Servant Life Blog

The Dangers Of A Mission Trip

Going on a mission trip can be dangerous; but, so can coming back home.

We live in a culture that has a 24-hour news cycle that seems to be filled with nothing but negative elements and danger around the world.  These images and elements alone often keep people from going and making disciples around the world.  We convince ourselves that it is “too dangerous” or we simply decide that we don’t have the resources or time and we will go “someday.”

While those concerns have some validity, I contend that going on a mission trip can be dangerous in other, maybe even more dangerous ways.

Going on a “trip” with the mindset of a tourist rather than a disciple going to fulfill the Great Commission

At times I hear conversations, both in person and on social media of people talking more about packing their bags, getting their passport stamped, or what they are going to do on their “off” day compared to having a laser focus on the “mission” of their trip.  Those details aren’t bad; but, it is imperative for short-term missionaries to remember that the time they have is limited and in order to maximize it the mind must be kept on the mission.

Coming home with pictures of things you built

Building things is not wrong but we must remember that the Great Commission is about people.  A successful mission is one that keeps that focus.  When we are all gone from this life and enter into the next, buildings will still be here.  They are great resources, but they need to be a resource that leads to changed lives.  So if involved in building projects, take great pictures…just include the people that it helped in your pictures. On that same note, don’t fall into the trap of wanting to take a lot of pictures just to have your next great profile picture or receive a record breaking number of instagram likes. There’s nothing wrong with letting social media know you had an incredible trip; just make sure to have the right motives!

Return talking about what “we” did

When we answer the call of Christ to make disciples of all nations, we go in His authority and the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is imperative for us to invite the Spirit to work in us and through us.  As we return and share stories and testimonies it should focus much more on what He did than what we did. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Checking your good deeds off your list

Years ago, I was returning from some work in Honduras. When I sat down on the plane, I was sitting by a young man who was returning from his 2-year Mormon mission trip.  I enjoyed talking with him about his time in country and all that entailed.  I asked him a question about his return and what he would now do going forward related to his faith and missions.  He laughed and said, “I have done my duty. I am now done and get to live my life.”  He said his church will see that he did his work and then he will be free. I found it an interesting response.  While it might not be said in those exact words, we often say the same with our lives.  We go on mission trips and feel a sense that we did something valuable, maybe even something we were “called” to do, but that was the end of it.  We have done our duty, our good turn, our mission, and now we can go back to our lives and our control.  This is a trap.  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4

Not being able to re-engage in a healthy way

When you see God move, it should affect you.  It should cause a stirring of the soul that desires to see that change on a regular basis. Sometimes returning from a mission trip can be frustrating because you want everyone else to “get it.”  The realization that they have not seen and experienced what you did becomes very clear.  They continue to focus on their day-to-day lives and while your body is present, your mind is still back with kids in an African village or with your new friends in Asia.  Your mind plays a continuous album of photos in your head.  You dream of just going back or you think of plans to sell everything you have and move.  The deep thinker Dr. Seuss said it well, “Don’t be sad it is over, be glad it happened.”  While we should always live a missional life, sometimes that means having seasons of being in a different context.  Other times it has us right where God has planted us for that life season.  Don’t live in the danger of dreaming about going on a mission trip again. Step into the reality that as a Christ-follower you and I are called to live a life on mission. If we are going to make disciples, we should do this regardless of where we are.

Not sharing what happened

When you come home, don’t be afraid to share with your friends and family all that you saw The Lord do on your mission trip.  Unfortunately, it can be easy to buy into the lie of not wanting to bother people with all of your stories. You may have a thought like “They’re probably tired of hearing me talk about my trip.”  However, sharing your stories can be so powerful! When you retell your experience, God gets the glory and you keep alive your memories. Don’t forget to write everything down! You’ll definitely want to remember it all in a month or year or 10 years.

I encourage you to be careful not to let yourself fall into these dangers. More importantly, don’t let these potential dangers keep you from going on a mission trip altogether.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus gives the charge: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  As a Christ-follower you are commanded to die to yourself and the desires of your flesh.  I am convinced that there is no greater reward than following Jesus. With your heart and mind constantly set on Jesus, the dangers of coming home from a mission trip won’t even be an issue.  Take Him at His word, follow Him to the ends of the earth, and keep your eyes on Him always.

– J. Roger Davis, Executive Director of Servant Life

Stories from East Asia, Pt. 2

The following are testimonies from our team that served in East Asia this past summer. They had the chance to share the gospel with unreached and unengaged people groups.

“Prior to this trip, I was very interested in missions. I gave up my lifelong dream of playing professional sports to pursue the studies Seminary had to offer. God then gave me a chance to see what the missionary side of life is all about. I came into this week with every little detail planned out. God then graciously shattered that plan. Through all the discomfort, confusion, and adjustment, I finally experienced something magnificent. At home, offering is just putting money in a plate every Sunday and Wednesday. On a trip, I gave up sleep, food, entertainment, and even time to plant seeds. Although it was hard at times, leaders, friends, and students helped me continue. Without a doubt, all circumstances considered, prepared or not, I would do it all again for any length of time. And for all this I thank God.”

“God has shown me many things this week. He began by stripping me of all and every daily comfort – food, bed, hot water, electricity, technology, family, until there was only Him. It’s like He wanted to see how far we could go to serve Him. I really enjoyed being able to see the word ‘Jesus’ come out of some of those mouths for the very first time. That alone made everything worth it. The fact that without us here, that may have never happened is truly amazing. I also enjoyed witnessing a girl read the Christmas story to the class from a Chinese Bible. You could feel the presence of the Lord in the room. I have full confidence that the seeds were planted in the lives of these children and because I got to witness that, my life was changed.”

“Something that stuck out to me was that I had the opportunity to share about God’s plan with one of the students. She had been in my class and we were talking in the dorms about the Christmas story that they had learned that day. She said it was very interesting, so I told her about the rest of Jesus’ life. When she realized that it was real and wanted to accept Him as her Lord and Savior, my heart jumped. It’s amazing, reaffirming to my personal faith to see seeds being planted, and I’m blessed to have had this opportunity.”

“An incredible thing that I got to witness was when the students in my class got into small groups and discussed the Christmas story. There I learned that four students believe and have asked Jesus into their hearts. Andrew, one of those students, had a Bible, and he said that he shared bible stories with them every night. It was also great because Andrew could also translate what I really wanted to get across. After finishing up the Christmas story, I shared my favorite books/verses, and they shared theirs. It was interesting to learn that theirs was Genesis and Luke. But the most amazing things was that we were able to give them Bibles! I am so excited and hopeful that God will really water that seed. They seemed to really happy to receive them! I will be praying for them often.”

“This week, the story that touched me the most was with Andrew, one of the students. I met him last year and knew he was on track to becoming a believer, but I did not know how much he was interested in it all until I saw him this year. We were talking and he randomly told me how he thought Jesus was his friend. He also told me he had been reading his Chinese Bible every night and sharing with his friends. He said his friends also thought Jesus was their friend which makes me feel like they are closer to believing. This story touched me so much because it shows how the work we are doing at the school will spread to many others we wouldn’t normally reach. If we can tell the good news to the kids at the school, they can share with their friends and family and the word will continue to grow and spread.”

“This week, God has taught me to be more selfless and grateful. He has made me realize that there are many that can’t freely worship and still so many that we need to share our stories with. We need to continue to reach out to these people at home and all nations.

“Toward the beginning of the week, our crew was pretty discouraged in our class. They continued to push through and on the day we talked about Christmas, the Chinese students began to respond. We found out we had at least eight Chinese students who understood who Jesus was and a few that were family. In the group I was sitting in, we had two students draw out the bridge illustration and begin explaining in Chinese! We didn’t even get to a nativity skit because we were so busy talking about Jesus and the Bible.”

“One of my Big G stories was the night after the Christmas movie. One girl asked me to tell her more stories about Him so I did. I read her about ten stories from the Bible. She had many questions about it, but at the end of the night she decided to believe in Him.”

“During the last few days while I was there, I talked to some of the girls about the death of Father and showed them my cross earrings. Later on, some of the girls came up and gave me a cross necklace and told me, ‘We can see how much you love Jesus and we wanted to give you this.'”

“This trip has revealed to me how many people are truly lost.”

“This was my first time out of the country. This was definitely a life changing trip. I got to step out of my comfort zone and show myself what I was truly capable of. I got to witness to a group of about six girls in the dorms one night before dinner.”

“This week at camp I got to share the complete story of the gospel for the first time. I had been frustrated with not sharing for most of the week because I didn’t want to go so far to keep my mouth shut, so I finally opened my mouth for the first time and told two girls the story of the gospel. I was nervous, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It was a lot of fun and I loved doing it. It makes me feel good and like you’re part of a bigger picture. I enjoyed it a lot and it was cool to see how God opened my eyes to the desperate need for more missionaries. Now I don’t want to stop.”

“I was surprised how easily the students seemed to accept and comprehend all that we told them about Jesus, while people in America who understand what we are saying, just constantly reject or ignore it. It was pretty cool when one girl came up to me and said ‘I love Jesus. Can you write His name on my hat?'”

“He worked in my life, breaking down any social barriers, and breaking my heart for these people. He humbled my pride and taught me not to take anything for granted. I’m so glad He sent me on this trip.”

“Mike asked me why I believe which actually caught me off guard because surprisingly, no one has ever asked me that before. I got to tell him and the rest of the group how amazing it is to know that you are loved unconditionally, no matter what you do. One day while riding in a rickshaw, Mike asked for a bandana (with pictures on it that helps you share the gospel).”

Click here to learn more about our East Asia trip and how you can get involved!

Stories from East Asia, Pt. 1

The following are testimonies from our team that served in East Asia this past summer. They had the chance to share the gospel with unreached and unengaged people groups. 

“The Lord absolutely broke me for those in the world that have no opportunity to hear the gospel apart from people going, making disciples, and those that send. Living out the great commission is joyful and satisfying. I want to share the hope I have in Christ.

“What touched me the most on this trip was when I was talking to a kid named Mike. I was using a portion of free time to read my Bible in my dorm. Mike walked in and said “I have a Bible too!” He then went on to tell me that he came to Christ last year at camp and that whenever he sins God tells him it’s okay, and he feels happy again. I showed him some scripture in Ephesians and he was so excited to underline the verses in his own Bible. It was such a blessing to help him grow in his faith.”

“The significant thing I saw happen was I stayed in a room with Alan and the second night he was already asking questions to me about my ‘God book.’ I tried to answer them. One of the last nights, some other people from my team talked with him and he ended up coming to faith.”

“My heart is very full. I came expecting to love the students, leaders and children, but He overwhelmed me with the magnitude of the mission work. The children were hungry not only to know and understand English better, but they craved being known and loved by our team. God also reminded me of His great work that is already underway. We don’t have to do His job for Him, just join Him in the effort.”

“One of the most meaningful moments of this trip was realizing that even though I hadn’t left yet, I already wanted to come back. I realized this after I had gotten really excited that we were making such a difference in the kids’ lives. I just wanted to stay longer and I realized that this was the area I was supposed to be serving here. When I saw and heard about how many students were being changed, I was immediately compelled to stay longer.”

“I know we are going home humbled – aware of our own advantages, but so aware that with privilege comes responsibility to share.”

“My story involves one particular girl. This girl was a return student and we made an instant connection because my friend was her group leader last year. She knows the story of my best friend but doesn’t quite understand it. She seems excited when we talk about it. After closing ceremonies she was so sad and we hugged for a long time. I went to bed with a heavy heart. I woke up in the morning and had an overwhelming desire to speak to her before leaving. Before boarding the bus I hugged her again, wiped away her tears, and told her, ‘I want you to remember the stories we told you about Christmas and Easter, and remember when you are sad or lonely, you can talk to our friend. It is what I do and I know He is always there for me.’ She nodded her head and smiled. I can only pray for her and that she will soon be part of our family. We are already connected on email and she has sent me a message. I plan on following up with her soon.”

“To be honest, I never expected this trip to have as enormous of an impact as it has on my life. My most meaningful moment not only allowed me to open up to new people, but also allowed me to experience what it is like to share His love. I was sitting in my room one night, writing in my journal, when two Chinese girls came in. These girls had recently gone to the Mango Market and bought some books in Chinese. I asked them what their book was about and followed up by asking them what their favorite story was. Then I asked them if they would like to hear my favorite story. Keep in mind that I was so nervous to share my favorite story, which is the story of God’s love, since it was my very first time sharing my faith. What if they thought less of me or wouldn’t be my friend after I told them? But, to my surprise, sharing His story was well received by the girls and although they might not believe the stories like I do, I know that I planted a seed that I hope someday will flourish.”

“I have prayed for some time now to see people as children of God, instead of just people. This experience was an answer to that prayer. Thank you for this experience. I now see firsthand the darkness that exists in areas where the sweet name of Jesus has not been fully spread.

“Coming into this trip I did not know what to expect. There was only one thing I was sure of, God would be with me. When I first saw the conditions, I thought they were un-livable. I was wrong. They were different, but livable. I was selfish and rude about the conditions. God told me that this is how these kids live nine months a year. Why am I angry about a one week stay? He also reminded me about a previous conference I had been to. He reminded me to ‘BE LAST.’ This trip was not about me. It was about the kids I was trying to reach. Talking to five people and four telling me they believed really warmed my heart. I feel that I accomplished the reason I came.”

“Wow!! Words do no justice on how amazing this week was. Definitely far above that which I imagined it would be. So many things I could write about, but I would like to tell you one. The story we were telling that day was about Easter. We read the story to the students, then we separated into smaller groups for further explanation. Luckily, I had a girl in my group who was very fluent in English. As I would explain the story of how our Savior had risen and defeated death all to give us the power over sin, she would translate. If you still don’t see what was happening, let me be clearer. ‘A Chinese student was teaching and proclaiming the good news of the gospel.’ That’s what this trip is all about, to spread the good news to the students and they in return spread it to others. That was the first time I heard the Gospel in a different language. Although I could not understand the message, I definitely felt the power of the Spirit moving.

Click here to learn more about our East Asia trip and how you can get involved!

Refilwe: Life for All

Almost 4 years ago, I left a big piece of my heart in a tiny country in Africa called Swaziland. After spending 3 months in a foreign missions context, I wasn’t ready to leave. As I flew home to South Carolina, I felt certain The Lord would let me be part of bringing His gospel to Africa again one day.

So you can imagine my excitement at the fact that I got the chance to lead Servant Life’s trip to South Africa. With me were Bailey, Jaime, and Mandi – 3 girls ready to be outside of their comfort zone for the sake of the gospel. I’m incredibly thankful that these are the three that The Lord hand picked to serve in South Africa.

With the exception of Jaime and Mandi, we all met for the first time in the Atlanta airport in mid- June. All three of the girls have traveled the world extensively and were excited for a new journey. After a pretty long 15 hour flight (there’s only so many times you can watch Frozen), a suitcase that didn’t make it, and an hour long drive north of Johannesburg, we finally made it to Refilwe.

The first night in South Africa is pretty much a blur. We arrived at Refilwe, turned on some heaters, (Side note: It is COLD at night in South Africa in June. Keep that in mind if you ever visit during their “winter!”), ate dinner, and called it a night.

For our first full day, we got a tour of Refilwe and all its resources. Refilwe is a children’s village set on acres and acres of land in Lanseria, an area just north of Johannesburg. On site at Refilwe is a pre-school, community center, a baby house, a clinic, several homes for foster/adoptive families and long-term volunteers, and an office. I was very surprised at the amount of ministries that are present right there at Refilwe.

We were thrilled to find out that we we were able to help out at the baby house on some of the mornings. [insert heart eye emoji here] The baby house is named El Roi – which is based on Genesis 16 where The Lord protects Hagar/ Ishmael and she says “I have seen Him who looks after me.” El Roi has taken in many abandoned babies, cared for them, and helped find them forever families. Currently, the women at El Roi are caring for 12 of the most adorable babies I’ve ever seen. Bailey and I got the great privilege of helping out at the baby house the morning of an adoption. We got to feed and play with little baby L before his parents officially made him a part of their family. Because of privacy reasons, we didn’t get to witness the actual adoption, but to be a part of the moments leading up to that life changing event is something I will never forget.

More than anything else on the trip, Baby L’s adoption was the most humbling part. That day made me stop and praise The Lord for His ultimate adoption of me. Like Ephesians 2 says, when I was dead in my trespasses and sins, following the course of the world, living with a spirit of disobedience, the God of the universe rescued me. My words can do no justice to what Scripture so beautifully tells: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).” What an incredible picture of grace from a loving and just God. It’s just as wonderfully overwhelming 4 chapters earlier in Galatians 4 when Paul highlights our adoption and freedom. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4-7).”

I would venture to say that nothing has provided such a rich and clear picture of the gospel for me as adoption. Baby L made no decisions in his adoption. As a sweet little baby, by God’s grace, he was taken in, cared for, and chosen by his parents. The same can be said of me. I had no part in my adoption. I cannot take any credit for becoming a part of The Lord’s family. It was in his infinite love that He chose me. He came to me. He redeemed me. HE! I’m beyond thankful that I serve a God who knew no sin but became sin so that I could become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), that I might proclaim His glory to the end of the earth.

Glory to God for making me his daughter and for giving me a week in South Africa to be reminded of what I too easily take for granted: that He has made me His own.

 

– Alison Matthews

Servant Life Nicaragua: Something God started four years ago!

Since our last update our Summer has flown by! After two weeks of Servant Life camps and visits by both sets of parents we find ourselves just a couple of weeks away from getting back to more of a “normal” schedule. School will be starting back for Mikayla, Drew and Ben on August 11 – who believe it or not will be in 5th, 4th and 3rd grades respectively. We’re still praying through our ministry plans for the Fall but we know there’s no shortage of work to be done for the Lord here!

“600+ campers, 26 Servant Life team members, 2 camp pastors, 8 missionaries, 1 driver, 4 translators, 10 MKs, 3 summer interns & glory to one amazing God!” That was our Facebook status after two amazing weeks of Servant Life camps here in Nicaragua!

As many of you remember, back in June of 2010, Jason along with several youth leaders from South End took our youth to Student Life camp that was held on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC. During that week, he had the opportunity to meet Roger Davis, who at the time was the Vice President of Student Life. They briefly talked about doing camps in Nicaragua one day. Later that summer, Servant Life, the missions arm of Student Life decided that they were indeed interested in partnering with us to host camps in Nicaragua. At that point, we were only a year and a half into our support raising and also had a year of Language School ahead once we were fully funded. They very patiently waited for us to arrive here in Nicaragua and by early September of 2013, we were already adding an extra week to the one week which had already filled up!

So on June 14 around 1 pm, our first ever Servant Life teams landed here in Managua traveling to us from Arkansas, Virginia and Pennsylvania! Saturday evening was spent getting to know each other and Centro ABEM. On Sunday morning, we ministered at the church plant, Cristo es el Camino, leading in part of the service, kid’s Sunday School and prayer walking in the community. Monday through Thursday were day camp days at Centro ABEM.

We hosted a different group of campers each day from a local Christian school, feeding center and a children’s ministry. During day camp, kids heard a message from God’s Word, had small group time, sang songs, played fun recreation games and enjoyed lunch. Just in case you’re wondering we used the Agency D3 VBS curriculum in Spanish covering all four questions – Was Jesus really the Son of God? Was Jesus more than a good man? Was the death of Jesus real? Is Jesus alive? – in one day!
Friday for both weeks was “tour day” visiting a local volcano and souvenir shopping.

In week 2, we hosted the church group from our camp pastor’s (Pastor Luis) church plant, the elementary kids from the bilingual Christian school we taught at this year, a local church and an orphanage. Week 2 had to deal with several unexpected challenges like no running water for the first three days at Centro ABEM, a broken down bus that had campers arriving late, a storm coming up at the camper’s pool time, sickness and injury. But with God’s help they handled each challenge with grace.

Through both weeks, we believe God was glorified in the teaching of His Word. There were some good spiritual conversations held in small group time and we had several decisions made for the Lord including a teacher and school administrator!

We are so thankful for the way these two weeks went! It was a wonderful experience, we learned a lot and we give God all the glory because we could not have done it without Him! Believe it or not we already have 3 weeks schedule with Servant Life for 2015!

– Beth Lang 

(Beth, her husband Jason, and their children are faithfully serving in Nicaragua. Servant Life is thrilled to be partnering with them in the command to take the gospel to the nations. You can join Servant Life and the Langs in 2015 in Nicaragua! More info here. Original blog post here.)

Ambassador’s Corner

I recently had the opportunity to preach a camp where 113 students shared that they were called to some type of  ministry.  I let a few of them share what they believed that calling was. Some of them were specific-”I believe that God has called me to student ministry.” Some were very specific-”I want to start a ministry that feeds hungry kids.” One student in particular shared that he had no idea what God was calling him to but that “God wanted him to do something huge.”

I have thought of these students a lot the last few days.  They are part of a generation of students who will see the work of God beyond the snapshot of conversion.  In a culture that champions immediate gratification, may they see their place as kingdom people who have been called to endure.

What would it look like if, by God’s grace, we are able to raise up a generation of students who have the goal of making disciples locally and globally? How would our local churches function differently in 5 years? In 10?

My prayer is that God uses Servant Life to resource students and churches so that:

  • The guy called to student ministry grasps a teenager’s place in God’s global mission.
  • The young lady who wants to feed hungry kids sees that as a way to feed a greater hunger.
  • The kid who wants to do ‘something huge’ will be speechless when he sees how big the message of Jesus for the nations really is.

– Chad Poe, itinerant preacher and Servant Life Ambassador

The A1eight Project

I remember when I was in school having great conversations with many friends who spent their summer involved in international missions.  Most talked about how life altering or future-shaping those experiences were.  The ability for them to spend their summer break serving and growing in a context well outside their norm became such a catalytic experience in their life. The obvious evidence of life change became visible to people around them.  It was easy to desire a similar experience.

Over the last few years, as I have traveled internationally and had experiences in shorter periods, I have continued to think and pray about what has become the A1eight Project. This new offering from Servant Life beginning in the summer of 2015 will give 20 something’s an opportunity to spend an extended period with a missionary or minister in an international environment actively growing and learning while making disciples. Additionally, participants will be a part of hosting short-term teams, leading and equipping them to serve during their mission’s experience.  It provides a great blend of leading and learning, being invested in and being poured out, while serving God by serving others.

Applications will be available beginning in September. We are currently working on options in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, England, Ukraine, Kenya, Guatemala, Ecuador, Houston, Dallas and NYC.  Applicants can apply in an early placement period and be notified of status by December 15th or have their application in by January 15th to be notified of placement by February 15th.  Team size is expected to be 3-5 per country and we want to make sure that selected participants have plenty of time to raise funds.  Pricing will be broken into a published price for the program/trip costs plus travel.  Estimates will be provided with the applications in September.  For updates you can follow @A1eightProject on Twitter.  Applications will be available at www.servantlife.com/a1eight-project.

Our desire for the A1eight Project is similar to that of our short-term trips: helping mobilize students to make disciples of all nations wherever the Lord has them serving.  This new program is one more resource to help all of us accomplish the Great Commission.  I continue to be amazed and humbled that in all the ways God could have advanced the gospel around the globe, He designed people to go to people.  Those of us that are Christ-followers not only have the responsibility to be gospel advancers, but the privilege as well.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

– J. Roger Davis, Servant Life Executive Director

 

New Opportunities in 2015

We are excited to welcome four new mission partners to the Servant Life Global Network in 2015.  Here is a brief snapshot of each of them.

Toronto, Canada 

We often don’t think about Toronto being just over a nine-hour drive from Louisville, KY.  That makes it extremely accessible to much of the population in the eastern U.S.  The United Nations recently called the Toronto, “the most culturally diverse city in the world.”  52% of its population is foreign born with a multi-ethnic cultural and religious perspective including good concentrations of Muslims and Hindus from South and East Asia.

Teams will work alongside our partners that are on the ground year-round serving with the growing Toronto Church Planting network.  In the spring we have college weeks that will allow students to go into some of the campus of the University of Toronto and engage students on various faith topics each evening.  During the summer trips, teams will be working with children and students from various backgrounds in city parks, community centers and churches.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Our new relationship in Guatemala allows for groups to serve in either an urban setting in Guatemala City or at Camp Calvary outside of the city.  Clubhouse Guatemala  began by a former youth minister from the United States that relocated to Guatemala in 2008. Now a team of Guatemalans operates the Guatemalan portion of the ministry.

Clubhouse serves over 400 children in five different villages through student programs and Camp Calvary allows for short-term teams to minister in 18 different villages to the south and west of the city.  Additionally, the ministry continues to plant various churches throughout the region, serve and share the gospel with Guatemalans, and operate a school and medical clinic.

The ease of access to Guatemala City as well as other factors makes this new relationship a great option. You can find out more about them on page 8.

Nairobi, Kenya

Servant Life had a strong partnership in Kenya in the past and I have personally spent a good amount of time in that country.  While Nairobi is the epicenter of the banking and health community of east Africa, there are countless needs including in one of Africa’s largest slums, Kibera.  In that slum, hope is being shared through the work of Pastor Peter Abungu and the Swahiba Youth Networks team. We are thrilled to begin a partnership with Swahiba to reach young people with the gospel as well as partner in solid discipleship, training, and leadership development.

Additionally, some weeks will provide opportunities to be involved in ministry out in the Maasai lands working with one of the most iconic of Kenya’s 43 tribes, the Maasai.  This new relationship allows groups to have access to one of the truly unique African experiences while serving in one of the places with great physical and spiritual needs.

Dallas, Texas

Most don’t think about international missions opportunities when they think of Dallas, Texas. If they do, they likely think about the large Hispanic population that has relocated to that area.  But Dallas is also home to thousands of refugees. The area that Servant Life will begin working in is home to over 30,000 refugees from countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Guatemala and many others.  Teams will serve in an area the represents more than 90 people groups.

Serve Dallas is a new strategic partnership with the community engagement efforts of Park Cities Baptist Church that has been working in these neighborhoods for 15 years.  Short term teams will be working alongside a year round strategy serving and building relationship with kids through VBS activities, Kids Clubs, student involvement and reaching out to mothers in the community.  This new relationship gives Servant Life teams the opportunity to meet and serve the people of the world right in our backyard.

Regardless of where you might serve in 2015, I want to encourage you to spend at least a week of your year going and advancing the gospel among the nations.  All of our 2015 dates are listed on the next page and there are many other quality organizations that can help you and your group go be a part of the Great Commission.

– J. Roger Davis, Servant Life Executive Director

Partner Spotlight: Costa Rica

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La Montana Christian Camp was formally established in Costa Rica in 2001 under the leadership of Joe Pent Jr.  Having grown up in Costa Rica as a missionary kid, Joe’s passion for reaching the lost in Costa Rica was also a passion of his father, Joe Sr.

Joe Pent Jr. says, “Right from the beginning, [Dad] developed a ministry to young people working with evangelism and discipleship. That developed a dynamic of renting facilities, going to different camps, using those different facilities and created a desire and the focus to someday develop our own Christian camp.”  In 1998, that vision became a reality when God gave them a 600-acre cloud forest property bordering the Tilaran Mountain Range, 22 kilometers from San Ramon, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

The recreational program and spiritual impact of La Montana were so evident over the years, that they have been forced to grow the facilities and double their capacity. La Montana’s Phase I Camp now has the capacity for 300 campers. The facilities include boys’ and girls’ cabin areas each with a large restrooms, a dining commons, a 400-seat chapel, a large gymnasium and game room, a sports field, high and low ropes courses, 3 large ponds for water games, staff and guest housing, and an office/reception area.  La Montana has had the privilege of reaching many young people with the gospel and as a result have seen thousands of people trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The Pents and the staff of La Montana are always thrilled to have teams come serve alongside them during the summer.  It’s not too late for you to be a part of spreading the gospel in Costa Rica this summer! Click here for trip details or check out La Montana’s website.

 

 

Spring Break Missions

At the start of my freshman year of high school, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the gulf coast. It’s one of those events in history that I’m certain will never be erased from my memory.

That next spring, several of my friends traveled to New Orleans on a mission trip to clear debris and help with the damage.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand the whole “spring break mission trip” thing.  Having grown up in South Carolina, an hour from the coast, the standard spring break routine was to head to the beach for the week with your best friends.  At that point in my life, I didn’t understand why many of my best friends wanted to forfeit a week of fun in the sun for working hard, getting dirty, and sweating every day.  Ew.

The more I heard stories from the trip, the more I realized how selfish I’d been.  Before, all I wanted for my spring break was to relax and do nothing.  But The Lord worked so powerfully in my heart as a 16 yr. old who had trouble seeing past herself.  My heart was changed and eyes open to the world around me – to something bigger than myself.  I realized that all I wanted was to know Jesus and to make Him known.  (Side note: I’m incredibly thankful to have had a youth pastor and church family who were such wonderful Christ-like examples.)

I hated that I missed my chance to serve in New Orleans. All I wanted was to go serve somewhere. Anywhere, really. The Lord had changed my life in such powerful ways that I simply wanted to share that with others. During my junior year of high school, I got my chance to serve on the gulf coast

of Mississippi.  Sometimes I wonder why my youth pastor let me go on any more trips after that one considering how many times I asked for bathroom breaks on the 10 hr drive from South Carolina to Mississippi. Regardless, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to clear debris from old houses and help lay foundations for new ones.

The memory from that trip that remains the strongest happened one night on the beach of Gulfport, Mississippi.  My friends and I stood on the pier and overlooked the area where the eye of Hurricane Katrina once made a deadly path.  That moment made me realize how small I was and how big God is.  That’s when it clicked for me. I realized that my old spring breaks at the beach were fun; but, it was beyond rewarding to be a part of planting seeds for the gospel.  I thought I’d be missing out on something by not having my usual spring break trip; but in fact, I gained so much more. The greatest blessing of my life was having the gospel change me as teenager on a mission trip and for that, I am eternally grateful.

– Alison Matthews, Servant Life intern