A team of six students and mentors representing OBU spent six weeks serving in Central Asia this summer. The team left May 23 and returned July 4. Two of the team members served as mentors for the group. [Note: For the safety of the team members as well as the safety of the local workers they partnered with, their names and the location of service have been kept confidential for this story.]
Each year, dozens of students, faculty and staff take Global Outreach (GO) Trips which fulfill OBU's mission to transform lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world and live worthy of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ. OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach mobilizes, trains and oversees GO Trips.
The team traveled to and served in two locations, working with the same people group in both places. In the first location, they conducted ethnographic interviews to assist a team of local workers in determining where this people group was located throughout the city. They also made connections with locals and built relationships through which the Gospel may be communicated.
The team visited different parts of the city, talked to shop owners and other locals, and asked intentional questions to determine whether they belonged to this people group and where they lived. The results of this research will be used by local workers to build their strategy in the city for the next three to five years as they prayerfully determine where and with whom to focus their energy.
The second location was a city in which one of the team members previously lived for three years. During this stop, the group taught English for two hours a day and spent the rest of the time building on existing relationships, praying for the Spirit to move in the land and in the hearts of the people, and looking for opportunities to continue sharing the truth of the Gospel.
One of the two team mentors summed up their daily activities. "We spent hours every day talking, eating, laughing, crying, praying, and then doing it all again," she said.
She had never visited this location before and was intrigued by what she encountered. "The prayer call rings five times a day from every mosque in the city, and everything in the society is built around the tenets of Islam," she said. "We were surrounded by the darkness covering a people who are blinded to the light of the glory of the Gospel. Laboring for the Gospel there requires enormous patience, prayer and faithfulness. Much of this people group has yet to hear even the name of Christ, and very few have chosen to follow Him, so the task is enormous. God constantly reminded us, however, that He is mighty to save and nothing is impossible with him."
"The last two-and-a-half weeks of our trip, we were there during Ramadan, which is an interesting time because the people completely flip their schedules. Everything shuts down and they sleep for most of the day, they wake up to cook the 'fitare' meal, and then they stay up most of the night eating and spending time with their families."
The local people made a strong impression on the team. "The people are incredibly hospitable, loyal and family-focused. They spend hours every day sitting, talking, and eating with their family and close friends. They love to laugh, they take enormous pride in their land, and the women love to wear brightly colored dresses."
The trip was full of rewarding experiences but also challenges. The team fought fatigue, both physically and mentally, as well as spiritual exhaustion. "We encountered sadness and discouragement over the spiritual bondage, and we felt enormous grief as we heard the stories of people who have long suffered from the consequences of sin and darkness. We prayed daily that the Lord would remind us of the truth of his word, fill us with his Spirit, give us strength, and work powerfully to accomplish the work which we ourselves cannot do - bringing people from death to life."
She encourages others to serve on these trips, to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity just as she did. "These GO Trips mobilize the OBU community for gospel-centered living that expresses itself through loving God and others, abiding in Christ, and obedience to the Great Commission. GO Trips are an opportunity to gain a theology as big as the world. Our prayer is that the OBU community will grow in the Lord and catch the vision for taking this Gospel all over the world by praying, sending and going. GO Trips are an opportunity to share the Gospel and an opportunity to serve and encourage the Body of Christ around the world."