[Ryan Carver speaking]
I am the director of COMission, GCCC’s college outreach ministry at the University of South Florida, the St Pete campus. This is my wife Becca, who is vital to this ministry and her labor often goes unseen. It truly has been a blessing for us both to have been part of what God is doing at the USFSP campus and through Gulf Coast!
We just recently took a team of nine people to China. For obvious reasons, I am leaving out some details of our trip. Some went for two weeks and others for four weeks. We had a few freshman, two sophomores, a graduating Senior, and a non-student. The team members were, Ryan and Katie Hoagland, John Cummings, Madeline Seiberlich, Hannah Hutchings, Jordan Boyer, Zack Batdorf, and ourselves.
I would like to just briefly share three areas in which I have been changed and now see things differently because of this remarkable trip.
1.There is an urgency to bring the gospel where it has not gone.
Whenever I looked over the landscape of people that filled the city that I was in, I could see two types of people. The first were those who have been told either by their government, their teachers, or their parents that there is no God – and they believed it. The second are the Tibetan Buddhists that spin prayer wheels and turn their prayer beads endlessly as they move through grocery lines while working in their shops, or while they eat. They use these methods of prayer to earn favor with their gods and they use them with the same fervency we in America use our cell phones. All the time. But there are those people, amidst these two types that I just told you about, that have a sense that there is a greater hope out there than what they have been told. These are the ones that when they hear the gospel, their eyes widen and the Good News begins to set them on a course of a changed life forever. The city has less than one percent of people who are Jesus followers, most people in the city will never even hear the gospel in their lifetime, and so we must go and do anything we can to get there. That leads into my second point.
2. The opportunity for training, on a short term trip set up like this, is priceless.
We met up with the H’s, a missionary family that has been in China for over 10 years. They and their team gave us theological training as well as hands-on training. We were taught on many topics such as the theology of mission and the need for prayer. We were shown around the city, trained on how to meet the locals, and then we had continued input from the team as we met Chinese people and began to see them follow Jesus. Also, many on our team shared the Gospel and read the Bible with more nonbelievers, in two weeks, than they have in their entire lives! I cannot imagine a better training ground for making disciples of Jesus in China and back in the States. This is what the H’s were so good at…mobilizing others to be missionaries here AND there! We were served by their gifting and their determination to raise up laborers that would go EVERYWHERE to make disciples of Jesus. They cast the vision on how they see their city as an important place to send students into unreached areas all the way to the unreached Himalayas and into hostile Arab countries They led and joined with us in prayer sessions for many other nations. They passed on wisdom, at their dinner table, in areas like family, preparing for the future, and the struggles of overseas ministry. Our college students we so blessed by this. The H’s and their team gave us training, that I believe, will bear much return as we seek to make disciples here in St. Pete and on the USFSP campus.
3. Making Disciples of Jesus is of utmost priority.
We saw how the H’s, their team, and other long-term missionaries had structured their lives around making disciples of Jesus. Their time, energy, money and all of their efforts revolved around this driving force. There are so many ways we can use our time and it is often hard to discern what gets put on our schedule. Yet, after seeing much of what took place in China, I hope that we can adjust, plan, and implement much in our lives around this great endeavor. I am now more convinced than ever that “making disciples of Jesus” is of utmost priority. Our character, our prayer lives, our schedules…everything we do should be structured to make followers of Jesus who make followers of Jesus.
[Becca Carver speaking]
We were one of three teams, each from a separate U.S. college campus, that came to serve alongside the H’s. While in China, each team was sent to a different campus in the city to talk with the students there. Many of our days were spent trying to meet new people. We would simply stop a student or a group of students to ask them a question in hopes of finding out if they spoke English. Questions like, “Can you tell me where the bathroom is?” or “Can you tell me where Ii can get some coffee on campus?” would cause them to either respond in English or laugh because they didn’t know any English. Then we would try and continue the conversation by asking if they were a student. We would continue to ask a couple more questions and because they were so interested in talking with Americans we then would share the Gospel story, from creation to Christ, within about 5 min of talking with them. After sharing the Gospel Story we would ask them if they’d like to meet up to learn more about what we shared. We would take them to lunch or dinner and share more stories from the Bible.
One example I have is getting to share with Gina. (Most of the students had been given an English name by their teachers.) After we had read in Mark Chapter 5 about Jesus sending the demons into the pigs and the healing of Jarius’ daughter, it came up that some people believe upon first hearing the gospel. She said she didn’t understand how anyone could believe upon first hearing the gospel. So I reminded her of the scripture we had just read in Mark Chapter 5 and asked her if she believed God was powerful. She said, “Yes”. I asked her, “If God is powerful enough to raise someone from the dead, don’t you think he is powerful enough to cause salvation to rise up in someone immediately?” Her eyes widened and she said, “Woah, yes”. In that moment, it reminded me of God literally making her spiritual blind eyes, see. God is faithful. That is just one example of many, that I can share, showing God removing the scales from the eyes of students there.
We are so thankful to you, Gulf Coast, for your financial support and your many prayers!
We are so thankful for all of your support with this trip to China and the ministry to students here in St. Pete.
Lastly, I want to mention that we connected all of those we met in China to long-term missionaries for future discipleship. Also, we have connected many of Chinese students to local believers and a local church. There are so many stories to tell and we look forward to sharing more with you individually. We love you and are grateful to be part of the mission with you.