Heather and I have been friends for about two years now. I first met her when a mutual friend of ours encouraged me to attend a women’s book study hosted at Heather’s home. (The book was God is the Gospel). It has been such a privilege to get to know her, pray for her and watch God work in her life. She recently returned from a mission trip to England.
On her decision to go:
I’ve always loved England, English people, and the culture of England. As far as missions, I’d always been willing to go, I just never felt a “call.” Two or three years ago, I became so interested in England that I started reading English papers online. The more I read, the more I began to realize how dark it was spiritually there. About the same time, I wrote down a list of goals to accomplish by 2008. One was to go on a short-term missions trip to England. I made my list, but I didn’t act on it for a while. Then in 2007, I was making plans to go to a community college because I didn’t know what else to do. I figured, “Everybody else my age is going to college,” so I figured I should just do that. The morning I was supposed to meet with a financial aid advisor, I felt miserable. I just did not want to go. Over breakfast, I announced to my parents that I wasn’t going to the community college, that instead I wanted to go on a mission trip to England. They supported me and we started making plans.
On choosing an agency:
My pastor was a big help to me. Because we were all part of the Independent Baptist denomination at the time, he gave me the names of two different agencies within our denomination. I researched their statements of faith and one of them seemed more like a better fit for me. I emailed them both to ask about any openings for a short-term missions venture in England. My choice was confirmed because I wanted to partner with an already established church and pastor. (The other missions agency had an opening for me to work with a church planting team, and my pastor, parents and I didn’t think that would be a good fit for me). I still questioned and doubted my decision because of doctrinal differences, but went ahead on the recommendation of my pastor and because the pastor in England said that they had been praying for someone to help them with their children’s ministry, which is what I wanted to do. I love teaching children.
On actually going:
I was more doubtful of my decision than sure. I went back and forth in my mind up a week before it was time to leave. The process was definitely messier and less romantic than I thought it would be.
Did you have any fears about going?
Not really. I guess since I knew I was going to be gone for three months, I was fearful that something terrible would happen to my parents or grandparents while I was gone.
What did you do while you were there?
My main responsibilities were to do whatever the missionary pastor and his wife needed me to do to minister to the children in their church. I also helped one of the mothers in the church to homeschool her children. She had just recently removed her children from the public school there — she was very disappointed that her children weren’t learning anything — but she didn’t know much about homeschooling. Since I was schooled at home and have tutored others in a homeschool setting for several years, I felt very comfortable teaching them and helping her teach. I especially enjoyed this because the children had never read the Bible or heard all the stories I grew up learning over and over. Part of our day included Bible study, and it was so much fun sharing Bible stories with children who had NEVER heard them before. They were so excited to know God and learn about Him.
What was most exciting?
Just the fulfillment of my dreams to go to England and share the gospel in a dark place.
You said that from your reading you knew England was a dark place, spiritually speaking. Did you see any evidence of that once you arrived?
Oh, yes. I mean, I met many wonderful people who are very dear to me now. I guess one of the biggest differences between the people in America and the people I met in England is that the people in England are very comfortable with being atheists. When I met and talked with a person, he or she was very open to talking about religious things and saying, “I’m an atheist.” They knew they didn’t believe in God and they weren’t embarrassed to say so. That attitude is not so prevalent in America. Here, everyone says they believe in God. It can make sharing the gospel more difficult. The second thing I noticed is that the people who went to church in England, mostly the older generations, thought they were Christians, but when we visited their churches we noticed that the gospel was not preached.
I’ve read that stepping off of an airplane as a missionary doesn’t suddenly make a person more bold in sharing the gospel. How did landing in England as a missionary affect your boldness to share the gospel?
Knowing that I was sent by my church and that people back home were praying for me for the purpose of sharing the gospel gave me boldness. There were a couple of times when I met someone and I wondered, Should I go talk to her? Then, I would remember, Yes, I should go talk to her about Jesus. That’s why I’m here! So, for me, knowing that I was sent for a specific purpose, to share the gospel, helped me be bold.
What is one thing you learned as a result of this trip?
That’s a tough question. I learned so many things — some lessons from mistakes I made. One good thing I learned is that most people are not as hostile to discussing spiritual things as you’d expect. If you approach a person with the goal of sharing the gospel, then it’s good to listen to what they believe. Don’t just jump in and start talking; ask questions, exhibit a teachable attitude, and don’t be so quick to judge them for being different. It is good to be respectful of others and their culture. Also, sharing the gospel isn’t as hard as I thought it’d be. It can be really scary, however, once I opened my mouth, the fear went away. If I can just open my mouth and start, it gets easier. Just open your mouth.
Do you think you’ll go again?
Oh, I hope so! If I’m not called to career missions, then I hope to at least go on short-term missions trips. I’m open to anything the Lord wants me to do. I do know that even if I’m not called to a career as a missionary, I want to live like a missionary wherever God places me. I will be involved in a local church, I will share the gospel and minister to the people around me.
What’s next for you, Heather?
Next? Well, on August 7th my parents are dropping me off at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ll be studying Church Ministry with a concentration in Women’s Studies. My goal is to study and learn and grow, so that I’ll be prepared for ministry. That’s all I know for sure. Like I said, I’m open to anything the Lord has for me. I want to do His will.