Acts Projects through the eyes of students
8 months ago Triangle 0
Written by: Samantha Burgess, assistant editor
“We should stop using the word ‘missions.’ It gives people an automatic perception that missions is this separate thing from ministry, but it’s not. They go hand in hand,” said Michaela Thomas, a current graduate assistant who graduated last May with a degree in Christian ministry and leadership.
Thomas dreamt of mission work from a young age. She went on to do two Acts Projects during her undergraduate, and now she wants to work as a liaison between the church here and missionaries in other countries.
Thomas’ first trip in her sophomore year was a 10 week trip to Malaga, Spain. There she worked with a media group developing radio and television programs to reach Muslims in North Africa. As someone who is hands on, the technical side of missions was a challenge for Thomas.
“Spain really broadened my vision of what missions is,” said Thomas. “It’s not always some huge adventure. Sometimes it’s just serving others even when you can’t see them face to face.
Thomas’ second trip over this past summer, involved working with a ministry called Word for the World in India. The ministry’s goal is to focus on the outcast society of India and share the Gospel with them. During her 7 weeks there, Thomas travelled to several parts of India ministering to others.
They spent a few days ministering to lepers in a nearby village, two weeks in Mumbai working in a school and two weeks in Madurai where they visited both a school and a retirement home where they shared their testimonies and sang. The final days of Thomas’ trip were spent in Chennai where they had multiple conferences. They worked with the youth, getting to know them and minister to them.
This trip was the more challenging of the two as they were constantly on the move. “India demanded a lot of me mentally, physically and emotionally without affording me the time to really process what I was experiencing,” said Thomas. “My experience in India grew me a lot as a leader. Even through the exhaustion, I learned to be joyful in leading others on a daily basis.”
Thomas learned from both of her trips that missionaries have a lonely plight, as they are disconnected from their hometown and on the margins of the place they’re working out of. “It’s important to constantly offer them help and encouragement,” said Thomas.
Thomas also offers encouragement to students considering going on an Acts Project trip this year. She said, “As simple as it sounds, don’t panic.” Whatever obstacles you may face, whether it’s money or being able to step out of your comfort zone, Thomas says the benefits of going on a trip far outweigh the cons.
For Rebecca McConkey, a senior Christian ministry and leadership major, going on an Acts Project trip to Barcelona, Spain allowed her to find her true calling.
McConkey spent two months working through Operation Mobilization whose primary focus is evangelizing. McConkey started by helping a ministry called Youth for Christ with office work, but then she spent two weeks at one of their camps working as a counselor where she helped with English lessons. She also led a worship team and two disciple groups at the Vineyard church in Barcelona. Luz y Vida is another group McConkey got involved with, going into the streets with them to minister to victims of sex trafficking and prostitution. Luz y Vida’s goal is to share the Gospel with these victims and offer them a way out of trafficking by sending them to nearby safe houses.
“I was really trying to immerse myself in the Spanish culture while I was there,” said McConkey. She lived with a family who only spoke Spanish and Romanian and struggled to communicate with them. “I’d come home from a full day of listening to sermons and trying to learn the language and all I’d want to do is relax. The family really worked with me and we’d laugh together anytime I messed up trying to communicate with them.”
McConkey felt the most rewarding experience was being able to work with sex trafficking victims though Luz E Vida. She recalls her first time on the streets talking to a young girl from Nigeria named Blessing who actually spoke English. The girl asked her to pray for her to have her paperwork go through so she could work a legal job.
“I could see in her eyes that even though she was trapped mentally and physically, she wanted a way out. She knew she was capable of living a better life,” said McConkey.
Going into the trip McConkey was hesitant to go to Spain and wasn’t sure what God wanted from her. That moment felt like a sign from God to McConkey that this was the type of work she’d been waiting for, and now she was ready and able to do it. Throughout her trip, John 10:10, which is about abundant life in Christ, kept coming back to McConkey, and so she was reminded of what it means to completely surrender your life to God. She has plans to move to Spain in March for a year long internship and hopes to be there long term working with Luz E Vida.
“My advice to other students to just go for it,” said McConkey. “You have to make the first move, don’t just wait for something to happen. Take risks for God and he will bless you abundantly.”
McConkey warned to not expect every culture to be as friendly as we are in the South. Some of the people in Spain were cold to McConkey but she learned to understand more of how the culture works. As long as you go into the trip knowing you have to adapt, McConkey says things will end well.