Doing a university degree provides all kinds of new and unexpected opportunities. For some, this includes using their long summer holidays to go on a short-term mission placement. It’s a chance to see what God is doing overseas and how they could get involved.
We spoke to Chloe* and Hannah, who both did placements with Serve Asia – OMF’s short-term mission discipleship programme – during their degrees. Why did they do it and what did they gain from the experience?
From Liverpool to East Asia
For Chloe, two trips to East Asia changed her priorities and helped shape her ambitions.
God first gave her a heart for East Asia when she was 14, and led her to study at university in Liverpool. It was there she came across OMF, and she set out on a trip to a country in East Asia at the end of her second year.
This trip was about ‘catching God’s vision for the cities, meeting the local workers there, eating and worshipping with them’.
‘We did a lot of hiking, and from these vantage points over the cities just prayed for them and the people there. I didn’t actually know how to speak the language, but that didn’t hinder in any way.’
While she was there, she spoke to a couple about her love for working with kids. If she was going to be a teacher, they encouraged her to come and do that in East Asia.
Following this trip, ‘God made it very clear that [for me], doing a master’s in English literature wasn’t going to be useful.’
So, slightly reluctantly, she switched to a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) qualification.
Since then, God has continued to guide her steps. A second overseas placement followed – one week teaching at summer camps, one week teaching English to local children. ‘In that week, God gave me a love for teaching, which I wasn’t interested in, and gave me a love for these people,’ Chloe says.
Similar to her first placement, God used the trip to open her eyes and give her a new vision for the future. Chloe is now studying at All Nations Christian College, preparing for long-term cross-cultural work.
For students thinking about getting involved in God’s global plan, she advises them to go to him first and pray about it with others. ‘Trust that he is really faithful, leading and guiding. If you’re not sure where you’re heading right now, you don’t need to know right now.’
From Bristol to Japan
Hannah’s short-term mission placement gave
her greater empathy for international students.
It also showed her the importance of knowing other cultures so we can share Jesus in a way people understand.
Serving cross-culturally long-term was something Hannah had been considering for a long time. She ‘grew up in a missionary family, so had always been aware of mission agencies like OMF’. While studying History at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, she joined Emmanuel Westbury Church, who had sent people to Japan with OMF.
A Serve Asia trip to Japan seemed an ideal opportunity to get a taste for cross-cultural work.
Hannah joined a team working with students at three universities in Sapporo, Hokkaido. This included attending the English Speaking Society at each university, getting alongside students, and building relationships. ‘I was amazed and humbled by the effort so many of them made to make us welcome and show us great hospitality even if they couldn’t speak English very well,’ says Hannah.
The aim was ultimately to invite students to events put on by the Serve Asia team, where they could hear the good news of Jesus. Something Hannah learned from this was ‘the importance of knowing the culture and the people you are trying to talk to’, so that you can talk about Jesus with them in a way they understand.
This stuck with her as she returned to Bristol. ‘It made me appreciate even more the courage it takes for international students to come to the UK, and how isolating it can be not to speak the language or be from the dominant culture. I tried to reach out when I could to international students and rejoice in opportunities to welcome people and in that show them Jesus.’
She’s now a primary school teacher and hopes to do this overseas long-term while supporting the local church wherever she ends up. To students considering short-term mission, Hannah says, ‘Go for it!’ and adds, ‘Make sure you have the support of your local church…financially but also most importantly in prayer.’
OMF (UK) Media Intern
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