Spring trips localize missions
The leaders of this semester’s local trips continue their intention of following Acts 1:8. | Courtesy of Stephen Frederick
Junior biochemistry major Hannah Panlilio closed her eyes to pray for the lady next to her on the trolley. When she opened her eyes, the lady, unbathed, clothed in pajamas and holding multiple plastic bags, was staring directly at her. She asked if Panlilio and her team had come to San Diego specifically for the purpose of helping people. Upon hearing Panlilio’s affirmative response, the lady joyfully grabbed her wallet and pulled out the only two dollars inside, offering them to Panlilio because she wanted to participate in their effort of helping others.
“We always call ourselves the broke college students, but that lady was broke — like, literally broke — like, homeless and had two dollars, and she was willing to give it away,” Panlilio said.
Panlilio was amazed by the similarity between this lady and the poor widow in Mark 12:42, who gave up her only two cents as an offering. The experience with the lady on the trolley remains one of Panlilio’s most impactful memories on the mission trip to San Diego she led this Easter.
Over spring break, the local missions section of the Student Missionary Union sent two different groups on mission trips, one to San Diego and one to San Francisco, to work with the homeless and marginalized in order to encourage long-term missionaries.
The San Diego crew worked with the homeless community in the city. They began by viewing the city as a whole, first sightseeing its lovely parts, then focusing on the pain amidst the beauty and working to help heal it. The San Francisco crew worked with the homeless and immigrant communities through an organization called Interchange. They worked at two different locations in the bay area helping different people groups at each location. In the city of San Francisco, they worked with homeless people, and in Oakland, where they worked with Latino immigrants.
A brief time
Since the mission trips took place over spring break, the groups only stayed for one week and had to prepare to do the most they could in that short period of time. The San Diego crew used that time to work with a local church to pass out care packages to the homeless and to pray with them. They also visited San Diego State University to try to share the gospel and pray with the students there.
“It’s always hard to see fruit [on a short-term mission], but we know that one conversation can really plant seeds,” said Rachael Kam, sophomore communication sciences and disorders major and a leader of the San Francisco trip. “We know that God can still move even if we cannot see it.”
The San Diego team visited SDSU on April 20, and the whole campus seemed active in celebrating the drug-related holiday. After going up to a few students but not getting any fruitful conversations, they felt discouraged, until two people on the team ran across a professor walking with his little girl. When they prayed for him, he told them he, too, was a Christian and he taught engineering there. Then, he prayed for them and thanked them for praying for the students.
“Sometimes, as Christians, especially in a dark place, we get discouraged,” Panlilio said. “The Lord is so faithful in putting his people — his light — in those places.”
The San Francisco crew, while they did work with those in need, mainly focused on encouraging the long-term missionaries in the area. The leaders of the trip made this their goal. When two of the leaders, a pregnant woman and her husband, coaxed the group into staying at their house for fellowship late into the night because they simply enjoyed their presence, the crew felt they had done what they came to do.
“I think that’s the most meaningful thing you can do on short-term is encourage the long-term people because they’re the ones who are going to continue the relationships and they’re the ones who are going to stay there and have been working for years,” said Josh Shirey, senior biblical studies major. “So I was super proud of our team — they were just willing to do whatever to encourage the people we were with.”
A mission-minded life
The importance of living a mission-minded life wherever one lives proved another themed the leaders of these mission trips wanted to stress. Even though the crew did not leave the country to minister, they still served in a much-needed way in nearby communities, which remains just as important as long-distance mission trips.
“We’ve been sending out a lot of people globally, but in our own backyard, even places like San Diego, we don’t send people,” Panlilio said. “Not everyone is called to be an overseas missionary, but all of us are called to be missionaries wherever we are.”
This follows the local missions section of SMU’s mission statement taken from Acts 1:8, which says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” The local missions section, a recent addition to SMU, wants to capitalize on the importance of living a mission life in any situation. The leaders have named mission trips that come out of it after the places in the Acts 1:8 verse. They named fall local missions trips the Jerusalem Project and the spring local missions trips the Judea Project. Last year, they named the spring local missions trip the Samaria Project.
“Over the course of my time at Biola, God has really convicted me to incorporate mission living as part of my daily life,” Kam said. “Loving people and loving God doesn't just happen overseas. It can happen here and now.”
The people involved in the local missions trips hope that Biola students will commit to sharing the gospel and Christ’s love wherever they live. They want to encourage them to have deep foundations so that they can proclaim Christ both while at Biola and afterwards into the secular world.
“A good analogy I’ve heard is if you truly love someone, their name is just going to come out in conversation naturally,” Panlilio said. “Again, if you love Christ, his name should come out in conversations naturally.”