The STSM Student Report series will highlight current multi-timer STSM trainees sharing about their experiences of the training process. This week’s update is from Dong Hoon Lee from the Philippines Team and Noelle Chang from the South India Team!
Dong Hoon Lee // UCSB // Senior // Philippines Team
Hello, my name is Dong Hoon Lee and I studied economics at UCSB. I recently finished my coursework so I am technically an alumnus. I’m returning to the Philippines with STSM for the second time since the summer of my sophomore year and am joyful to have an opportunity to participate in missions and serve God.
The STSM process for me has been quite different from my first experience. In terms of content, everything has pretty much been the same since my first time (which isn’t a bad thing), so I don’t feel the ‘newness’ and ‘excitement’ that many first-time trainees would and are feeling. I would say that even my convictions and circumstances of this mission trip aren’t unique; I simply wanted to participate in missions again because it was logistically possible, so I took the opportunity. I wasn’t in school, I’m working full-time, and I love missions. It seemed like I can commit to STSM.
God humbled me during the first week of training. Full-time work caused me so much physical burden and tiredness, that I became inconsistent with my spiritual disciplines. Even the money I made from working seemingly depleted after paying my bills. In this short time, I believe God taught me that this decision to serve, although it may have been driven by the guise of good intentions, may have been motivated by means of self, not God. Through this experience, God reminded me that I’m at His mercy in this entire process and in my life. Learning this has positioned me to have a heart to yield to what God is doing and follow after Him, not falsely believing that I know what I’m doing since I’ve been through it before.
John Piper’s “God is the Gospel” was a striking heart-check that brought me back to reflection. Piper asked the question, “Would heaven still be worth it if Christ was absent?” I found myself justifying a ‘yes’ with the good things that would be present in eternal life. I was making God’s gifts greater than who God was in my life because it benefited me.
Our church is going through a series on John. Our pastor made it clear to point out that in many miracles that Jesus performed, the people were blessed, but many (often even the disciples) missed the point of Jesus’ teachings and deeper purpose. They simply focused on what Jesus could do to benefit them, eventually leaving Jesus as He tread further towards the cross, bearing the suffering, rejections, self-sacrifice, and hatred from the world.
Pastor David Chong’s message on The Greatest Commandment in Mark 12 furthered the point that God commanded us to love Him (and only Him) with our entire being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I evaluated my life and found that the majority of it was centered around loving myself, and that absolute, focused love for God was only reserved when serving or doing spiritual disciplines. As I continued to listen to the speaker identify the shortcomings of how I did not do this in my life, I began to feel insecure and unworthy.
There are two responses when one realizes one’s sinfulness. One response may be feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, low self-esteem, and insecurity as a result of our sin. This is a truth. We are not adequate for anything. We are not worthy of any praise or compliment. Our identity in ourselves is wildly insecure. However, the second response to knowing the truth about our sin is seeking Jesus for redemption. We are not adequate for anything, but we believe in a God that is more than adequate and is on our side. We are not worthy of praise or compliment, but worship a God that deserves all of creation’s adoration. Our identity in ourselves is wildly insecure, but Jesus offers an identity as His child that is based on His perfect life and not our sin. This is how I choose to respond to the shortcomings of my life, clinging to God and believing that He is changing me into the image of Jesus Christ. Only with a focused and lasting revelation of His love will I be able to completely and absolutely love God and my neighbors.
I’m thankful that even though the STSM training content is similar to the curriculum from two years ago, God is compelling the truth to become so alive in my life once again. I’m eager to learn more about God and abound in love for Him through this journey, and am setting that as my new main goal for all of this. Please pray that I would continue to seek Christ in my spiritual disciplines and retain the heart to obediently and lovingly serve Him for this mission trip and in my post-graduate life.
Noelle Chang // UCSD // Senior // South India Team
Hello! My name is Noelle Chang and I am a fourth year at UCSD majoring in psychology. This summer through STSM, I have been given the privilege to go to South India; this will be my second time going on STSM and to India!
I was a very different person when I first went on STSM back in 2015. Back then, I did not understand the importance of missions, how to go about my relationship with God, or understand how big our God is. I’m not saying that all of these areas have been perfected, but there has certainly been progress after that first mission trip to India. With this self-growth, I came into the training process excited and wondering: what was God going to reveal about Himself to me through these trainings?
At this past Sunday training, Pastor David Chong spoke on the command to love, the priority of love, and the challenge to love. God commands us to love Him and His people because He is our creator and He knows that we need His love. He is not after our religious actions, but ultimately, He is wanting our affections. However, “incentive-based love,” or doing things out of wanting to get something, is what comes naturally to us. This is not what God wants though. He wants us to love and enjoy Him for who He is, not for what He can do for us. We most definitely cannot earn His love in any way—it is a gift! In knowing this, how do we love others? We must first receive God’s love to be fueled in loving others. Pastor David put it as this: that “love is not manufactured [by us], but it is a byproduct [of God’s love for us]”—we cannot simply produce love out of our own wills. Our actions and love must stem from God’s love for us and must be fueled in this way.
From this sermon, I was able to gain more clarity in the current season that I am in. After being brought out of a season of dealing with past chains that had me entrapped, one of which included legalistic ways and tendencies, God has now placed me in a season where He is gradually teaching me to stop leaning on myself , but instead, to simply love and enjoy Him. This past training reminded me that our actions turn legalistic when they are not fueled by God’s love, but are fueled by other things such as our desire to please people, to simply do out of obligation that eases our guilt, to work for God’s favor (as if it’s something our works can earn), etc. Pastor David warned us that it becomes easy in our daily lives and on overseas missions to simply go through the motions and miss God’s love completely, which in essence, is for us to enjoy Him. Only through our enjoyment of Him and who He is, which is the receiving of His love, are we able to love others and not simply do to just do (which was what I was blindly stuck in for a long time). This past Sunday was a reminder of where I was (and still partly am due to my sinfulness) and a clarity on what I should strive for. Nothing can be accomplished without God.
With this, I would like to ask for prayer because it is through prayer that our requests are made known to God who is able to do all things. First, please pray that the country of India would be stirred up by God; those of us who are sent there are able to sow seeds, but it is only God who is able to grow them. In addition, please pray for those who are already in India preaching God’s word to the people there. Ask that the Lord will protect these fellow brothers and sisters from the persecution that is prevalent against Christians there.
Also, please pray for my team and me. Please pray that we would be able to do all things while seeking God’s presence; that we would not be a team that depends on ourselves, but a team that is fueled by God’s love to serve the people we meet in India and one another.
I am thankful that through STSM, I am given more opportunities to serve God and love on His people, be sanctified by Him, and learn more about Him. Will all this go perfectly without a few hiccups and failures to uphold the holy-standard that is set upon us? Probably not. But as my pastor has often said—it’s about direction, not perfection. As God reminds me over and over again about Himself, He also reminds me over and over again that there is grace that covers my failures.
Check back every week as we post new STSM Student Reports for Mission Mondays! #GO2K19