BROWNWOOD – Aug. 1, 2012 – The Gospel of Matthew records some of the last words Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples while on earth. Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Four Howard Payne University students, who served as close to home as Tennessee and as far away as Uganda, obeyed Christ’s Great Commission this summer through mission trips coordinated through the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Go Now Missions and HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry.
The students – Marlie Austin, Kathryn Burns, Bianca Monge and Rebekah Steadman – first learned of the opportunities through a missions fair held on the HPU campus. They then went through a process called Discovery Weekend, in which they were interviewed in small groups by the Go Now Missions team. The weekend helped them focus on discovering what God is doing in their hearts and shed light on where He was leading them to serve.
They chose mission fields based on God’s calling and opportunities available through Go Now.
“Go Now has been a great way for our Howard Payne students to serve because they match, equip and send students to places that are in need and places that are well-suited for each student,” said Keith Platte, director of HPU’s BSM. “It’s not the places that are special, but the people these students encounter while they are there.”
Austin, a sophomore from Garland, spent her summer in Orlando, Fla., volunteering at a resort for terminally ill children and their families. She also shared the Gospel at local hotel pools through Vacation Bible School-like activities and working with children in area churches.
“Marlie is a great example of someone who serves even when the chips are down,” said Platte. “I know that she had a tough time with being away from home for the entire summer, but she has seen God show her so many things. Most recently, her team performed some skits at a local church with a small congregation. Afterward, four people received Jesus in their lives. I am so proud of Marlie for being such a great witness for Jesus Christ.”
Burns, a senior from Segiun, and Steadman, a sophomore from Fort Worth, were partnered with a Nashville church to help establish more churches in the area and minister to people of various backgrounds.
“Kathryn and Rebekah were specifically tasked with reaching out to people of a Kurdish Arabic background in Nashville,” said Platte. “They helped to build relationships with the people in the area, shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ and furthered the Kingdom. They worked with many refugees in the Nashville Metro area and built friendships with Buddhists, Muslims and many others of different faith backgrounds.”
Monge, a senior from Fort Worth, served in Uganda, where she lived in an orphanage and helped with the overall care of the children.
“I can think of no better ministry for Bianca,” said Platte. “She has a heart for people. While at Howard Payne, studying to be an elementary school teacher, she has also led our senior adult ministry. What a range of people to minister! I know that she will hold those Ugandan children in her heart and she was blessed to serve them.”
Platte shared a letter from Monge that summarized her experience in Uganda, as well as some of the experiences of the other missionaries serving this summer.
Monge wrote, “Within the two months I played several different roles for these children. I gently sat my “patients” down as I cleaned and bandaged their scraped knees and legs. I played the role of a chef as I helped prepare dinners for 25 people each night. I was a teacher when I prepared preschool activities to help the younger children learn their letters, or helped the older ones finish their homework.
“I was an artist when the kids marveled at my basic Play-Doh sculptures. I was a musician when I simply clapped my hands and sang silly made up songs to them. I was an athlete when I played ‘Duck Duck Goose’ and was never tagged. I was a washing machine when cleaning their clothes and a towel when they hugged me with their dirt-filled hands. I was a book when they wanted to be told a story and a pillow when they laid their heads on my shoulder to rest. I was a tree when they wanted to climb on my shoulders, arms and legs when playing outside. I was a student as they taught me daily how to have childlike faith and showed me what it looks like to have a joyous heart.”
Platte said the students gained more than they gave through their experiences.
“I am confident the things they will remember most will be the people they got to encounter and how God used them to help bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth,” he said. “They are taking the Great Commission seriously and I know that they will be changed individuals because of it.”
Photo cutline: Four HPU students served this summer through opportunities coordinated by Go Now Missions and HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry. They are, from left, Kathryn Burns, Marlie Austin, Bianca Monge and Rebekah Steadman.