by Ben Shih
I would like to start off by thanking everybody who supported me through my missions trip, either prayerfully or financially. I could not have been able to go if it weren’t for all of you, so, thank you. This year, we were partnered, once again, with Oasis Church. In the mornings, half of our team would assist them with construction, and in the evenings we would run a VBS for the church kids. On Thursday, we attended their church service, where David Kao, our youth pastor, gave a message. We also did street ministry, where we made burritos and handed it out to the homeless at a local park, and cleaned up as well. After giving them food and drink, we prayed for them. Twice, we visited Luz Admirable, the church that the missions base director, Gil Blanco, had started. Once to attend a service and once to clean up and prayer walk. Throughout this trip, I learned 3 things: How to speak through the Spirit, prayer is our primary ministry, and that God is greater than any of our fears.
To begin with, I learned how to speak through the Spirit. Typically, when I pray, I plan everything I will say beforehand based on what is shared and the information I have, because doing this ensures that I will not lose my train of thought midway through the prayer and end on an awkward “and…so…um…yeah,” and it ensures that I will be able to speak more clearly and stutter less, and my prayers will be on topic. However, as I realized during the trip, this practice detracts from the overall power of my prayer, due to the fact that I am speaking through my own mind and thoughts, and what I think sounds correct, not what the Spirit had wanted to say through me. So I did that for the majority of the Mexicali trip, especially during the street ministry, I would rattle off a quick, shallow prayer that was the same for everybody, and go back to handing out food, because there was a lot of food that needed to be handed out. On Thursday night, this all changed. After David Kao had preached, he called for people to come bring their burdens to Christ, and he asked the missions team to come up to the front and pray for people. Unfortunately, I did not know what to pray for because they did not inform us of their burdens. During street ministry, at least their physical problems were evident: lack of shelter, food, safety, etc. In the church, however, it was much more difficult to see either their physical of spiritual problems, so I could not formulate a prayer based off of my deductive reasoning. So when I went up to somebody to pray for them, I didn’t know anything about them and what they needed prayer for. Tentatively, I placed my hand on a person’s shoulder, and paused, with my eyes closed, not thinking, but just asking for God to show me something. After a couple more seconds, something did come to me, and I prayed over him. The prayer was not the most smooth, I had to take multiple pauses to really absorb what God was trying to tell me, but eventually I got through it. I truly believe that this prayer, despite all of its flaws, was more powerful than any prayer I could have constructed, because this prayer was driven by the Holy Spirit, whereas the other one was driven by my own logic and reasoning. In conclusion, I learned that to pray in the Spirit, all you have to do is stop and listen, not to your own thoughts, but to God.
Secondly, I learned that prayer is our primary ministry. During the meetings leading up to the trip, we would always have a time of prayer and intercession, which I found arbitrary and pointless. I felt that the time could be better spent preparing songs for worship, or practicing Spanish, or for any other of the litany of tasks that had to be completed. My mindset remained unchanged going into the trip. I would still participate in the prayer sessions, but I would focus primarily on the task at hand, whether it was picking up trash, handing out food, nailing the paper to the wall, or preparing for VBS. Whenever David Kao reminded us to pray, I would pray a short prayer, but then resume what I believed to be the important part of our ministry: the task. However, once again at the Thursday night church service, I experienced a change of heart. As was stated before, my pastor asked the team to come up to the front to give prayer to people. As I started praying, the people I was praying for reacted in a way that was spiritually unmatched by any of the tasks that I had prioritized. The people were on the floor, prostrating themselves before the Lord, and crying intensely. Nobody had reacted this way when we picked up trash, handed our food, nailed paper to the wall, or prepared for VBS. I realized that prayer was much more powerful than anything else we could do, so it should be our primary ministry, not other tasks.
Finally, I learned that God is greater than any of our fears. Going into the trip, I would make many decisions based off of fear. I would not want to do new things, like be a vocal for worship, because I was scared. The first day of street ministry, David Kao asked us to talk to people, find out their story, and pray for them. I knew some Spanish, but I was afraid to use it, and just stood in the back, until I felt that God was telling me to go talk to someone. I was afraid, but through the power of God, I was able to go and talk to someone, and we were able to pray with him at the end. As the trip progressed, I slowly got bolder, and by the last street ministry, I was able to initiate a conversation with one of the locals without any reservations. Through the power of God, I was able to conquer my fears.
As I return to the United States, I hope I can apply what I learned to my everyday life. I plan to be more bold and open about my identity as a Christian, and I hope to be able to bring some of my non-Christian friends from school to church. I will begin praying first, and completing the task second, when entering any sort of ministry. I will change how I pray, and instead of thinking about what I want to say, I will listen to what God wants me to say. All in all, Mexicali has taught me a lot and brought me closer to Christ.