Missions give students, staff God’s view of world
Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the August 2017 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Jeannette Cruz
“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” – Psalm 96:3
There is something undeniably impactful when a group of people — particularly young people — gather in the name of Jesus. This spring and summer, 253 students and 25 staff leaders from Grand Canyon University visited 20 countries to embrace God’s love, share the Gospel, experience other cultures and discover their spiritual purpose.
Lisa Bernier, an instructor in the College of Education, has served on 10 mission trips and led three, including atrip to Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, this summer. After all those experiences, she believes that although each personal experience is unique, mission trips put everything into perspective if students are willing to listen and step outside of their own reality.
“Even if they never go overseas again, at least they get God’s view of the world,” she said. “Everything that you see now is through the glasses that you are used to.”
Sophomore Amberlyn Amey’s perspective about faith was changed inside of a special needs classroom in the Dominican Republic. Sophomore Thomas Lamca continued a generation of missionaries in his native land of Peru. Senior Caleb Spencer returned to China to lead a new group of volunteers in a relational mission.
When God says go, you go
Amey, a nursing major, had doubts about her decision to travel across the world to spend two weeks serving at Genesis School for Special Education in Jarabacoa.
She had no idea how her background would pay off in the classroom, and she was afraid she had made the wrong commitment. But by the time she arrived in Jarabacoa, it was too late to turn back. It was also for the better.
On her first day at the special needs school, a sweet, young boy named Danny changed everything with a kiss.
“It was the funniest thing — he just loved to give people kisses,” she said. “After that, I knew that I was in.”
Love, Amey realized, was a command that is clear to Christians and yet is the most difficult form of service. As she looked out at a lively bunch of children and teens, she saw how God uses people and experiences in ways that no one can ever plan.
From a young boy named Alfri, who couldn’t speak but liked giving fist bumps, to Fabiola, who fancied playing with Amey’s hair, to Giselle, who called her “prima”
(cousin) and knelt down to kiss her hand, Amey couldn’t have felt more indebted.
“When God says something, you better do it even if you don’t understand it,” Amey said.
That also meant giving up her cellphone and using her time to engage in conversations, pray and seek the will of God in each moment.
In the midst of her “spiritual high,” Amey realized that when God became the center of her life, His blessings became fully visible, her troubles minute.
“Being there, I knew I wanted to feel this same love at home, and I couldn’t wait to change the way I loved others,” Amey said. “God showed me patience and really
softened my heart.”
A heartfelt reminder
For the past six years, Lamca has been going to Peru and to the north coast city of Trujillo.
Each year that he has attended, he has joined his father, College of Theology instructor Chip Lamca, and a dozen other GCU volunteers to bring medical care to people in Trujillo and Cartavio.
The younger Lamca got to learn about the needs of Peruvians when he was 4. His parents moved to the South American country and sold everything they owned to
This summer, volunteers worked alongside native professionals in hospitals and clinics to care for and educate children and families in Trujillo and to promote
“(Handwashing) is pretty basic to the average American, but in the Third World, people don’t really know proper hygiene,” said Lamca. “Every year, I have a bit of a culture shock. We have a lot of First World problems, and going overseas sets my heart right.”
Creating Christ-centered relationships
While serving in China last year, Spencer recognized God’s call. This summer, Spencer was happy to return for six weeks to spend his time developing genuine relationships with students at a university campus.
“The first time I went to China, the culture was all new to me so I wasn’t sure about sharing the Gospel,” he said. “But God humbled me when He said, ‘Caleb, these are my people in China, and they need to know Me.’”
Spencer led a team of 11 students to put them face to face with other people in the belief that in the context of relationships, the power of the Holy Spirit can
Each day, students received cultural class training and then branched out around campus, the library or at local coffee shops. After two weeks, they would commit to a relationship and share the Gospel.
“You just don’t know how your intentional encounters with people can affect them,” Spencer said. “So many of them don’t know Jesus or have never heard of salvation. For me, that’s opportunity.”
One thing Spencer has learned during his two years of leading the trip is that entrance to higher education in China is based on an exam system and college majors are based on test scores rather than interests. Because of this, he said, most students they encountered were unhappy. He also said he realized relationships were only on the surface level.
“They’re not used to people who want to help them through their struggles and know who they are,” he said. “Through our love, we got to know their struggles, hopes and dreams, and we hoped we could reflect Christ’s love.”
2017 GCU mission trips
Dominican Republic 10
Puerto Rico 11
South Africa 18Spring total 73
East Asia 11
Middle East 1 9
Middle East 2 7
South Africa 16
Costa Rica 17
Dominican Republic 17Summer total 205Overall total 278
Totals include GCU students and staff.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]