Building long-term trust highlights Missions Conference

Mission ONE president Olivia Mulerwa, with husband Josh, was the lead conference speaker on Friday at the Missions Conference, presented by Grand Canyon University's Department of Spiritual Life.

“Welcome Home” was the theme of the Missions Conference, and lead conference speaker Olivia Mulerwa emphasized that interested students can make a profound impact by serving a long-term mission and building trust.

“Short-term missions aren’t a bad thing,” Mulerwa, president of Mission ONE, said Friday night at Grand Canyon University's Sunset Auditorium. “But a call to missions is so much more than that. I am suggesting that the command that God is giving us to make disciples is bigger and a lot more demanding for more of us than going on a short-time mission on that nice break between one semester and the next when you can squeeze it in, when it’s just the right time to do it because you don’t have to do an internship that next semester.

“It's so much more than that.”

The conference, hosted by the University's Department of Spiritual Life, was designed to prepare interested students in numerous ways, said Olivia Russ, head leader of GCU’s Global Outreach Missions team.

Olivia Russ, head leader of GCU's Global Outreach Missions teams, leads a prayer at the start of the Missions Conference.

The main goal, Russ said, “is to remind us that we do missions for the purpose of seeing the name of God proclaimed throughout all nations which means going to those that are completely unreached, as well as proclaiming His glory right here in the United States.”

Mulerwa’s 35-minute talk was sandwiched by performances by Worship Team members and alumni who sang in English and Spanish.

Saturday’s events included breakout sessions that elaborated on dealing with theological differences in the missions field, living a life of worship in daily living and within the missions field, and storytelling.

“I think it has a great impact in the student’s faith and even those who are thinking, man, missions are like what God wants me to do,’ and this is a good place to get the answers for that,” Global Outreach Manager Njenga Maina said.

“Why does God want us to be involved in this?”

Maina, who speaks three languages, thought it was important for the Worship Team to set a universal tone, as several members of the audience sang in Spanish, following the lyrics shown on a large screen.

Students were encouraged to leave notes on a board at the Missions Conference.

“I grew up singing different worship songs,” Maina said. “At Grand Canyon, we’re surrounded by so many people who speak so many languages, so this is a great opportunity for them to learn and experience what heaven will be like.

“Some churches sing in different languages, and we get to join them and celebrate Jesus.”

The event wasn’t limited to theology majors. Sarah Reinhart, a junior nursing major, said she attended to worship the Lord with other people and “hopefully learn more about missions.”

Reinhart said she has thought about serving a medical mission in the future.

Mulerwa, who grew up in Uganda before moving to Phoenix, shared a cautionary tale for those wishing to serve a mission in a foreign country.

Global Outreach Manager Njenga Maina (left) greets students in the foyer of Sunset Auditorium.

She recalled her college days, when “I noticed a large group of white people descending on my campus.”

Curiosity arose, and Mulerwa introduced herself to a young lady and ask her where she was from and her purpose for visiting the campus.

“We’re here to save you,” Mulerwa was told, forgetting that the young woman was part of a missions trip.

"Please don’t do that," Mulerwa said.

Mulerwa also stressed students not to get swayed by churches with orchestras and smoke machines.

“You will never find a purer form of worship than the worship of people who have nothing but Jesus,” Mulerwa said.

She is also grateful to work for Mission ONE after working in the corporate world, where she could not talk openly about her faith and once wondered what the non-Christian community would say about her.

Now, “I have to talk about my faith,” Mulerwa said. “I have to talk about Jesus. I have to own it every day.

And that has led me to a sweet, sweet place in my mission with Jesus.”

A sign depicts the theme of the Missions Conference.

Mulerwa shared the story of how Mission ONE teamed with the Pokot Outreach Ministries in a remote town in Kenya, where education was once frowned up, especially for girls.

Once a relationship was established, the community donated 44 acres of land to be earmarked for a school that started with 18 girls and swelled to 124, Mulerwa said.

“It’s a demonstration of what Jesus is calling us to do go and make disciples,” Mulerwa said.

Those students seeking funding for a mission have an opportunity to do so by participating in the Missions Market from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday on Prescott Field.

“For those students who want to go (on a mission), for those who attended (the conference) and for those who want to do something for those who want to go, the Market is a place to support somebody who is trying,” Maina said.

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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Related content:

GCU News: Students encouraged to become integrous leaders and 'integrity tigers'

GCU News: Missions Fair provides students with unique ways to serve around the world

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