Extreme poverty, overpopulated refugee camps, street children, and polytheism are prevalent in the countries that six teams will be traveling to this summer. Six groups of average students are stepping out of their comfort zones, traveling thousands of miles away from home to lend a helping hand to complete strangers in these countries. The Biola University Student Missionary Union (SMU) will be sending out teams to Western Asia, Germany, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, and India.

For two and a half weeks, five women will be traveling to Zambia, a third world country that is receptive to the gospel, according to junior Stephanie Theis, who is leading the team. While there, the team will be participating in bedside ministry in local hospitals, children’s ministry, and evangelism in the villages.

“We expect that through this trip God will give us a new perspective on missions and our role whether in work, support or prayer,” said Theis.

As with all missions’ trips Theis recognizes the importance of keeping Christ as the main reason for their trips.

“Our trip apart from Christ is nothing. We need to abide in him so that he might abide in us,” said Theis.

Guatemala, like Zambia, is in need of assistance and will be receiving a helping hand from a group of Biola students.

Eight students will be traveling to Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in North America with more than half the population living below poverty level for 31 days to work with local churches and long-term missionaries, working in orphanages and juvenile prisons.

“We want to be humble servants to the people of Guatemala and to the long-term missionaries,” said sophomore team leader Hannah Tyer.

In a much different setting, eight students will live for five weeks in a country where 80 percent of the population believes in more than 300 million gods. The team will be staying in India visiting leper colonies, orphanages, medical clinics, and hosting Bible studies. The team has also been studying Hinduism, the country’s major religion, in hopes to better relate to the people.

“Our team has been training on the basics of the Hindu worldview and how we can better minister to them by understanding its strong hold on the culture of the people,” said sophomore team leader Brittany Petro. “Most importantly, I really hope that our team stays focused on first and foremost, this trip being about glorifying God, which is really what missions is about.”

Like India, almost three quarters of the population in Sri Lanka adheres to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. For 32 days several students seek to bring hope to the people after the recent end of a civil war in 2009. Thousands of people are now living in refugee camps, children displaced in the streets, and chaos running rampant as a result of the war. During their time there, the team will work with these hurting people.

“One can only imagine the escalating issues which will arise if there is not intervention on behalf of the people’s mental and emotional health,” said sophomore team leader Ben Goertz. “I also hope that the needs of the Sri Lankan people will be understood and passed on to peoples of other cultures.”

The need is great in Sri Lanka. But the leaders have hope that their service will reflect God’s love and overwhelm the great amount of pain that exists in the country.

“Our hope is to show Christ’s love through our care and service,” said junior team leader Veronica Castillo. “Through sharing testimonies, planning vacation Bible schools, leading Bible studies, and serving refugees in medical clinics, and counseling orphans, we hope to share the new life we have been given in Christ.”

Like Goertz and Castillo, other students hope to share the love of Christ through relationships as they travel to Western Asia this summer. For six weeks, these four men will be sharing the love of Jesus as they form relationships with the people through sports ministry.

Germany will also be receiving a group of college students who will be lending helping hands. For 20 days the students will be teaching English at a summer children’s camp, youth outreaches, and participate in street evangelism.

On May 18, 2010 the Biola community came around these six teams and supported them by praying for them at a specially designated chapel. Each team stood in Calvary Chapel as students gathered around and prayed for the teams and countries they will be serving. With the support of their fellow peers, these six teams now look to make final preparations before deploying into these countries.

Each team is unique in itself, whether distinct by their outreach ministries or the needs of people, but they are united by an overarching purpose for their trips: to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ.

“I think the most important thing to remember about this trip is that God receives the ultimate glory,” said Petro. “Missions is worship to God. That is first and foremost our goal.”

In light of God being the main reason for missions work, Tyer expressed her inability to love the people of Guatemala in and of herself.

“That I cannot lead my team or love the people of Guatemala with my own strength, power, and wisdom,” said Tyer. “But I must be continuously learning what it means to be dependent upon God for these things.”

Donations for the teams and prayer requests can be found on the SMU website.

Written by George Garcia, Media Relations Intern. Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.