Global Encounters: Who Will Tell Them?

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Peter Thompson’s most enduring memory from his August 2012 trip to Ireland won’t be of castles or clover fields or folk music.

Thompson (’12) instead will think back on the Reformers Unanimous meeting he attended in Bray, and his conversation with an Irishman who fully realized how much he needed Christ.

“I asked him if he believed that God exists and if he wanted to know God,” Thompson said. “He said ‘absolutely,’ and that he had been waiting for someone to share the Gospel with him. It boggles my mind that God would use people like me to achieve something so perfect and to declare His name.”

Thompson was one of more than 100 Maranatha students, faculty, and staff members who came face-to-face with the need for global ministry by becoming part of a Global Encounters missions team during the summer of 2012.

Maranatha teams ministered in Ireland, Argentina, the Far East, Ukraine, Albania, Israel, and Central Asia during the four-month span. Two other teams had worked in New York City and Chad during spring break.

Wonderful Results in Albania

The Albania team was a unique group that experienced unique results. Music Department adjunct faculty member Dr. Dean Kurtz and 10 students were part of a 36-member team that offered free medical clinics through Operation Renewed Hope and missionary Mike Fiocchi (’95). The team provided dental and vision care; performed some minor surgeries; and gave out medications, vitamins, and other vital medical supplies.

More than 650 people in the Tirana area also heard a Gospel message— and 97 accepted Christ.

“The Albanians were very open to someone who cared about them,” Kurtz said. “There is a whole generation that does not know the rudiments of the gospel; many were hearing it for the first time.”

Fiocchi agreed, noting, “Considering that Albania is 70 percent traditional Muslim, there was a wonderful response to the Gospel.”

Musical Ministry in Argentina

The 18-member Argentina Team provided a unique musical ministry, presenting 21 concerts in 14 churches. Team members also worked in two youth conferences, a nursing home, and a public school. Getting the word out worked—20 visitors came to one church service. The team traveled 14 hours to help at a youth conference in Mendoza.

“Through this trip I came to realize how much I take God for granted,” student Stephanie Schuler said. “The Great Commission says to ‘Go to all the world and preach the gospel.’ I must leave my comfort zone and trust God fully to use me in ways I never imagined.”

Missionary Ron Self suffered a detached retina while the team was in Argentina. He told the students that he didn’t want to just accept this trial as God’s will for his life; he wanted to embrace it. Daniel Steinbach said, “This idea made me really think, ‘Am I simply acknowledging or agreeing with God’s will for my life, or am I actively running to and seizing His will for my life?’ ” Team leader Isaiah Lewis added, “I don’t think there’s been a day gone by that I haven’t thought about it.”

Lives Changed in Ukraine

Five Maranatha students on the Ukraine Team worked with Baptist International Evangelistic Ministries missionaries Rick Barry and Eugene “Zhenya” Buyko. The team’s primary responsibility was to help direct day camps—the rough equivalent of Vacation Bible School—at six churches and a public school in the Kiev area. The students also visited a government orphanage.

The Ukraine Team also encouraged believers in local churches by sharing their testimonies, singing, and preaching. Students met with a college-age group to describe life at a Bible college. Six children accepted Christ during the day camp sessions, which included games, crafts, Bible stories, songs, skits, and stunts.

“The rewards and benefits from teaching little kids on this trip were life-changing,” student Gabriel Kluver said. “One thing I learned is that a smile goes a long way.”

Teaching, Learning in Far East

Thirty students and faculty members taught English to 355 students during Maranatha’s fifth visit to the Far East. Classes were offered for ages 3 to 18 as well as for university students and local English teachers. Team members were also able to share their faith with students during unsupervised time and encourage believers.

“Very few people there would have declared themselves Christians five years ago,” Bible Department Chair and GE Coordinator Brian Trainer said. “We are rejoicing in seeing fruit from following up on contacts we’ve made over those five years.”

Maranatha students have also been working in a predominantly Muslim country in Central Asia for five years. The team’s activities emphasize cultural exchange and language education, but students are able to build relationships with nationals in hope of eventually sharing the gospel with them.

“It may appear that we have limited impact in those countries, but being exposed to the need of those countries will make deep impact in the lives of our students,” Trainer said.

God Provides, Students Minister

A total of 130 Maranatha students and staffers raised more than $300,000 to fund the missions trips.

“The numbers were encouraging, and the fundraising in a difficult economy was a testimony to the grace of God,” Trainer said. “This was a very fruitful summer in the lives of our students and the lives of the nationals in the countries we were involved with.”

Ukraine Team member Amber Campbell (’12) concurred.

“It doesn’t matter what country you go to; Global Encounters will change your life as long as you are open to God’s calling,” Campbell said. “It gives you a wider perspective and stretches you where needed. It’s definitely worth a few weeks of your summer.”

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