what was amazing was how hard the boys in the club played. Though they may have not had the best gear, or much less a quality meal yet that day, they were always focused on the then and there—soccer. This made me think of how we as Christians treat our relationship with Jesus. So often we try to get everything right before we really let ourselves focus on Christ. In reality, it shouldn’t matter how much we’ve prayed that day or if we’ve given our tithe for the month. When we live for God, He wants us 100%, 100% of the time. Just as those boys were completely focused and engaged in soccer, we should treat our relationship with Christ the same—focused and engaged on how He wants to use us to impact those He places in our lives.
Midway into our trip, we had the pleasure of hanging out with an entire school of elementary kids. It was fantastic! Being an Education major, I felt totally in my element. While the school wasn’t a Christian institution, many of the teachers were Believers. This provided the chance to lead some worship songs in one of the classes. It was while I was leading worship for some fifth graders that God taught me another lesson: Maybe our joy comes from music, perhaps it’s the product of soccer, but when it comes down to it, joy is from the Lord. And whether those kids knew it that day or not, the smiles on their faces were direct reflections of the only kind of joy that’s pure. Joy for life; a life from Jesus. Every new song was an anthem to Him; it didn’t matter that I was this soccer player from the U.S., the thing that really made that moment was His supernatural presence moving in that place.
Arriving back in the States, God continued to teach me and challenge me, and I reflected a lot upon a missionary family who we spent time with there, the Quarandillos. I was struck with the sacrifice they were making to be living in South Africa, and envied their passion for ministry and seeking the Kingdom first. Later, as I was reading The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen, I realized something: For these missionaries, serving God wasn’t about their own personal sacrifice—it was about serving because they got to. And that should be our mindset as well. God has commissioned all that believe in Him to serve Him, whether it be in South Africa, South America, or South Bend. And our mission isn’t to serve Christ out of a personal gain, but instead is in our willingness to serve with a joyful heart; In the opportunity to make ourselves less so that God can be more.
Currently, I am living in South Korea for a year teaching English. In this new place, culture, and chapter of my life, I am once again seeking after what it looks like to serve Christ here. I try to continually reflect on how I treat my students, my neighbors, my friends, or even the cashier at the local supermarket. How am I carrying out my passion and joy for Christ in my day-to-day interactions? God certainly had a plan when I stepped off that plane in South Africa, and He certainly has a way of stretching and pushing us to discover the world not through our own eyes, but through the lens of Christ. And when we catch a glimpse of what that looks like, we make ourselves available to serve, love, and truly be Jesus to the people around us.