Word of God Resonates with Students, Christian Converts on Mission Trips
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
Before stepping into Jacob Page’s office, Sarai Piña prayed and asked God if a global mission trip was where she was called to be.
Piña, 20, was heavily involved in local outreach in the Phoenix neighborhoods near Grand Canyon University and felt God might not need her to serve on global missions. She was content with staying in Phoenix.
After an inspiring talk with Page, GCU’s global and local outreach director, Piña felt compelled to join a team of 12 GCU students and staff on a May mission trip to poverty-stricken areas of Bangkok, Thailand.
While at a strip mall in Bangkok, Piña struck up a conversation with a Chinese tourist whom she called “Lin” (her name was long and difficult to pronounce) who spoke surprisingly fluent English and knew nothing about God or the Bible.
Piña was amazed at Lin’s eagerness to learn about the Christian God — a foreign, often-criticized belief in primarily Buddhist China. Piña and other GCU missionaries offered Lin a Bible and were humbled by her response.
“Lin said that she wanted to bring her ‘new friend’ (God) back home with her and tell everyone she knew,” said Piña, a senior biology major. “That was a humbling experience. I have never seen anyone that excited to hear the Gospel before.”
The Thailand missionary group was one of four GCU mission teams that have already traveled since May to spread God’s word and encourage Christians that are often ostracized for their beliefs. Other teams traveled to Malawi, Fiji and Egypt. Each trip of one week or more included nearly 15 GCU missionaries. A mission trip to Peru, led by College of Theology Assistant Professor Chip Lamca, departs today.
Page, whose outreach programs are administered by GCU’s Office of Spiritual Life, said the goal this year was to travel to “unreached areas.” For example, less than 1 percent of Thailand’s population is Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Page said he told his students to pray and listen to God so that they could evangelize in the way God intended. Though the trips were initially created to bring Christ to non-believers, it is often the student missionaries that learn the most and carry their strengthened relationship with God back home.
“The hope is that the students’ world views and faith are being expanded and that they can grow and come back and bring that new-found faith to campus and the community,” Page said.
Anthony Mann, GCU student engagement director, went to India as a student missionary last summer and led the Fiji team as a staff leader this year. He said students often get lost in the exotic nature of another country and lose sight of God’s work. But that quickly changes when they interact with people in desolate areas that have faith and close to nothing else.
Mann echoed Page’s belief that the greatest benefit to students going on mission trips is returning home with a new outlook on faith and a determination to train a new team of global and local missionaries.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways for students is being in another culture and being pushed out of their comfort zone,” Mann said. “I hope that when students go on these trips, something spikes in their hearts to become mobilizers in faith and that God uses them to reach people when they return home.”
Thailand had that impact on Piña, who said she returned to Phoenix with a new-found perspective on leading others to Christ. She plans to use her international experience to continue her outreach locally.
“The most important thing I learned was serving God and going wherever He wants to take me,” Piña said. “I don’t think it matters how far you go. If there is a need, God will use you.”
Contact Cooper Nelson at 639.7511 or [email protected].