Yasmine is a quiet, soft-spoken, South Asian woman. But behind her quiet demeanor lay heartache and pain.
Years ago, her husband contracted HIV and then passed the disease to her and her two sons. He died two years ago.
In a recent newsletter, Pioneers missionaries in Asia wrote:
As we walked along the beach on our spiritual retreat in South Asia, we began to pray and reflect on the past season of ministry and the coming one. There, as we experienced the waves and the sand between our toes...
Deanna and Sean* just returned from a two-week trip to South Asia. They went to meet the people, explore the land and culture and connect with several Pioneers church-planting teams there.
“I think a survey trip is definitely a must,” says Deanna. “The trip showed me how to pray and prepare.”
A week of dynamic worship in song, the Scriptures and intercessory prayer. Sessions designed for self-discovery, team-building and training. Now add 99 college students to the mix—each preparing to minister the gospel in one of 23 different unreached people groups for Edge, Pioneer’s summer mission program.
God is orchestrating their journeys of faith and obedience in His Kingdom work, part of which is spending this summer among the unreached. Each has a story of how they got to this point. And though I was unable to interact with all of these students, I did get the chance to sit down for lunch with Jonathan, a business student at Tarleton State University, while he prepared for his trip to South Asia.
At first glance, Jonathan is an all-American college student. His build and wardrobe betray his athletic interests. His polite demeanor, accent and “Yes, ma’am” reinforce the fact that he is from Texas. Jonathan is confident and well spoken. But his passion for God and people who have no access to the gospel stood out the most when we talked.
Jonathan grew up in a household without Christ. His family struggled through many crises, including his parents’ separation.
“It was kind of rough on a lot of sides,” he recalls.
Though he believed in God, Jonathan didn’t know how to pursue Him. His mom started going to church and took Jonathan with her. As her faith increased, so did his.
“For a long time, my gods were sports and girls,” Jonathan admits. “I found it really hard to grow in Christ when I wasn’t being pushed, and I had so many stumbling blocks in front of me.”
His friends were not following Christ, either.
“Deep calls to deep, shallow calls to shallow,” he said, referencing Psalm 42:7.
However, one night at youth group, the message really touched him. He experienced God’s spirit and presence. And together they enjoyed intimate conversation.
As he began to apply for colleges, he found himself denied for athletic scholarships. He even found himself starting to dislike sports.
“I told my friend that if I was accepted to Tarleton and rejected by every other school that I would go there.” And that’s what happened. “I had a conviction to keep my promise.”
On the first day of summer school he found himself in the cafeteria line with a defective student ID and no cash to pay for his meal. A grad student ended up paying for him. Jonathan mentioned to him that he wanted to find a church, even though he was still plagued by sin. That grad student and his wife took him to the local Baptist church where he was invited into a discipleship relationship.
“God put a guy named Caleb in my life to say it straight,” Jonathan says. “He would tell me to stop being an idiot. And surprisingly, that was really encouraging. He taught me to disciple others, to live for God’s glory.”
This disciple-making college ministry, called Paradigm, is a blessing to Jonathan and many others.
One night at a Paradigm meeting, a ministry called The Traveling Team presented the biblical basis of missions.
“God is bringing His glory to the whole Earth from Genesis to Revelation. It opened my eyes to unreached people groups.”
The Traveling Team, a partner organization of Pioneers, gave Jonathan contact information for a few mission organizations. One of them was Pioneers.
“Pioneers stood out to me,” he says.
At the same time, God gave him a friend from South Asia and used that relationship to give him interest in that part of the world and a Pioneers Edge trip to that region.
Jonathan asked the Edge staff to reserve each slot for that trip so that he might recruit other people from his college ministry. Twenty people who were interested began praying with him, and now there is a group of six leaders from Paradigm who will spend their summer surveying new areas where there are no church-planting teams. They hope to provide practical information for people who might go in behind them and begin ministry there. They will prayer walk and trek to hard-to-reach locations. They hope to build relationships and even stay in the homes of local people.
“The issue is that there is just nobody there yet,” Jonathan states. “So we want to be disciples by prayer walking, planting seeds, and being a light in whatever way God leads.”
Jonathan can see himself living in South Asia in the future by helping someone in business or starting his own.
“But even if we don’t ever go overseas again, our lives are changed forever. I am 90 percent sure that God wants me to be a missionary. Plant a church. Be mission minded. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I know I want to love God and glorify Him in everything, bringing Him to the ends of the earth.”
Please pray for Jonathan and his team as they trek through remote places in South Asia this summer. Ask God to work in them and through them.
Look for a follow up article later in the summer to see how their trip went.