CBU VOLUNTEERS RETURN FROM ISP EXPERIENCES MOTIVATED TO CONTINUE THE WORK
RIVERSIDE (May 30, 2013) —The first wave of California Baptist University volunteers participating in 2013 International Service Project (ISP) trips returned with broken hearts for work left unfinished and changed lives as they saw God move in people's lives.
"I have had many emotional moments," said an ISP Russia team member while working with children and youths in a transit center, "but I know the Lord is really breaking my heart for what breaks His."
Kristi*, one of the team leaders for a second ISP team in Russia, said the heartbreak from working in the transit center was simply more motivation to work harder.
"It burdens our hearts to labor even harder in order to share and plant seeds of the Gospel," she said. "So many of these children and teenagers come from unfathomable backgrounds."
During the trip, team members asked for prayer for their work.
"We want them to be able to see and hear what love should look like," the request said. "Please pray for boldness as we will speak against cultural norms, their own abusive relationships and how to change the way they express love to one another. We will follow with forgiveness and love that endures."
Many of the children and teens had been abused physically, verbally and sexually, ISP team members learned. They began building relationships through crafts, games, outings and other activities. Their work began slowly. The children, who mistrusted them at first, accepted them more easily than teenagers.
"When we first arrived, we were met with outright animosity and some ridicule," Kerri said. "On many occasions, our students were overwhelmed and even intimidated. Thus, they have become a team dedicated to the power of prayer. When all we could do was call out to the Lord for help, He chased away the darkness and oppression, and slowly began to melt hearts of stone."
She expressed sadness at having to leave once relationships were built.
"Saying goodbye was not an easy thing," she said. "The teens kept asking if we would be coming back, and it was heartbreaking to know the answer. We left gifts for the children and teens, and many of us compiled our personal things to leave as a memory with each of them. They taught us so much in a short amount of time. We leave Russia with our hearts broken, and our lives changed."
Students with other teams learned to share their testimony and to encourage believers who befriended them.
"God has grown me so much on this team," said Erin, who served on the ISP Spain team. "He has helped me to not be afraid to share my story with others and has used me to encourage fellow believers."
Jennifer, another ISP Spain team member, learned that her testimony could impact lives.
"For the longest time, I have felt my testimony is not worthy since I have not had a hard life or any crazy or bad life-changing events occur to me," she said. "But when I shared my testimony, people came up and shared that they had had similar experiences to mine, and it was wonderful to know that I was not alone."
The ISP Southeast Asia team went to their field of service to build relationships through basketball—and found friendships built years before.
"As we were warming up it was so much fun to meet people many of us had heard about and even seen pictures of from previous teams," Carson said. "One person who came to watch the game actually played against our first team several years ago and was able to get reconnected with our fieldworker. It's been truly incredible to witness years of seed planting and watering in progress from so many previous CBU teams and, of course, tremendous time invested by our awesome fieldworker."
Carson explained that the team learned God can still work through them, even when they lose.
"It has been a growing experience for many on our team to see how He works through us even when we are not winning," he said. "For a team with as many competitive individuals as we have, there is a lot of desire to win, but it has been awesome to see how the focus is still shifted to what is most important, the Good News."
The ISP Thailand team built relationships through mobile medical clinics, which allowed them to share the Gospel. For example, about 40 people came to receive medical care in one town the team visited, but those people also received information for their spiritual health.
"Fourteen people asked for more information, and this is incredible, given there are only three believers in the town," said one of the team members. "The town was primarily older people, which displayed the urgency of sharing the gospel since many of them have gone 70-plus years without ever hearing the Father's name before."
Team leader Erin from the ‘ISP South Asia: Global Studies' team said their experience over the three-week term of service had motivated them to continue their service when they got home.
"Mitch (one of the team members) expressed that he cannot wait to go home," she said, "but his reasons were not those of complaint, frustration, homesickness, or a tiring of our surroundings and culture. Rather, he is excited to go home and share what the Lord has taught him through all of our experiences. What is profound in this is that everyone on the team is in full agreement."
Rebecca, who led the ISP South Asia: Nursing team, expressed a similar sentiment:
"We hope to not become complacent when we return," she said, "but to continue to bring glory to His name."
*Some team members preferred not to use their names, while others preferred using only their first names to protect the ministry still ongoing in their countries.