Monthly Archives: June 2015

Cause the whole world needs the Gospel…

In a previous post, I shared some of my story, and I explained more of the details as to why I want to go work as a missionary overseas. One part that I mentioned was the fact that I realized that the need for people to hear the savings news of the Gospel is so great, not just in my own community, but all over the world. My realization of this particular fact has emerged from far more than just one mission trip to Peru.

Last year I was on a mission trip to the very impoverished country of Guatemala. I was going with a group from my university, and we were helping to host a medical clinic and to lead a VBS. We traveled to different villages throughout Guatemala, helping to spread the Gospel, while also having a very eye-opening experience of how poor (in material things) this country is.

One of the last days of the trip, we were working in Xaya (pronounced something like SHAY-YA)–a remote village at least 3 hours from where we were staying (Guatemala City). While waiting for the VBS to get started, we realized that we had a couple of hours before any kids would show up, so we decided to do some home visits (i.e. knock on people’s doors and offer to pray with them–very powerful experience) and also explore the area. After some very successful visits to different people in the village, we ventured across a small river to explore some of the farm land.

Just as I stepped off the bridge that was precariously dangling over the small river, a small insect (which I didn’t see) decided that I looked either A: tasty, B: hostile, or C: both, and stung me. Now you’re probably thinking: “OUCH! ” You’re also probably thinking: “OK, Levi, you’re in a foreign country with foreign bugs and who knows what else. Maybe it’s time to head back to the medical clinic.

Yes, I’m pointing at the bug bite. Yes, I’m a dork.

First, of all, pain is a very small price to pay for experience. I now have the right to brag that I was stung by a Guatemalan insect. How cool!

Second, I was definitely considering walking back the 1/2 mile to where the medical clinic was and get the sting checked out. But the rest of my group wanted to take a quick hike through the farmland, since apparently there was something really cool to be seen. After some brief hesitation, I decided to just fight the pain and tag along. And I’m glad I did.

Besides my fellow American college students, we were walking with some Guatemalans, including two high-school-aged young ladies who, when they realized that I was one of the only ones who could speak Spanish, started up a conversation with me. At first, we were just talking about where we were from, what we were doing with ourselves, etc. However, they soon started asking me questions me about the United States, about what life there is like.

I soon realized that I was talking to two young ladies who had had some exposure to the big city (Guatemala City, which, like I said, was at least 3 hours away…if you had a car), and who felt entrapped by living in this tiny village called Xaya in the middle of nowhere that no one has ever heard of unless they’ve been there (or now if you’re reading my blog). Sound familiar? Not much different than plenty of people that I’ve met in the United States.

So I mentioned that this was a problem that people in the States have too…and that when they get to the big city, they realize that it doesn’t have much either. “Muchos jovenes en las ciudades se recrean con alcohol, drogas, o otras malas cosas,” I mentioned. (Translation: Many young people in the cities amuse themselves with alcohol, drugs, or other bad stuff.) “Aun así, no se satisfacen con tales cosas” (Even then, they aren’t satisfied with those things).

As we walked along, one of them pulled out her phone, which had some American songs on it–songs that were in English (which they couldn’t understand). I soon realized that they wanted me to translate the songs for them–songs which were mostly love songs. Songs about people looking for something, but never really finding. People looking for satisfaction.

We briefly stopped at a pool in a small grove (where they had been leading us) to stop and take some pictures.

As we headed back to the village, I continued to have a conversation with them, translating more songs. The more we talked, the more I realized that the same problems that we have in the United States can be found in Guatemala. Forget certain cultural differences, it all boils down to the fact that everyone is looking for something or someone to satisfy them, and that rarely do they find the one that truly can satisfy them (a.k.a. Jesus). From my conversation, I could see that the need to spread the Gospel–something which is so greatly needed in the United States–is just as much needed in Guatemala. And the rest of Latin America. And the rest of the world.

So that’s part of why I want to go overseas…I can hear God calling me to go to somewhere where people just can’t seem to find what will satisfy them…and that could be (and is) anywhere and everywhere…so I’ll take one step at a time and follow God where he leads me.

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Why Overseas Missionary?

I’ve gotten asked that question a lot lately. “Levi, why do you want to be an overseas missionary? Why do you want to leave the States?” It’s a great question, and it definitely deserves a full answer. So here’s part of it:

Back when I was in high school, God was definitely opening up my eyes to see that there was more to life than just my own little homeschooled, introverted, boring life. Back during my sophomore year of high school he opened my eyes to the fact that, hey, God wants to be in a relationship with me (really cool concept). Although I had grown up all of my life going to church, and even though I have definitely had saving faith ever since I was baptized back on July 8, 1993, I had never really before seriously taken this saving relationship seriously.

Around that same time, I suddenly started hearing what my pastor (from my home church in Midland, Texas) was starting to talk about: Jesus left the Apostles with a great mission almost 2,000 years ago to spread the Gospel (the good news that you too can have a saving, eternal relationship with the Almighty God), and the Apostles went out and…changed the world. So what are we (the Church of the 21st century) doing? Don’t we have the exact same mission, to tell the whole world about Jesus?

That idea radically changed me for the rest of my life, and began with a sudden interest in anything missional in my own community. From walking my entire neighborhood (about 1,500 homes), inviting my neighbors to check out what was happening at my church, to getting involved in starting a ministry for homeless families, to being a school mentor through my church, to helping with outreach events, my boring life turned into one of energy and excitement as I slowly began to figure out what it meant to be missional (i.e. sharing the Gospel) in my own life. It was a lot of fun.

However, my whole focus was right where I was. I was all about the local mission. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew that I had to one day move on out of Midland to continue my college studies, I would have been perfectly happy to never leave Midland, and simply continue being used by God to transform my own community. After all, the need was (actually, is) so great. So many people there still don’t having a saving relationship with God. So why not stick around?

This was my initial thought back during my freshman year of college when, one evening at church, my DCE walked up to me and said, “Levi, we’re sending you to Peru!”

“Wait…really? Y’all can just force me to go…oooh. You want me to go.”

I wasn’t too interested, but I promised to pray about it, and obviously God grabbed my heart, and I ended up going.

This trip–my first out of the country–was done with several other members from my church in Midland. We went to put on a couple of vacation Bible schools for the LCMS missionaries in San Borja, Lima, Peru. The VBS’s were a part of the missionaries’ outreach efforts to simply connect with the people in the neighborhood and form relationships with them. Overall, it was pretty chill when it comes to mission trips. We were working more in an upper-middle class neighborhood (after all, middle-class people need Jesus just as much as anyone else), and so I didn’t even get a shocking exposure to global poverty, as often happens to people on mission trips. There were no conversions/baptisms that week. The kids were just…kids…who spoke Spanish.

The big thing that did hit me, though, out of all of that I saw was that I had several realizations. First, I realized that God is bigger than my small world of Midland than I had once known, and that he is active beyond where I can see. Duh, I knew this before I went on this trip, but it never fully clicked in my head until that trip to Peru. Every morning, when I would wake up a little bit earlier than everyone else to do my devotions, I realized that the God of the universe was still with me, even outside of the small world that used to be all that I had really paid attention to.

Beyond that, I also realized that the need to spread the Gospel is so much greater than simply paying attention to the need in my own community. Like I said, I didn’t see much of extreme poverty, crime, or corruption. But I did see a city of probably more than 10 million people–most of whom do not having a saving relationship with God. I saw face after face pass by me and realized that they needed the Gospel just as much as people back in Texas.

Thus, as you can hopefully see, my missionary lens through which I view the world never really emerged from my international travels–I had been thinking missionally a looong time before I ever stepped foot in Peru. What this trip did bring about was a change in my view as to where God might be sending me.

An extra part of this obviously has been my successfully growing knowledge of the Spanish language, and you can read more about that in this previous post of mine: https://levikarth.com/2015/01/31/necesito-aprender-mas-palabras/

Also, it should be duly noted that I’m not enthralled at the idea of going overseas because it sounds glamorous, flashy, romantic, etc. I don’t want to go overseas because I want to be on a life-long vacation. I’m not seeking fun. I’m seeking to follow God’s calling to spread the Gospel wherever it is needed (which, if you didn’t figure out by now, is everywhere that there are people). Check out this post, where I talk about the fact that mission work is mostly just straight up difficult and exhausting.

Like I said, this is just a little bit of my story, but I hope you get the main idea: God has called us to spread His Gospel everywhere. He’s simply calling me to go a little bit farther from home ground than others.

I’ll be working next year in the amazing country of…

After many hard, long months of working through the application process with LCMS World Missions (including psychological testing, personality testing, references, emails, phone tag, miscommunication, a physical examination, lots of prayers, more emails, and plenty of times twiddling my thumbs as I wait for things to progress) that have finally looked at my name, examined my application carefully and thoroughly, scrutinized my word choice, examined all of the results from my different tests, looked over what my references had to say about me, talked with people in Latin America about where to put me, and hopefully prayed about me a bit, they have finally decided where they are going to place me. So finally, with much excitement and after a very stressful six months of waiting I am thrilled to announce (and not only thrilled but also jubilant, joyous, boisterous, enthused, exhilarated, and ecstatic) that next year I will be working (pending that I survive being a camp counselor this summer, don’t get eaten by alligators, pass all of my classes, graduate on time, don’t get lost in an airport somewhere, keep on top of things, and don’t get kidnapped, shipwrecked, hijacked, shanghaied, stolen, abducted, absconded, drafted, confiscated, incarcerated, imprisoned, taken as a hostage, or taken for ransom) in Lima, Peru!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Miraflores, Lima, Peru

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A few things you can do right now:

1. Please keep me in your prayers.

2. Please do NOT send me any donations yet. Key words: Not, yet. I won’t be able to start fundraising officially until after I graduate in December. 

3. Please continue to keep me in your prayers.

So what exactly will I be doing in Peru? The details are still up in the air, especially considering the fact that I’m still about a year out from going on my internship. BUT, check out this video of one of the ministries that is being run down in inner-city Lima by a missionary friend of mine, and which I could be helping to run: https://youtu.be/hV9SVek3zEs