STSM Highlights (Part 7 of 7)
Today we finish off with the last part of our seven-part series called STSM Highlights!
Last up is our South India team, featuring Gloria Won and Grace Kim! Check out the article for their testimonies! If you want to access the rest of South India’s testimonies, click here.
Gloria Won (Freshman, UCLA)
Hello! What is up? If you are reading this, thank you so much for taking your time to read my testimony, and I hope that only God is glorified through these words. My name is Gloria Won, an upcoming 2nd year at UCLA, and I went to South India this 2018 summer through KCM Short Term Summer Mission program.
This was my first mission trip, ever! I really didn’t know what to expect going into this program and really did feel unqualified to go. Originally, I had fantasized about going on a mission trip ever since my two older sisters went and came back with amazing stories to tell. I idolized the idea of going on a mission and didn’t know the purpose or God’s heart behind the mission. But, throughout my freshman year of college, after learning about the Great Commission and the urgent need of missionaries, I thought I was ready to hop on a plane and go do miraculous things for the rest of my life in whichever country He calls me to. This was my heart behind signing up for STSM this year; I was hoping that through this mission trip, God would show me where He wants to place missions in my life.
Don’t get me wrong; having a passion for missions is definitely not a bad thing. But what I didn’t know and what God has been continuously showing me for this one month was this: God doesn’t need us in His mission in order to bring people to His kingdom. God is glorified by how great He is, and He has gifted us with the opportunity to be part of that glory.
Countless times throughout my stay in South India, I felt that the ministry we were doing was contributing no progress to the growth of Christianity in the country. I felt like I was wasting time or being a burden to the people around us rather than serving them. During the long 16+ hour train rides across India, I watched far too many people come and ago while I sat in my seat trying to talk to as few people as possible. I did end up talking to a few ladies, but never talked to them about Jesus. I was so angry at myself for doing nothing, because how else were these people supposed to learn about Christ? One time in Andhra Pradesh, where we did church encouragement ministry, we mistook the host family’s water tank as a trash can. As soon as I found out, I couldn’t help but have an overwhelming sense of guilt possess me for the rest of our time there. It was so ironic that we had become a burden when we went there to encourage the churches. How were we supposed to uplift these churches when we were being disrespectful instead? During our church encouragements, many people asked us to pray for their physical illnesses and difficult living situations. They all concluded that their conditions were a result of evil spirits cursing them and wanted those spirits to be cast out so that they could live comfortable lives. How were these people supposed to come to Christ, when the water that they ask us to pray for is clearly not going to heal their ailments? Won’t they give up on Christianity because it won’t work?
Do you see the pattern? I went out to do ministry, but my brokenness got in the way and discouraged me. Every time, I felt that people were not going to turn to Christ because I was lacking in some sort of way. Let me say it again: God doesn’t need us to do crazy things or have crazy powers for people to come to Him. Our God is a sovereign and almighty God. All the missionaries that have been sent since the beginning of time are all lacking and imperfect. But the number of Christians has continued to grow in various places as a result of God’s strength and nothing else. Not our VBS sessions, not our monetary donations, but God. God’s ability to reveal Himself to people is not limited to how many strangers I talk to on a train, or to how good and respectful I am as a guest, or to how much I believe the Holy Spirit can work in people’s lives.
We are broken, but He is perfect. And the fact that the sovereign and almighty God is commanding us Christians, through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), to go and make disciples despite our imperfection means we are extremely honored to partake in the growing of His glory and should be overjoyed to obey that command. We go on missions and we do not change anyone’s heart, but rather, we might be able to experience God changing hearts through our simple actions. We go on missions out of a natural desire to tell the world that God is good. Experiencing this through my interactions with the people of South India this past month has truly helped me learn about missions and what God desires for us to do. Although I don’t know exactly how God wants to place missions in my life, which is something that I am continuing to pray about, I know that I am willing to accept the next thing He will send my way. So to end this, please pray for the people of South India, that God continues to work and grow in their lives. Please pray for my team, that we may continue to fix our eyes on God and live for Him. And please pray for me, and I also ask you to join me, as I strive to pick up my cross and follow Christ.
Grace Kim (Sophomore, USC)
At the beginning of the school year, I had no intentions whatsoever of going on summer missions. As a freshman, upperclassmen met up with me to talk about their STSM trips and while I listened attentively to their experiences and what they had learned, I felt no personal interest or convictions to go. My plans for the summer before my junior year consisted of finding an internship, getting a head start on studying for grad school, and flying back to Georgia to spend time with my family.
But after going to Missions Rally Night (MRN), most likely because several of my friends were also going, something changed. I wouldn’t say I felt convicted to go necessarily, but hearing other students’ short testimonies suddenly made me realize how crucial following the Great Commission is and how central missions is to Christianity. Thus, I reached out to USC’s KCM president and asked him if I could join servant team late, specifically missions committee. Whilst serving, my heart for missions only grew and I could not shake off the feeling telling me to just go this summer. I kept trying to repress these feelings in fear that acting upon them would cause my whole four-year college plan to be delayed. But even after the STSM application deadline passed, I could not shake off the conviction that I really had to go this summer. And so I went.
Prior to actually flying to South India, I was prepared (or so I thought at the time) to die to myself. On the last day of Intensive Retreat, Pastor Richard had given a testimony about dying to yourself, starting in the small things to prepare to die for the greater things. My whole team reiterated this point as we prepared to go, and due to my high energy levels throughout trainings, I thought it would be so easy to overcome my flesh to glorify Him; I thought my hardest sacrifice, of putting aside summer internship opportunities, had already been done. But once we got to India, my positivity gave way to a complaining heart. On the outside, I may have seemed normal to my teammates, but in the inside I was struggling. Our team had a lot of logistical problems from the very beginning with missed flights and delays, so it took around two days of travel to even get to Bangalore, where our primary base was. But our second full day of being in South India is when my flesh was the strongest.
We traveled by bus to a city called Chennai, in which we spent the day being relational with strangers and exploring the city. Towards the end of the day, we started walking for a very long time, and we eventually learned from our team leader, Joe, that this was a prayer walk. We walked through an extremely Hindu-dense area of the city, and all around me were idols, cows roaming freely, and sounds of Hindu religious music. As my legs grew tired, the hours ticked by, and I longed for water (we had none with us), my initial prayerful mindset gave way to a grumbling heart. I felt discouraged; I thought to myself: “Why did I even come here? What are the sixteen of us achieving by walking for hours in this broken city that contains no ounce of the gospel?” I doubted God’s sovereignty and the only thing I could focus upon was my own desires and discomfort. While only the second full day of being in India, this was honestly the most difficult point of the whole mission trip. That night after the prayer walk and after the team finished eating dinner, I broke down. I felt a mix of emotions, from insecurity, incompetence, tiredness, and bitterness. I started crying by myself, which continued even as we got on the bus to go back to Bangalore. On the bus, when my emotions continued to overflow, I turned to God. I knew I had already lost focus regarding the purpose of this trip and I asked for the strength to truly make my flesh, my desires, and my insecurities small, while making Him much greater in my heart. I asked that my grumbling heart would be replaced with a joyful one, and that I would stop feeling discouraged about the little we are able to do (because we really can’t do anything on our own) and that I would instead trust fully in His faithfulness. The next day as our team debriefed about our experiences in Chennai, I felt rebuked. As I heard about how one of my teammates felt so much compassion and love for the people we met and passed by, I realized that my mindset was so wrong from the beginning. We are not here to save these people; this is something only God can do. It is not in our power to make them believe; this can only be done through the Holy Spirit. And most of all, God does not need us. We are sinners with the privilege of being used as broken vessels of our perfect almighty Heavenly Father. We are here simply to obey and serve Him. My responsibility is not to ensure the salvation of each person I encounter, but to emanate glimpses of the eternal joy we may experience because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus tells his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” We are called to obey and serve Him, to die to ourselves and to constantly fight our flesh. Even if I never see the fruits of our ministry or if I didn’t have a particular awe-inspiring “aha!” moment on the trip, it is still good to praise the Lord.