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Missions Teams: Being the Hands and Feet of Jesus

by Michaela Pereira '12

On Saturday, April 9, Azusa Pacific University’s Office of World Missions (OWM) held their annual Commissioning Service for the 32 Focus International missions teams traveling this spring and summer. Approximately 220 participants will go to 20 different countries to spread God’s Word. The evening included worship, celebration, communion, and prayer for the teams, their family, and friends.

Chiraphone Khamphouvong, director of the Office of World Missions shared, “It is an honor to serve God alongside the local and global church, nationally and abroad. Our hope is that these short term experiences will encourage our participants to live an incarnate mission life.”

Sociology major Lauren Ellings ’12, who went to Uganda last summer and returns this summer as a team leader, shared how traveling to a foreign country with a team is a big part of the mission trip experience: “My team was the thing that helped me grow in God the most. Learning and going through that experience together really bonded us. I grew so much as a person in finding more out about who I am and embracing that.”

Nursing major Emily Lavelle ’14, who will go to Haiti this summer, shared how being deaf on a missions team will not slow her down in her service: “I know I will be way out of my comfort zone while there, and will be challenged because of my deafness, but I know I will learn how to be weak so that He can work through me to reach out to others. I believe that He will use me as according to His glorious plan while there.”

Some of OWM’s missions teams serve internationally, but others travel domestically to locations such as to Camden, New Jersey, where students work with UrbanPromise, a Christian organization which focuses on building a city of promise, one child at a time.

Senior communications major and OWM student coordinator Rachael Fields ’11 has been to Camden two years in a row. She went in 2009 as a team member and in 2010 as a leader. “My trips to Camden, New Jersey taught me the true value of relationships. If it weren't for these kids, I would not know what it is to truly have faith in God. They trust God with their lives because they have no other choice. They taught me how to rely fully on God for every single thing that I need,” said Fields.

Economics major Sarah White ’11, a past team member who traveled to New Orleans in 2009 to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, shared what she learned during her experience: “I learned that furthering God’s kingdom really doesn’t have to take place in a different part of the world or from a different socioeconomic status, but that just stepping in when people like me need help is God honoring.”

“Mission trips are great because it’s simply you, your team, the people you are ministering to, and God. There’s no escape," said applied heath major Michael McNab ’12, who served in Peru for the last two years.

Prepping for a missions trip has several requirements, such as attending weekly team meetings, including once a month OWM meetings, and fundraising efforts. Some may not feel equipped to go, but Fields shared some wisdom for the teams preparing to serve this year, “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called. I firmly believe that God uses the stories He has given us for His glory, but we have to give Him the opportunity to do so. Step out in faith. Take that risk. It is so worth it.”