Student Writer: Alonda Heyward
I’ve had many opportunities over the years to go and serve, but have always said no to going out of the country. However, I would be the first person to encourage anyone else to serve internationally in a heartbeat. Signing up for the Japan spring break trip was me laying my ‘yes’ on the table. It was me saying, “God I am willing to GO, but here is all of my junk (fears, worries, excuses, complaints, and anything else you can think of) and I need you to do something with it because I’m freaking out!!” Needless to say I am thankful that I put my ‘yes’ on the table.
Heading to Japan was completely different for me because:
I went as a student rather than as a leader
I pretty much knew no one going
I chose Japan for no special reason
I didn’t know a bit of Japanese
I knew I would stick out because of my ethnicity and height
I was at a point to where I was tired and needed a “game changer”
So in reading this you may be asking yourself, “Why would a person put themselves in a situation that would intentionally make them uncomfortable?”
Well as you would expect, my first answer is: Jesus tells us in scripture to go, so I went. But the other reason I went was so I could set an example for my group of college students that are a part of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at SC State University.
SC State is one of several Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU’s) in the state of South Carolina, which means it is predominately African American. Since I started there in 2013 I’ve realized that the mentality towards going is completely different, almost non-existent; the overall student population worries more about their community service hours than they do about spreading the message of Christ. Within my group of BCM students, going is one of the last things on their minds. Better yet, going out of the country is not even on their radar.
So to answer the question of why did I go…I went for them!!!
I knew that I had the opportunity to make my students a part of this journey because it would affect them at some point. My going would cause them to have to pick up more responsibilities while I was out of the office.
- I went because I knew it wouldn’t be easy raising the money, but it was something that they could pray about with me.
- I went because I wanted to share random facts about Japan (that I knew they wouldn’t care about at first) that would potentially open the door for more conversations about missions overseas.
- I went so they could witness my mini freak-outs and frustrations to help them to see and understand, that going isn’t always easy, but possible.
- I went so I could engage my students in the conversation concerning why ‘we’ as African American’s are afraid to serve with the Gospel as our motivation whether in, or out of, the country.
So now that I am home and life is back to normal, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my stories with my students and watch them become interested in a culture outside of their own. I’ve had the opportunity to share about meeting a Japanese rapper that has never heard of Christian rap music, and seeing their minds be blown. I’ve been able to talk through the concept of relational intentionality and be an encouragement to them for what we are trying to accomplish on our campus.
I am very grateful that God privileged me to go to Japan and how He looked past all of my mess and saw me fit to be an example for others. This trip was a reminder that when I put my ‘yes’ on the table, God can, and will do a lot more with my obedience than I can even fathom.