STSM HIGHLIGHTS (Part 3 of 7)
Today we continue with part three of our seven-part series called STSM Highlights! We’ll be sharing new mission testimonies every week from each of our STSM 2K18 teams.
Next up is our Greece team, featuring Stephen Song and Candice Cho! Check out the article for their testimonies! If you want to access the rest of Greece team’s testimonies, click here.
Stephen Song (Senior, UCR)
I had the privilege of building relationships with Afghan and Iranian refugees in Greece this summer. Being a senior, a 2nd time-STSMer, a 2nd time student leader, and having served in various capacities at UC Riverside KCM, I was brimming with confidence (and maybe just a dash of arrogance) as I made my progressions through training and boarding the plane to Athens. I thought I knew all of the correct answers and the correct procedures to any circumstance that I would face in Greece. However, I did not expect how helpless I would become in facing the circumstances of the refugees.
Our team partnered with a church in Athens that was run by and for Afghan and Iranian refugees. We stayed in that location for the entirety of the trip and were afforded ample time and resources to build friendships with these refugees. Ministry centered around equipping them in their journey to asylum by conducting English and computer classes and having afternoon fellowships together. As our relationships with the refugees developed, my feelings of helplessness at their situation also grew. Because of the economic climate of Greece, it’s nearly impossible for refugees to find steady income. I remember a particularly frustrating moment was when I was helping one of the refugees pick out a laptop that he had been saving up for. He was only a couple of euros short but would have to wait indefinitely to save up a little bit more. This situation is the narrative of their lives as refugees. Whether it was necessities such as housing and food, coming up with enough money for a safe passage to asylum, or even saving up for small personal luxuries, it was always a struggle for them. I thought I would know the right thing to do or would have the right words to say, but I didn’t. They don’t have enough and they don’t know when they will.
There is also the persecution that these refugees face. Real social and physical persecution still exist today. As Americans, we have been shielded from actual persecution, but our Iranian and Afghan brothers and sisters face social persecution from their culture and government, disownment from their radical Muslim families, and even physical harm. I found myself again in helpless frustration to their circumstances.
In retrospect, the Christian refugees in Athens, and the Christians in North India that I met in my previous trip, aren’t so different. Although Greece afforded a more comfortable lifestyle than living in India (North India is very poor), they still face their own forms of hardship. Despite our comparative material wealth and religious freedom to those in other countries, Christians in the United States are not excluded from brokenness but face different forms of it. I realized that our common denominator as followers of Christ is our hope. Regardless of our situations, we are all exiles and refugees that have been separated from our Father and our home because of our sin. We all suffer in this broken world, yet our hope and joy can be found in knowing that this battle belongs to God and that He has won.
I was reminded of Romans 18:18-23, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Although our circumstances might not improve and our pain might not go away quickly, we can find comfort in knowing that our God is good. Our sovereign God works for the good of those who love Him. Our hope as Christians is not in a better worldly life, but in our eternal and glorious God who is making all things new and the coming of His kingdom.
Candice Cho (Junior, Biola)
At first, I was very hesitant and quite unwilling to apply for STSM this year. However, God moved my heart and gave me the strength and courage to choose to trust in Him and turn in the necessary applications – despite it being a pretty last minute decision.
There were many moments throughout the missions trip that really blessed me. Even the times of struggle proved to be a strange, yet magnificent blessing in disguise. Through all of these experiences, I was and still am greatly blessed by God who sent me out to serve and obey Him in Greece this summer.
One of my greatest blessings from the trip comes from the amazing opportunities our team had to visit several refugee homes to hear their stories. A lot of the refugees were surprisingly open to sharing their testimonies, and I felt very privileged to hear from so many of them. What really blessed me during these times comes from hearing and witnessing the undying and ever-growing love the refugees have for Jesus Christ, as well as their own people. Several refugees have a very strong desire to go back to their homeland, Iran or Afghanistan, to share the gospel to the people there, even though they know full well the great struggles and persecution they would be faced with if they should ever do so. I was enormously encouraged by such faith and the kindness and loving hospitality the refugees showed our team. Especially as I witnessed the love the refugees had for each other and also for our team, I began to feel convicted to really love my neighbors – more than I had before.
I was also blessed to have the chance to share my own testimony during one of the services. Hearing so many powerful testimonies and also sharing my own with the refugees helped me to realize the true power of such stories, for I learned that the gospel could be shared through them.
Now that I am back in the states, I am constantly reminded of the spiritual battle I have to fight in order to keep, rather than lose, the precious blessings and lessons I came back with. Not wanting to lose any one of them, I pray that God would continue to help and guide me as I strive to hold fast to everything He has been teaching and showing me. I believe that all the moments of blessing God gave me, and all the lessons He taught me, grew in me a greater longing and stronger love for Him.
Christ is all I need. He is all I have. Right now, I believe God is calling me to surrender all my fears and all my plans at His feet. I need to trust Him completely in all things with courage, boldness, and great strength. I hope and pray that the experiences I had will be a guiding light and stepping stone in my future walk with Christ.
Applications for STSM 2K19 will go live on February 17th! #GO