Photographers love to capture the humanitarian side of international missions. Classic poses of someone handing out water generally finds itself next to a college student giving someone a blanket. The term “international missions” often produces a distinct image of the 10/40 window or workers fighting poverty. While these portray a portion of international missions, they are not all-encompassing images.
This summer, I, along with three other Global Outreach (GO) teammates, traveled to France, Italy, and Moldova. Western Europe challenged the images of humanitarian missions that are so often passed around the Christian community. It forced us to answer questions like “what do ‘hard things’ look like on this mission field?” and “what does non-physical suffering look like?”
Paris was the first destination and the first place where our team was forced to ask those questions. From the outside, Paris is a bustling city of professionals, intellectuals, and generally affluent citizens. It is one of the most visited tourists’ spots in the world, and the culture is greatly stereotyped. What isn’t as easy to pick up on, is the melancholic energy of metro commutes, the hollow and searching eyes of passerby, or the fact that the 2.2 million greater Paris-area population is less than 1% Evangelical Christian.
The first week of our trip, we worked alongside the World Team missionaries in the 15th Arrondissement (District) of Paris. We attended their weekly team meeting, went to evening Bible study, talked to nationals during Café Anglais, cleaned trash off the neighborhood streets, and helped tidy up their little gardens. We learned that it takes an average of 15-20 years to plant a church in Paris, which is why all their mission work is done sustainably with the goal of building relationships.
When pondering what “hard” looks like for missions in Paris, we all quickly realized how discouraging long-haul missions could be. Even though many of the missionaries in Paris had teammates or partners, it can be a lonely mission with slow progress. The faithfulness and hope of the missionaries, despite the mental and spiritual suffering, was an encouragement to us.
[“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” – 1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV)]
Castano Primo and Turbigo, Italy
The third week of the trip brought us to street and park evangelism in two small towns outside of Milan, Italy. Here, we turned from relational evangelism and discipleship to “cold turkey” evangelism. My teammates and I quickly learned that this style of evangelism was not our strength. It takes a lot of courage to present the Gospel to a stranger. As we worked alongside an Italian youth group, my team became quickly overwhelmed by the language barrier.
We got the opportunity to share the Gospel a couple times at a local park. Once was through a short play, enacting the Jesus of Isaiah 53 who takes away the sin and pain of the world. The other time was through personal testimony. We reached over a dozen children through personal Gospel conversations. Perhaps the highlight of this evangelical portion of the trip was seeing a couple of the kids come to church that Sunday.
Hard here looked like overcoming personal fears of public speaking and growing in humility. The more we trusted God and the community of teammates He provided us with, the easier, and more fun, it was to share His Good News in the streets of Italy.
[“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” – 2 Corinthians 3:12]
Chișinău and Ciocana, Moldova
Camp was so much fun. In Ciocana, we worked alongside World Team missionaries to host 40 kids for an ESL (English as a Second Language) day camp. The campers experienced opening worship, Bible teaching, an English lesson, snacks, big group game time, and closing worship. My team and I also helped with set-up and teardown. We also visited with different World Team missionaries over dinner throughout the week.
Flexibility is the skill that our training in Paris instilled in us. Doing hard things so that you can have a Gospel conversation or do what you’re naturally bent toward is the mantra that Italy chanted to us. Moldova rounded the thoughts out by teaching me that being called to do hard things doesn’t mean that I’ll be miserable while doing it. God is a good and gracious God who hides bits of His goodness in everything. Whether it’s public speaking or teaching an English class, God will take my most challenging moments and show me something good. Sometimes the good thing is a smile from someone in the crowd, and other times the good thing is a child boldly asking, “How are you?” in otherwise broken English.
[“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” – Exodus 34:6]
This summer, the France, Italy, and Moldova missions trip with Global Outreach showed me a different side of missions. It showed me the relational side that is hard to photograph and hard to minister to, but that is greatly in need of the Gospel. Through seeing God work in Café Anglais conversations, where my conversational partner gave me an opening to ask about her spiritual standing to seeing a reflection of His joy in children at camp, His goodness was on full display.
Major & Year: Linguistics, class of 2025
Favorite Bible Verse: 2 Timothy 2:2
Hobbies: Reading | Photography | Being Outside