I took my first international mission trip to Central Asia last year. In this trip I served primarily as prayer support and an evangelistic partner with believers seeking to reach others during New Year celebrations. Since our roles on the trip were limited in comparison to the amount of talking we typically would have done in an English-speaking context – it was extremely eye opening to be in the background of the work being done and yet playing a vital role. This experience was a sobering reminder that we are always mere supporting actors to the grand narrative of God’s redemptive work in the world, so we should never see ourselves as indispensable to the Great Commission. God is always on mission and as his people we must join Him as heralds of the gospel message to the nations
One the major takeaways from the trip came from one of the expat missionaries – encouraging us to, “Go in as a learner.” It is easy to approach mission trips with an emphasis on how much we can accomplish but it is harder to recognize how God really must be at work in the minds and hearts of people to accomplish anything worthwhile. God did incredible things during our time from answered prayers, great gospel conversations, and salvations stories – but all this was done through going into this trip wanting to learn and yield to God’s leading. This trip encouraged me not to fear cultural difference but fully embrace the discomfort of foreign languages and customs. It wouldn’t have benefited the work we were given nor my own edification to be hesitant to try to speak their language or try different foods. In fact, I believe the reason this trip was such a blessing to me and many others was due to being willing to embrace all that Central Asia culture had to offer, while trusting the Lord with the results.
Overall, I felt so privileged to be a part of this work because it really felt like God was on the move and we got chance to tag along to see what He is up to among believers. I will never forget the stories of persecution and perseverance of my Christian brothers and sisters and how their faith strengthened my own. Christians with freedoms like we have in the West must support the global church and look to our persecuted brothers and sisters for courage and inspiration to embrace our own mission field and the challenges that face us. My participation in this trip provided Christians in Central Asia assistance and prayer as they reached out to their kinsmen of the flesh with the gospel message. I believe God’s kingdom was advanced through our “Happy New Year” greetings, prayers, love, and support for these brothers and sisters.
Lastly, I do believe my presence on the trip as an African American was unique and a powerful testimony to the diverse church Christ has purchased with his blood. The human heart naturally doesn’t want to receive Christ due to depravity, but I think my ethnic difference was an asset to the mission – showing that Christianity was not a White American religion. Non – Christians were able to physically see that Jesus changes the lives all types of people – who didn’t look like them. The inclusion of African Americans and other minority groups in international mission efforts could inspire a generation of minority American missionaries to receive Christ and take His message to places others may never go. The inclusion of the whole multi-ethnic Church in God’s plan of redemption – including spreading the good news to the ends of the earth – deconstructs notions of white superiority, points to the reality that White Christians do not have the copyright for international missions, and affirms that Christ is the Redeemer of all people, of all ethnicities.