Thailand mission team sees 30 salvations
Before departing for her first mission trip with 17 other Southwestern Seminary students to Chiang Mai, Thailand, master’s student Lauren Rodriguez prepared for the uncertainty of ministry in a new context. Though she trusted in the work of the Holy Spirit to change lives, she knew she would face the challenges of communicating the Gospel message in a difficult spiritual climate.
But as the Southwestern team focused their evangelism efforts on two local university campuses, July 5-23, Rodriguez found a universal appreciation for music to be a simple yet powerful way to engage with students. She had brought her ukulele with her, and she used it to play songs such as “Amazing Grace” while other team members joined in singing, followed by an explanation of the songs.
“It was a really easy way for me to get into conversations,” Rodriguez says of the opportunity to utilize her music skills for the sake of presenting the Gospel. “Scripture talks about the church being made of different purposes and different functions. Some people are hands and some people are feet. So it was a blessing to be able to use that for God’s glory, telling of Jesus Christ and how to be saved.”
As the team partnered with a local church to evangelize university students, they had many fruitful conversations over a lunchtime meal and even had several follow-up meetings with students throughout the two weeks in Thailand. One person in particular was Rohannee, a young Muslim woman originally from the southern region of Thailand where there is a larger Muslim population in contrast to the largely Buddhist country.
Excited to make new friends, Rohannee agreed to meet with Rodriguez and fellow master’s student Cat Hewett. Rodriguez says the Holy Spirit clearly guided their conversation. They communicated with ease, and Rohannee responded with eagerness and a sincere interest. “I know the Holy Spirit gave me the right words,” Rodriguez explains.
As she presented the Gospel, Rodriguez told Rohannee, “Jesus is our Messiah.” With a curious tilt of her head and raised eyebrows, Rohannee replied, “Messiah?”
Rohannee did not ultimately make a decision to follow Christ, but her concept of who Jesus is began to change through the conversations Rodriguez, Hewett and other Southwesterners had with her over the course of two days. Although disappointed by Rohannee’s lack of decision, Rodriguez says she is hopeful that her obedience to share the Gospel has planted a seed in Rohannee, and that as they remain in contact with their new friend, her heart may be softened to the message of the Gospel.
“The biggest lesson that I learned is that we are all called to go and tell. It’s the Holy Spirit’s work to change hearts,” she says. “Even though she didn’t accept, we did what we were called to do.”
Later in the mission trip, the team traveled to a nearby mountain village where they planned to spend at least two days evangelizing and present the “Jesus” film with those willing to attend. Bachelor of Arts student Stephen Gravois described the days spent in the village as the most challenging but also the most rewarding because he felt equipped and ready to evangelize with any person in any context.
“Being a student at Southwestern greatly equipped me to do ministry in Thailand,” Gravois says. “Dr. [Brandon] Kiesling’s evangelism class has specifically equipped me to share the Gospel simply and comfortably, especially to people that I may have just met. By being a student at Southwestern, I felt thoroughly prepared to answer tough questions about the Gospel and Christianity that we sometimes encountered.”
Following the presentation of the “Jesus” film and other testimonies from Southwestern students, an invitation was given, and 12 people made the decision to surrender their lives to Christ. Reflecting on these and the 18 other salvations from university students, Rodriguez says she is in awe of the way God used them in such a brief time to deliver a life-changing message.
“In some ways, we have very little in common with them, but now we are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Rodriguez says. “We now have all this commonality, and we have eternity with these people.”