Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Argentina, You Changed Me Forever: Tales From a College Ministry Team

Andrea Williamson, former Student Involvement Director at Ohio Christian University
The Call, October-December 2016
Argentina, You Changed Me Forever

Last year, a missionary couple serving in Argentina came to Ohio Christian University’s Global CafĂ© and shared their vision for reaching young adults. (Due to the sensitive nature of their work, we will not use their names.) Their ministry was so exciting to our students that the missionaries were invited to OCU on the following Monday and Tuesday to speak in a few classes.

This couple has discovered a unique way to implement a program similar to what has been called Community Health Evangelism. This outreach seeks to meet the felt needs of non-believers in ways that open the door to sharing the gospel.

University leaders in Argentina tend to be resistant to evangelical Christians and the Bible. Even so, they desire to see their students get involved as volunteers in humanitarian efforts within their local communities. The students themselves are also very interested in volunteering. The struggle they face is how to make that happen in a meaningful, ongoing way. 

WGM’s vision is to help the university and its students by facilitating opportunities for students to do volunteer work alongside individuals and local organizations in need of assistance and to provide the necessary tools for the university to promote this program. They need the help of ministry teams to help open these doors.

During the 2016 spring break, OCU sent a ministry team of six to Argentina. Professor Jamey Gremillion, OCU’s Intercultural Ministries director, led the team of university students: Liliana Burgos, Ben Caplan, Andrew DeMint, and Lindsey Lawler. The team was rounded out by Jammie Wilhelm, who serves as an AGS (Adult and Graduate Studies) director and professor.

The team had the privilege of remodeling a kitchen for an elderly lady who feeds nearly 60 neighborhood children every weekday. They lovingly refered to her as the Argentinian version of Mother Teresa. In two days, the team removed the old cabinets, storage area, and counter tops, replacing them with a custom-built eight-foot-high locking storage cabinet for food, multiple 12-foot shelves to hold pans and supplies, and an island so the children can be served their food. The team also cleaned, painted, and installed four ceiling fans along with an exhaust fan for the stove. 

Lindsey was the first to test out the quality of their work by climbing onto the large storage unit. The whole team joined her for a unique team photo. “That I’m in awe of what God is doing in Argentina doesn't begin to describe it,” said Lindsey. “This was my first international mission trip. I left a huge part of my heart with the 75-year-old woman who cooks meals…out of her own home.” 

The team also visited an education and therapy center that serves children with disabilities, a one-of-a-kind ministry to needy families in the area. Lindsey noted that because of this ministry, “the children see hope, see love, and see Christ.” She continued, “So many wonderful relationships were built, and I hope to see them continue to grow. Even though some of us had a little language barrier, they felt like family! I hope to make a trip back in the future.”

On one day, the team’s plans were canceled due to heavy rains. Instead, they gathered together for a special time of worship and prayer. Jamey commented, “This unexpected time to focus on prayer deeply encouraged our missionary hosts; the wife told me that they were in need of our fellowship. They are ministering on the front lines to a people who don’t see a need for Christ. They have a difficult task. It was so beautiful to watch our OCU students lead this service. I was so proud of them!”

“Although I have traveled to many countries, this was my first missions trip,” said Jammie. “It was an experience that helped energize my life and ministry. There are no words to describe what I learned from the interaction with the Argentine people and also the OCU students. There truly is a movement of God to use young people to encourage the world. I am blessed to be a part of this team and look forward to the next trip.” Andrew said that his heart was full of mixed emotions as he left Argentina, adding, “Yes, I will be happy to see my familia y amigos again, but a large part of my heart will remain here ‘in the land where there are no strangers.’ God has moved in mighty ways. Argentina, you have changed me forever, and for that, te amo.” 

Liliana posted on her Facebook page:
“‘I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.’–Hillsong
“As we get ready to head back, I leave you with this:

Pray continuously.
Persevere in prayer.
God has His timing for everything.
Keep trusting in Him.”

GO: Serving on a ministry team bonds you with that group as you serve the kingdom of God. Is God calling you to serve in community on a short-term missions trip? Apply at www.wgm.org/teams
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