2017 Sri Lanka – Sam Choi

May They Be Brought to Complete Unity
(audio mp3)

“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:23

This was my first time leading a short term missions team with New Philadelphia Church, and it was a journey of great stretching and growth. This past year has been one of the most trying seasons, and recently I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed with life. Knowing all I had on my plate, I wouldn’t have chosen to go on a mission trip this season, let alone lead a team. However, I felt God leading me to rise to the challenge. So I obeyed. And from the beginning, I felt that God was telling me to go and that He’d be with me, just as He’d told Joshua to be strong and courageous. And as I kept praying into the trip, the God kept on highlighting the word “unity.”

I knew it would require a supernatural grace for our team to have unity. Though we had weeks of training beforehand, as well as logistical details to plan together, our team was comprised of members from 5 different campuses. Some of us had never even met each other. But by God’s grace we all bonded so well that Pastor Sarath surprised to hear that some of us only met for the first time on this trip. And our unity wasn’t even limited to the New Philly members.

Our team spent 6 days on the field alongside Pastor Sarath’s ministry leaders, with whom we previously had little to no connection. But soon enough it was like we were ministering with family. As we spent time with the Sri Lankan team, we found them to be so funny and witty. The banter between them was much like the banter between us. And before long, there would be friendly joking and laughter between our teams. It felt like we were on a family ministry vacation. The pastors were like corny and witty uncles, telling jokes, playing the cajón and making impromptu music on the bus, with the occasional burst of uproarious laughter. But when it was ministry time, it was like clockwork. When one of us was preaching, Pastor Sarath would translate with authority and with such rhythm and grace, it felt as if he were an extension of the preacher, like we were following the rhythm of a greater cadence. There was an amazing Holy Spirit synergy at work. There was great activation as well.

For me, the most memorable moment of the trip, which ties everything together, was at Nawajeewana Rehabilitation Center. This is a place where drug addicts and alcoholics from all walks of life come for rehabilitation. What’s even better is that they are all exposed to Jesus. Many of them become transformed and start their own rehabilitation ministries. I was given the opportunity to share my testimony, which similarly dealt with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and addiction to pornography. I boldly proclaimed the power of Christ’s blood to set me free from all these things and exhorted these men to stand firm and not be yoked again by slavery. As I shared, I felt led to put out an invitation to receive Jesus. Ten people responded. I was so honored that God would use me to bring them to salvation. This was very special for me because I’ve always wanted to evangelize and see people come to the Lord. Before this, I’d led only one person to Christ. But God increased my blessing ten-fold with one broad stroke. Had I never gone on this trip, I would never have been able to experience this. There was another special thing that happened during this ministry time. Up until this ministry time, the local team participated in our ministry, though with a more passive approach. But at this drug rehab center, we witnessed the local team stepping up with authority to pray alongside our team with a new boldness. We witnessed empowerment. We witnessed true unity.

And I think this is really why He wanted me to go on this trip. We often talk and pray about the “wider body of Christ.” In Seoul, we have AIM (Association of International Ministries), and many of the English Ministries gather for Christmas, Easter, and other events throughout the year. I thank God for the unity we experience in this city, for it truly is a supernatural work of God and it should be celebrated. But I think the unity God wants to display goes far beyond this. It goes all the way to Sri Lanka, to Nepal, Manado, Indonesia, Chennai, China, North Korea, and to the ends of the earth. Jeil Sungdo, our parent Korean church, is involved with NPWM (Native Partners for World Missions), which is the organization through which we primarily connect to local ministries around the world. I realized that we have such a privilege to partner with them. I don’t know of any other organization with such a wide network of local partners, each of them pillars in their communities. It’s through short-term missions trips that we experience true unity in the wider body of Christ.

Some might question the use of short term missions. But we must remember, it was through the journeys of Paul and Peter in the New Testament that the local churches throughout the known world was strengthened. And God still uses this method. We know that the church is not simply the local church. The wider body of Christ is comprised of these many local bodies of Christ. I dare say that if you haven’t been on missions, you haven’t truly experienced the church in its full beauty. Sometimes, there are messages that a church needs to hear and it has to come from an outsider. Sometimes, there are lessons that God wants us to learn and it has to be outside the comforts of our own culture. In missions there is so much to gain for all involved: senders, receivers, and the sent ones. On a larger scale, this is the manifestation of iron sharpening iron, carrying one another’s burdens, and being united in love. But ultimately, we go in response to an eternal hunger: to see the Gospel reach the ends of the earth and for our Lord Jesus to return in all His glory. I hope that all who love the Lord will resolve to participate in missions, whether it’s to send or go. I pray that my testimony will stir your heart for missions. And with our active participation in world missions, the world will indeed know that Christ has sent us and that God will gain all the glory.