It has been almost a year since I stepped foot on the continent of Asia for the first time. As I reflect on it now, I am drawn to tears with fond memories that will continue to impact me for the rest of my life. Honestly, it is incredibly difficult for me to decide what to write about, simply because there are so many things that I wish I could communicate to you about this experience. However, I will attempt to narrow it down to two broad takeaways. But first, for those of you who are considering going on this CGCS trip to Central Asia, I will summarize my insights for you in the words of the great theologian, Shia LeBeouf: “Just do it!”
The Word Comes Alive
This trip is labeled as a “Cultural Study Tour,” and rightly so. During the week that you are on the ground, you will travel constantly across a Central Asian country that is rich in biblical history. On the day we boarded a bus with nine of us seminary students, our professor, three missionaries, and about a dozen refugees, I had no idea how much the next week would impact the way I read Scripture. Each day we traveled to a different location, sometimes two. Each location was one either addressed in the beginning chapters of the book of Revelation or a neighboring location that provided significant insight into the cultural landscape of the text.
We toured ancient city after ancient city, reading the words of Scripture amidst the ruins of the corresponding locations. I will never forget sitting at the top of the ruins of a giant theatre in what used to be one of the most affluent cities in the ancient world, reading the rebukes of Scripture to that city, tears welling up in my eyes, chills running down my back as the words of the text seemed to literally jump off the page. This experience helped me to piece together the historical and cultural landscape of the New Testament in a way that no seminary class or textbook ever could. This trip will change the way that you read and teach Scripture for the rest of your life. Next to Israel, this Central Asian country should be on every believer’s bucket list.
But What About the Lost?
After reading my comments above, you may be thinking, “Okay, it’s great that it would benefit me and improve my knowledge and understanding of Scripture. But what about the Great Commission? What about the lost?” I am glad you asked! This trip engages lostness in three primary ways. First, this trip will impact your personal walk with Jesus, spur you on and better equip you to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission wherever the Lord takes you.
Secondly, from the moment you step foot off of the airplane, you will be surrounded by vast lostness that rivals the darkness of Southeast Asia. There is a mosque on every corner. Five times a day you cannot escape the gut-wrenching sound of the Muslim call to prayer echoing off of every building and hillside. As you spend time in the country and engage the people, you never know what opportunities you might have to share the gospel.
Thirdly, you will partner with a group of individuals from one of the most hostile countries to the Gospel. These individuals have chosen to follow Jesus, and for many, `it has cost them their homes, their families, their livelihood, and some, the lives of those they love. These new believers need encouragement and training, and this is one of your main purposes. You will meet individuals who have given up everything to follow Jesus and you will find mutual encouragement in the relationship that is developed. These individuals are much better equipped culturally and linguistically to reach the vast lostness in Central Asia than you or I could ever hope to be. What if the Lord desires to use you to provide the encouragement one of these individuals needs? The encouragement that might bring them to the point of leveraging their lives to take the Gospel back into their home country to reach those whom you could never have access to?
Interested in going on the Central Asia Study Tour? Click here to learn more and sign up.