by Rachel Gaffin, Grace OPC, Vienna, VA (August 2015)
This past July, I had the privilege of seeing and joining in the work of the Lord through the OP team located in the northeastern part of a country in Asia. For 5 weeks spanning late June to the earliest days of August, the university where the mission does most of its work hosted a group of volunteers (including myself) from across the globe and denominational lines, from countries as diverse as the United States, Wales, and the Netherlands. We came to the university to serve in the English Conversation Office (ECO), where we each taught one or two classes. While teaching was our task, we were also dedicated to shining the light of the Gospel into the darkness our students lived in, through relationship-building, prayer, and welcoming students into our lives.
In addition to responsibilities to ECO, ten of the volunteers participated in the university’s English House program, an immersion experience for many of the university’s English majors. With my mornings consisting of lesson planning, staff meetings, grading, and teaching, and my afternoons being filled with activities for English House, much of my time as a short-term missionary associate (MA) with the OP mission was spent serving at the university itself.
On Thursday nights, the OP team would gather for a mid-week Bible study, to share prayer requests, encourage one another in the work at hand, and, through careful consideration of the book of Proverbs, to have our vision refocused: that our time in this particular country, on this earth, with each other, and with the non-believers around us, was to grow in our love, knowledge, and rightful worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The study gave refreshment and rest in the midst of the demands of laboring for the kingdom of heaven.
While serving in Asia, I found it nearly irresistible to slip into the sin of Martha: too busy setting a table for the Lord to remember to sit at the Lord’s feet, to remember who he is and what he requires of us. Thanks to the presence of the team, of the missionaries there, I was reminded not to become “distracted with much serving” as Martha was (Luke 10:40), but to rest in the faithfulness of the Lord.
Because I served at the university as a member of the OP team, I was able to remember that it was not my efforts in the classroom or the dorm room that any of the students I met would step out of darkness and into the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. I could take comfort in the fact that what the Lord called me to was not to convince my student roommates of their need for him with my eloquence or winning personality – my call was to live in obedience and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to pray that as a result, this would lead many to question me in search of an answer for the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15). My call was to take courage knowing that he is a good father who will not let any of his lost sheep stay lost in the darkness of their own dead hearts.
And so when confronted with the loneliness, despair, and general purposelessness that my roommates struggled with and that I saw in some of my students, when faced with their sin and blindness to the truth, I could take heart that Jesus has already overcome the world. When asked the reason for my happiness, I pointed my roommates to Christ. When asked the purpose for my journey to that country, I spoke of God’s love for students. When asked what kind of job I wanted, I emphasized my desire to serve others over my interest in high pay (not to say those are necessarily exclusive). When confronted with the broken friendships two of my roommates struggled with during July, I encouraged them in their value and sought to point to an identity beyond the perceptions and acceptance of others. While sin threatened at every turn, by God’s grace, I had a chance to witness to the faithfulness and care of the Lord Jesus.
While in Asia, the OP team especially encouraged me to use my gifts for the glory of God. I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, currently pursuing a poetry writing major, and accordingly, one of the missionaries who shares my interest in poetry hosted a poetry reading at her house for my roommates. One of my poems, entitled “Second Adam,” concerns the doctrine of the incarnation. By reading this poem, I had the chance to explain to my roommates in detail the story of the Gospel. By God’s grace these seeds will one day bear fruit for his marvelous kingdom.
After my month in Asia with the OP team, I can safely say that I would love to go back, if the Lord wills it. For those seeking an opportunity to serve there now, please consider these things: the OP team does welcome summer volunteers, but is most deeply interested and encouraged by those who come for 1 ½ years. This allows for greater opportunity to build relationships for the glory of the kingdom. If you are a man called to the mission field and are familiar with or interested in Korean culture, the mission would be greatly encouraged by your service. Although located in another part of Asia, Koreans make up a large portion of the people the team serves, and so there is a need and opportunity here.
Please pray for the students touched by the volunteers this summer, including my five roommates and 12 students, and for the teachers and workers who are in that nation year-round for the sake of the Gospel, that they might walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. May the light of our Lord Jesus shine into the darkness and bring many to him, and to him be the glory!