by Courtney Habegger, Faith OPC, Long Beach, CA (August 2017)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:10 (ESV)
Typically in the OPC, we spend a lot of time at church and at church functions. Praise God for the opportunities we have to worship Him and serve Him within a local congregation! But my encouragement to those taking the time to read this would be to not sell yourself short. God prepared good works beforehand that we, His people, should walk in them. I hope that as you read the tale of my unexpected position as leader of Team Utah, and the fruit it has yielded, you would be encouraged to seek out more ways to live for Christ.
Short-Term Missions Website:
Team Utah began in 2015 after I saw a post on the OPC Short Term Missions website for work needed at a church in Magna, Utah. Back then I had a surplus of time, a shortage of money, and the will to serve God in whatever way I could. Having recently been working construction with interior kitchen and bath remodels, the ad caught my eye as it specifically mentioned the need for drywall finishing, something I was becoming more and more experienced in.
I talked to a few of my elders about the opportunity, and they contacted the OPC Short-Term Missions Coordinator, David Nakhla. Soon I received an email back from one of the elders with the direct contact information for Pastor Jason Wallace at Christ OPC in Magna, Utah, and encouragement to coordinate with others who might want to go. If I needed any help or had any questions, the elders were behind me all the way.
So I began talking to others in my congregation who might be willing to go. I contacted Pastor Wallace. Soon I had an email full of pictures of the work needing to be done, and a group of four interested volunteers, including myself. We held a fundraiser, and the deacons, by the grace of God, agreed to help fund any remaining costs.
A Warm Welcome:
Soon the 2015 Team Utah arrived to a warm welcome from the Wallace family and we got to work in Utah. Nothing could have quite prepared us for the experience. I have been blessed to come from a large church by OPC standards. It was soon evident that the Wallace family and the small congregation of Christ OPC were as grateful for the encouragement and company of other like-minded believers as they were for the much needed help to finish the renovations.
The Shock of Temple Square:
The other shock really hit us as we toured the Mormon Temple Square area in downtown Salt Lake City. To study a cult on paper is one thing, but to see the man-made shrine, the glossed-over theology, the wickedly twisted out of context Bible quotations, and all the people trusting the fake God and gospel of Mormonism to their grave is quite another. We suddenly understood why Pastor Wallace sacrificed so much and willingly went to live in the valley of dry bones as he often refers to the Salt Lake Valley. Before we were halfway through our week of construction work, I knew I’d be back.
Now, after completing the 3rd Team Utah trip, I can easily see some of the fruit of our trips. First and most obviously, is that the church building is in much better shape. The office is fully functioning, there is one classroom completely ready to use, two more rooms just need trim, the kitchen closet is finished, the entryway is finished, the pass-through to the sanctuary has been finished, vast areas have been freshly painted, and a myriad of other small projects accomplished.
Encouragement to a Small Congregation:
While finishing the construction has been nice, Team Utah also seems to have been an encouragement to a small congregation that is otherwise surrounded by the wards (churches) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) which quite literally blanket the surrounding area. I know this from the many trips on various routes to and from the nearest Home Depot.
The Cult of Mormonism:
Much in the way that I was awakened by a Temple Square tour, the tour seems to be a highlight for many others who have gone on Team Utah. The tour has the dual effect of suddenly crushing a soul with the weight of understanding that the cult of Mormonism we all studied at some point is teaching millions of people a false gospel, while dually invigorating one to dive headlong into a study of LDS theology, and the refutation of that theology by the truth of God’s word. For example, their doctrine of celestial exaltation teaches that you can become a god one day, and that god himself was once a man who became exalted to godhood. There is no salvation in, nor do I see any comfort in, their false god, especially compared to the God of the Bible who does all things for His name’s sake and for the praise of His glorious grace, with a salvation secured by the precious blood of Christ. If knowing Christ better is not fruit, then I do not know what is.
Growing in Christ:
God has been gracious to Team Utah in the areas of personal growth and friendships. It is a pleasure to watch God work in others who have gone on this trip as He uses the experience to change and mold them according to His will. What a blessing and encouragement to see brothers and sisters in Christ grow in Him!
Focus on Evangelism:
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, there has been a growing focus on evangelism in the minds and hearts of many Team Utah members. Praise God for this fruit in our hearts, and may he continue to foster its growth!
All Things are Possible:
Since the first Team Utah in 2015, there have been 27 people, from 8 different churches and 5 states that have all met in Magna to work on the church building or go door to door evangelizing. My 24 year old self would have never seen this coming. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength. I know for a fact it wasn’t my strength.
Seeds Planted in Salt Lake City:
I ask for your prayers for more fruit; that is, the fruit of the harvest. Not just fruit as a result of the evangelism team that roasted in the sun every afternoon last week in Utah, but for the fruit of the harvest of years of planted seeds in the Salt Lake area by Pastor Wallace and the congregation at Christ OPC who have faithfully proclaimed the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
By His Grace God Has Used Me:
Lastly, I would encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to prayerfully consider what it is they might do to better and more fully serve our Lord Jesus Christ. All those who are in Christ also have good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. I would never have seen myself leading short-term mission trips, and yet by His grace God has used me. Apart from him I can do nothing. Seek out what it is you can do for our Lord, and do not be so distracted by this world and the things that will perish and fade, as I am so often drawn to and distracted by. May we better live out the words of Paul, that to live is Christ, to die is gain.
Team Photos: 2015, 2016, and 2017: