July 2016, Millennial Life

A Mission in the Desert

by Trapper S. Kinchen
Sara Stevens two days before departing for her mission trip. Photo by Keli Hayden.
Sara Stevens two days before departing for her mission trip. Photo by Keli Hayden.

Often times, we millennials are not fully aware of the impact – positive or negative – we have on other people’s lives. We are young, and most of us are comfortable deferring to someone else when pressure runs high. But, despite our relative lack of life experience, we all have the potential to influence the world in a concrete way.

Sara Stevens is from Holden, La., a community tucked in the dense groves between Baton Rouge and Hammond, where the local high school graduates roughly 40 students each year.

She is 22, and she is currently at work sharing the gospel in the Middle East. She will spend the next three months on the mission field at an undisclosed location (for security reasons).

Missionary work is the sort of occupation that requires a commitment to leadership and someone unafraid to face a challenge. But, it is also a job that any one of us might unexpectedly be compelled to undertake.

Stevens is a regular young woman. She attends classes at Southeastern during the day, spends time with her friends in the evening, and recently became engaged to be married. Truthfully, there is nothing that would outwardly imply that she is an adventurer or an experienced leader. But, there is much more to her than meets the eye.

Stevens is very much like the rest of us. It took time for her to develop an open and personal relationship with the Lord. “I was christened when I was a baby, but I grew up in a Baptist church. And, I got saved when I was in the eleventh grade at a Global Youth Camp,” she explained.

One of Stevens' favorite scriptures.
One of Stevens’ favorite scriptures.

It was at that camp – run by Global Youth Ministry – where Stevens began to grow spiritually and build the sort of leadership skills that would later come in handy on the mission field.

She spent the summer of 2014 as a staff member with Global Youth Ministry. Her duties included functioning as an official photographer and stand-in mother for her team. “We traveled a lot, and I was in charge of fixing lunch for about 20 people. I would make snacks for everyone too, and basically be the mama of the staff,” Stevens said.

She and the rest of the group toured Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, holding youth camps for local teenagers who wanted to learn more about Jesus and have an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Under the guidance of the Global Youth mentors, Stevens’ inner strength grew. She honed her instinctive aptitude for leadership with each camp she helped organize. The confidence and passion she developed while working during that summer ultimately equipped her for the mission trip she would undertake two years later.

Although she is well prepared to serve in the field, Stevens’ journey to her mission has not been easy. She was responsible, over the past several months, for raising the funds to get herself to the Middle East, and for having enough money to sustain her while she is there.

“I prepared financially by doing a lot of babysitting, and I’ve cleaned houses to raise the money I need,” Stevens said.

The town where Stevens will be serving.
The town where Stevens will be serving.

The self-motivation, fortitude, and adaptability she utilized at home will eventually benefit her on the mission field. When she reaches the Middle East, Stevens is joining her fiancé – a mentor with Global Youth Ministry – who works as an IT coordinator for a small Christian school in the desert. She will work alongside him and his team to spread the gospel to the local Arabic-speaking community.

The town where Stevens will minister has a large Christian population, and her service will have less to do with the sort of human aid work we often associate with missionaries, digging wells, building houses, etc., and will mostly focus on holding camp meetings and verbally spreading the word of God.

At their camps, missionaries take questions the local youth might have and help them dig deeper into the word in order to find answers. “They do home groups. So, every Thursday night, the missionaries go to a house and have a deep Bible study with the kids who choose to come,” Stevens explained.

Most of the millennials in the town where she will work come from Christian families, but their knowledge of the Bible is dismal. “They are often confused. They believe what their parents believe, but they don’t have their own understanding of the word or Jesus Christ. So, that’s what the youth group Bible studies are for,” she said.

The opportunity to have a positive impact is enormous, but Stevens will rely on both common sense and spiritual discernment to help her know how to best interact with the locals. “You have to know who you’re talking to before sharing the gospel. Otherwise, it could be dangerous,” Stevens said.

Despite the potential hazards, Stevens does not seem worried about her expedition. “I’m not necessarily scared. Flying by myself makes me a little nervous, but I’m excited to get there,” she said.

While political and cultural conflict currently disrupts much of the Middle East, Stevens maintains a strong perspective on it saying, “The way I think about it is this: Louisiana has a problem with human trafficking, and that’s dangerous! If I’m here everyday, facing real-life threats, what’s the difference between that and dealing with the risks in the Middle East?”

It will take every ounce of Stevens’s faith and courage to see her mission through to the end. The echoing of bombs from the Syrian Civil War can be heard from the town where she will sleep. Those bombs signify the displacement of over 13 million people, half of whom are children, from their homeland, according to worldvision.org.

Despite numerous challenges, Stevens will endure, and she is determined to effect positive change in the lives of the people she encounters. Like any first-rate leader, she is undeterred in the face of opposition.

A good leader is not difficult to define. She must be able to effectively communicate. She also needs to possess a deep capacity for listening and have a desire to help others succeed. “Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being in charge. It’s being able to work well with others and encourage those around you. It is not just about giving orders,” Stevens explained.

When Stevens returns home, she will start back to Southeastern, where she will graduate in December with a degree in education. Afterwards, she will spend the whole of 2017 on the mission field to see if the Lord is calling her there permanently.

583-2For Stevens, it is about taking the time to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say. “Don’t do something just because you think you’re supposed to do it. You need to be sure, and, most importantly, be patient,” she said.

If you want to get involved in the sort of work Stevens is doing, conduct some research on Global Youth Ministry and explore the opportunities they have available by visiting their website www.globalyouthministry.org. You can also donate to its work via the website through a monthly financial contribution or one-time donation.

Just like the brave men and women in the American armed forces, missionaries risk their lives to enact positive worldwide change. Just like soldiers, they need our emotional support and verbal acknowledgment of their service.

“People can help missionaries by donating money, with prayer or by sending packages and letters of encouragement,” Stevens said. Don’t hesitate to contribute in whatever capacity you are able.

“If you don’t know if it’s really the Holy Spirit leading you, pray about it. Wait. Don’t rush into something unless you’re sure,” Stevens concluded. Her words hold value whether you’re preparing to embark on an international excursion or choosing a college major. Don’t be afraid. With a little faith and a healthy dose of commitment, we can all be part of something great.