FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Keith Eitel, dean of the school of evangelism and missions at Southwestern, says he hopes the lifeblood of all the seminary’s mission trips will be engaging lostness with the Gospel.
Recalling Romans 10:15, Eitel says, “I guess you could say our aim is to make sure we all have beautiful feet.”
From July 1-21, more than a dozen Southwestern students and faculty traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, striving toward this aim. God blessed their efforts, as over the course of the three-week trip, the team saw eight people come to Christ.
Michael Smith, a master’s in biblical counseling student, had a particularly fruitful experience.
While in the food court of a local mall, Smith and a translator engaged five high school girls who, as it turned out, had just attended a friend’s funeral.
“With eternity fresh on their hearts,” Smith says, “we opened up God’s Word and began to walk through Scripture and allow His Word to perform a work inside their already hungry and open hearts. We shared about our peace in times of trouble, our joy in times of sorrow, and our strength when we sometimes feel we can’t go on.”
A time of questions-and-answers followed, with Smith consulting Scripture as well as a Gospel tract. Ultimately, Smith asked the girls if they would like to have eternal life in Jesus. All five girls said yes.
After ensuring that they understood the implications of surrendering their lives to God, the translator led them in prayer.
“All I could do during that time was sit and weep in amazement of God,” Smith recalls. “I have heard a lot of beautiful things in my day—songs, instruments, voices, etc.—but without a doubt, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard was the sound of those five young ladies praying aloud in unison to God, accepting Jesus as their Savior.”
Ariel Youngbird, a bachelor’s in humanities student, also witnessed someone’s new birth in Christ, and was even able to begin the process of discipleship.
Youngbird and fellow team member Glenda Eitel met twice with a Thai university student named Aew. During their second meeting, Aew surrendered her life to Christ. Hungry to learn the Scriptures, Aew then requested that they meet a third time for a Bible study. Youngbird and Eitel joyfully obliged.
At their third meeting, Youngbird and Eitel shared parts of their testimonies as well as Bible verses that encouraged them at different points in their lives.
“This was one of my favorite parts of being in Chiang Mai—beginning discipleship with Aew,” Youngbird says. “I loved being able to share with her some of my own favorite verses in the Bible to encourage her that, even in hard times, we must remember that God is with us.”
During this meeting, Aew revealed that she was already facing persecution in her workplace and school, as other girls were gossiping about her decision to follow Christ.
“She was sad,” Youngbird recalls, “but she still had joy because of Christ.”
Youngbird says that Aew continues to pray and read her Bible daily, as well as meet with their translator to study the Bible once a week, even though she continues to face persecution.
In addition to these experiences, the Southwestern team engaged in numerous conversations, particularly with Buddhists, with each conversation representing a seed being planted.
Keith Eitel, who has been leading Southwestern teams to Chiang Mai since 2006, says that he has not seen these kinds of responses in past years, and so it was a “heightened encouragement” to see what God is doing in Thailand.
Recalling a worship song originally written in Thailand, Eitel says that, despite the lostness of Chiang Mai, God is “the God of this city, too … and He is really doing something in Thailand.”