Upuia Fineaso shares how the missionary intern class Contextualization by Pastor Conway opened to her to see a greater importance of doing ministry as a lay person.
by Erika Hernandez, Missionary Intern 2020-2021, East Lansing Program
We live in a world where we see the consequences of sin every day. Where suffering, violence, hardships are normal; still, this was never God’s intention. It was not His purpose for us to experience these situations nor the baggage that results. The Journey class taught by Pastor and Mrs. Conway described how people’s upbringing and baggage can affect the sharing of the gospel.
Each person’s background is important because it influences their identity, as well as how this self-concept frames how they see others. We often perceive infancy as the beginning of exposure, understanding, and influence in the world around. However, I learned all of this actually begins even before we are in the womb. Consider King David’s description in Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” Also, Jeremiah quoted the same “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;…”. (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, based on Jeremiah, we had a beginning before we were conceived in the womb; our beginning started with God.
Unfortunately, this scene that Jeremiah describes does not protect the defenseless creature from the consequences of sin. The baby born on this earth, defiled by evil, known by God from before the womb, has to deal with what is before him or her: sin. Sin already has an impact on them. When they experience an unloving, abusive home, or other bad experiences, it affects how that child forms his or her self-identity, increasing the previous baggage, and influencing how they relate to and accept the word of God.
As a result of the unstable life, it leads to what is called self survival. In other words, after a glimpse of what the world is, he or she tries to survive in any way possible. After the family was a danger, the individual builds distrust because the people who were supposed to provide did not, thus they walk in defensiveness. They will do anything necessary to survive; they search to survive in their means. In this world, most live with the baggage of sin every day, and switch their minds to survival mode to protect themselves from past experiences to be able to live “happily”. They are not what they were first made by God. Compassion, love, goodness turns to guard. They create a wall and become resistant to the Word of God.
As missionaries, our job is to be aware of our brothers and sisters’ responses to the Word of God, to prayerfully discern and recognize that they might be resistant because of their past, then we are to reach them. We are to share Jesus’s love that will break the cold and harden heart damaged by sin. Naturally, people do not want the love of Jesus to guide them nor the Holy Spirit to transform them. They may think the transformation will make them vulnerable and hurt again because this has been their experience from the beginning; their caregivers and others have failed them. Yet God does not fail; He is unchangeable.
The class was significant to me because it spoke to my personal experience and those around me. In other words, young adults from this generation, who are overwhelmed by their past, go into depression, anxiety, and self-harm, and cannot find help or have the resources for healing. Reflecting on the baggage we carry through life is an important topic because broken people are everywhere; it is the reality. We connect with people in our day-to-day activities, discerning life stories, loving instead of judging. The people we can reach are limitless; we must learn how to approach and interact with people everywhere: school, work, ministry, every one-to-one interaction in life, sharing the gospel. We live in an imperfect world and are all imperfect, full of baggage.
However, the Lord cannot complete His work in our broken lives and others if we are unwilling to recognize our condition and allow Him to make us whole. In so doing, we can be lights, agents used by Christ to bring healing. Only the Word of God can give real satisfaction to the soul, take the baggage, and heal the brokenness. As we experience what only God can do, we are to impart the good news of love, healing, and salvation to others
by Joi McClellan, Missionary Intern 2020-21 East Lansing Program
I grew up knowing the importance of Bible study but was consistently overwhelmed when I approached it. I would open my Bible and start reading but would hardly get through a phrase before doubting my understanding of the English language and feeling a pressing demand to uncover something most profound. I would then haul my family’s gargantuan Strong’s Exhaustive (rather, exhausting) Concordance, and look up every word of the text in Greek. Not finding any great spiritual insight from that endeavor, I would then attempt to read every single cross reference possible connected to the verse. For bonus points, I would look at all available English Bible translations. This is what I felt constrained to do every time I opened my Bible. A tad exhausting? You bet.
My tiresome yet earnest efforts reflected my value of and desire for Bible study. I saw others gaining deep and meaningful insights yet wondered why my experience rarely paralleled theirs. On the contrary, Bible study was stressing me out, and I was growing to resent it. Realizing that something was wrong with my approach, and desperately wanting to experience enriching time with Jesus, I laid aside my defective deep-sea diving gear and headed back up to the proverbial surface to take in some vital breaths. I turned my attention to gaining a love for God’s Word through simple reading, mediating, and memorization. This decision allowed me to exponentially grow in my devotion for God and love for His Word, but I nonetheless desired to one day know how to dive into the treasures of the Word without the stress and pressure that my former methods had imposed.
At the beginning of 2020, I knew it was time for me to start studying again. God was restoring my love for the Word of God and slowly taking me into Bible study, but I had a long way to go. His purposes unbeknownst to me included, God brought me to CAMPUS, a fancy-sounding class called Hermeneutics. In this class, which taught practical steps for contextual and thorough Bible study, I was given the tools to begin chipping away bit by bit deeper into the Word of God. Ironically, we still used cross-referencing and concordances (CAMPUS is so cool that we use an app), but these helpful steps did not make me feel like every word must be read in Hebrew in order to gain insight or that I had to track down every related verse in the whole canon of scripture. I learned how to approach Bible study with a large-tooth comb and work up to a fine-tooth, meanwhile learning to look for beautifully woven threads of the love of God that give practical and devotional insights.
Not only has what I gained from Hermeneutics been personally impactful, but God immediately presented an outlet to put my learning to regular use. Following the completion of this class, I helped to start a young adult Sabbath School class in which hermeneutical Bible study is the foundation. Co-facilitating this Bible study keeps me on my toes and regularly diving into the Word with a lot less stress and pressure
By God’s sweet grace, and through the means of my CAMPUS class, Hermeneutics, Bible study is no longer as threatening and wearisome as it used to be.