Two students from Maplewood Academy, Nicole Muehlberg and I, joined Sunnydale Adventist Academy on their annual mission trip to India during Spring Break. A total of eleven students and two sponsors, eager to share their faith, set off on a journey to spread the Gospel through an evangelistic series on the morning of February 24th, 2015. Some 22 hours later, after three long flights, 13 tired, but excited faces emerged from the airport into the beautiful country of India. A bus awaited our group and we boarded it to be greeted by wooden seats and the Indian heat. After settling in, our group set off through India to the sunny Sunderban Islands where we would be preaching for the next three weeks. The traveling was well worth it, as we were surrounded by the smiling faces of local Indian children when we arrived at Achintvanagar Adventist Church.
After hauling all of the luggage into the church and setting up tents to keep the bugs away, everyone fell into a greatly needed sleep. The next morning we awoke to a breakfast of curry and rice. Everyone ate and then discussed the details of the mission trip. Each night every student would be sent to separate sites on the Islands to preach sermons. The sermons would cover the basic truths of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The sermon for the first night would cover creation of the world and the Creator God. The rest of the day was spent preparing the sermons, playing with the kids, and exploring the village.
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, people would begin departing for their sites. There were a couple of students who had gone on these mission trips before, so they were not worried about the sermons, but for those of us who had never preached before, leaving for our sites the first time was a little nerve wracking. I happened to be one of those students with a stomach full of butterflies. I left for my site at five o’clock, taking a twenty-minute rickshaw ride, bumping up and down the winding roads, to get to my church. Once I got there I played with the kids and set up my equipment. The program began with my translator and the church Bible worker singing Bengali Hymns with the people. Then I played a video that depicted the life of Jesus, which the local people loved. They would flock to the church to come watch it. After the video I gave a children’s story and a health talk. Lastly, I gave the sermon with my translator at my side. The meeting was successful and I had almost 100 people at my site! It was a really great start to the mission trip.
Although the schedule was pretty much the same every day, wake up, have breakfast, work on our sermons, have lunch and then depart for our sites, each day of the mission trip was unique and special in its own way. Some days we would see a child caring for a little brother and other days we would meet a mother who was trying to raise a family on her own. The whole culture in general made each day special. The culture showed us a different way of life. We would watch at least fifteen women and children every day coming to the well and getting water. Sometimes they would carry up to two large jugs of water to their homes more than a mile away. They do not have the modern conveniences we do such as electricity or running water. In fact, our group of high school students was better entertainment for them than hours of television would be for us in America. It was really moving to see how happy they were. They were content with what they had and were always smiling and laughing.
One of the biggest things I learned from this mission trip is the fact that there are a lot of things I can’t do, but I can always trust that God can. This trip was my first time ever giving a sermon. The most I have done before is a five minute speech in English class. Giving a sermon with a translator is a lot less intimidating than doing it without one. Having a translator gives you time to pause and think what to say next. I really was not nervous giving my sermons, but I still feel that I was definitely not the next Billy Graham. Actually I felt that I was far from it. I know that I am not a good speaker because public speaking is just not my thing. However, during this mission trip I learned that no matter how hard I try to be a great speaker, I cannot change the way people will perceive the message. I cannot change another person’s heart. Only God can convert a person’s heart. He has the ultimate control.
Throughout the evangelistic series we also had many baptisms. In total we had over 120 baptisms! It was so amazing seeing a person that I had preached to giving their life to Jesus. There is nothing better than knowing that you had a part in bringing a life into the kingdom of God. Leaving India was a bittersweet goodbye, but we could be happy knowing that we had done our part in spreading the Word of God.
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