My initial reaction to stepping onto the plane was fear. Not fear of flying, but fear of what lay ahead in Central Asia. I didn’t know exactly what I was afraid of. It seemed to be an all-encompassing fear of everything and anything that could go wrong. At the same time, I was so excited that God was allowing me to travel to a foreign country that I had never been to before and experience a new culture.
We started out our ministry by going to the local church and putting on a VBS program in the morning for three days. We had a Bible story every morning along with crafts and recreation. Each day after VBS the family we were staying with and other leaders of the church would feed all 30 of those kids (plus us adults) lunch. This is just where the hospitality began. These people welcomed us into their home without even a thought. We found out as the week went on that this family is so hospitable they have people staying at their house every single day. In the words of the father,
“I do not ask my wife if there are guests at our house, I just ask how many.”
This to me was such a beautiful thing. To open up your home is to open up your heart and these people knew how to make you want to open up your heart until it felt like it was going to burst.
The next step of our ministry was to disciple a group of teenagers in the afternoons after VBS. We did team building games with them and they loved it! We also taught them evangelism for the purpose of equipping them to go out and share their faith with their unsaved peers. This led right into our last ministry which was to take these teenagers we’d been discipling and their friends who were unbelievers to a soccer camp about an hour outside of the city.
We weren’t sure at all what to expect from this camp, but I believe we were pleasantly surprised. There was a freezing, rushing river and cows everywhere! Even though it was around 90 degrees Fahrenheit the shade was very cool and the breeze off the river was wonderful. We did a bunch of recreation games and LOTS of soccer. The guys were very surprised that a girl from America could keep up with them in the soccer game. I even scored a goal which just shattered their expectations.
At the end of each night, the teenagers we discipled led some worship and somebody gave their testimony. The way they gave their testimony was so non-aggressive. It was wonderful to hear these teenagers express their faith and tell their story in a way that was very much like,
“Hey here’s what God’s done in my life and I just want to share that with you to encourage you.”
On the last day of camp, Danny, our trip leader, gave the chemical cross talk. The symbolism of a cross turning dirty “sin” water into pure, clean water was so strong that we had approximately 12-15 professions of faith. To sit back and see these teenagers who are so oppressed already take courage and raise their hands for Jesus was an image I will never forget.
All fear was expelled because of love. The love and hospitality we witnessed calmed any fears we might have had. As the first part of 1 John 4:18 reminds us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”