I chose to go to YSMP this year because I had heard from my wife Jill that it was one of the best memories of serving one another, praying with one another and just living together as missionaries! Last year I went through the Masterlife class that emphasized the importance of evangelism and sharing the gospel to people you would encounter. Despite me learning of the importance of sharing the gospel, I struggled with actually sharing my faith to people including my neighbors and coworkers. I could pray for them to be saved but to actually speak about my faith as a christian was difficult to do. I also know that one of the three visions of our church vision is that we be a mission-minded church. Early this year with these thoughts in mind, I thought of going to this year’s YSMP and help serve the church, community and share the love of Jesus. Perhaps while doing this I may see my weaknesses in witnessing and try to break out of it.
I had set my attention on doing whatever I could to help. One of the first tasks given to me was to order dinner once we arrived in Phoenix. I took this task as it was offered early in our preparation phase at our mandatory meeting. I knew I could do research and find a nice restaurant to get food. This shouldn’t be too difficult, right? However, what happened next really took me by surprise. First, I learned that Arcadia Baptist Church would also need to eat. So instead of ordering for 15 it would be 30! Second, I was asked to keep each meal under $10. By the time I learned of the new order count and cost per meal we had already arrived in Arizona without having selected a location or ordered any food. Praise God, that I was able to find a restaurant close enough and within budget. By the time we arrived everyone was hungry and just finished the ice breakers! This first task even before we got to Whiteriver felt complicated, but I got it done thankfully with help from David, He Jie and Jonathan.
Once in Phoenix, we got a chance to rest from the long drive and early morning start. The church in Phoenix, First Chinese Baptist Church (aka FCBC) graciously arranged for us showers and sleeping quarters inside their air-conditioned gymnasium. To my surprise, the temperature that night was actually chilly compared to my apartment in Los Angeles. Even though it was cool, my first night sleeping was rough. After lying on the hard floor with my sleeping bag for about an hour I realized my body was not prepared for sleeping on hard floors. I knew beforehand that all I would be using to sleep on was a sleeping bag. But I didn’t realize until getting there how hard it was to sleep on the floor. I tried to overcome my discomfort with thinking of all the good things that would come from going to White River. This kept my mind focused on looking forward to getting to White River. In the morning, a couple members from FCBC graciously came to serve us breakfast. It was a nice feeling to have breakfast after waking up in the gymnasium and after having an uncomfortable rest that night. The church in Phoenix provided warm hospitality to us. Thank you Lord for these churches in Phoenix!
Our drive to White River took approximately five hours. When we arrived at Whiteriver the wait was finally over. Now it was time to unload our vehicles and start cleaning the church. I focused on cleaning and organizing the kitchen and storage space. While I was helping in the kitchen I noticed the cooking team already starting to prepare for the dinner meal! We were blessed to have Lisa Yip and He Jie as our cooking team. They worked together tirelessly throughout each day we were at White River and made some amazing meals! Sometimes they may miss the group meetings in the morning or afternoon because of the attention to their task. I saw how big of a role the kitchen team plays at YSMP.
Some of the planning came after we arrived and settled into our living and serving arrangements for the week. Some of us who were not leaders for the morning activities had the opportunity to support and help with basketball camp, crafts or cooking class. The first day of the basketball camp I had been asked by George Chui, who led the Basketball camp to be a team captain. I was happy to do so given that I had some prior basketball experience. As team captain, I had to keep the kids in my group from wandering off and to cheer them on. I saw my team win a couple prizes during the games! Even though the games were not that serious or competitive the kids all enjoyed participating in the games. On the second day, David Chang shared the gospel with the younger kids during a rest break. He huddled all the kids in one large circle, shared the gospel and prayed out loud with all the kids sitting together. Brian Pan also did this on the third day. I could see how the spirit was moving as the kids were respectful during the prayer. Praise God, that some kids may have heard the gospel for the first time! The basketball camp was a fun way for kids to practice and learn some fundamental basketball drills but also to learn about Jesus. I saw how these young souls and their destiny became more important than the drills and basketball lessons we were teaching.
As the days went by, I got more acquainted with the schedule we had. The beginning of every day after getting up and dressed we would have morning devotions. During these devotions, I had time to reflect on our purpose of being there and to remember it for Jesus Christ who I want to represent and share with the Apache people in White River. At the end of each day, Pastor Jonathan held a team meeting which gave us time to write things we learned in our journals, worship and prayer. It also gave us time to reflect at the end of the day and share to the group any praises or things we saw about how God was working that week. I saw our team grow more in unity each day.
One of my responsibilities at this YSMP was to prepare and give a lesson for the youth bible study. At home I assumed my lesson was done and printed out copies of my lesson to share. Yet upon getting to White River, I realized my lesson was not ready for youth to understand. It took Yu, the youth bible study leader, in his free time to help me get prepared. Yu (or Xie Yu as he is known by) stood by me in order to help me feel prepared. Overall, I felt my bible study had other setbacks despite my worry. There was a thunderstorm so we had to go inside once we saw lightning. After going inside we had to split into two rooms so we divided ourselves by gender. The women teachers, Francis and Marie, took the girls into one room. In another room, Xie Yu and I had the boys. I sensed the youth in my room were too distracted from the move so I decided to share with them my testimony. After doing so I had forgotten where I left off from the lesson. I am grateful that Xie Yu finished covering my lesson where I had left off before I shared my testimony.
As I got closer to my team through sharing, serving and praying together I noticed we were bonding and becoming more of a single unit! Praise God for our experienced and devoted leaders: Pastor Jon and DC who kept our team energized and engaged with our mission to serve. Also I am thankful for the leaders at Arcadia church whose devoted youth leaders kept their youth focused on serving and loving the local White River community.
In the beginning of my message I mentioned how I wanted to see how I can share the gospel and my faith to those at White River. I had opportunities to do so especially around the youth at the bible study and during the Family Fun Night (which was the last event for us). There are a few things that I learned from this year’s YSMP. First, I saw how the unity of our group became stronger as the days progressed. By the last night of our stay, during the group meeting, I could see our unity and bond so well compared to the first night. So in my experience at YSMP the unity would grow unless there were bonds made before arriving. Second, I learned that for YSMP you are going with a partnership with the local church. There were local people (young and old) who supported us while we were there. They prepared Indian fry bread, helped dispose of the shrub clippings we cut around the church, helped set up the basketball nets, clean and swept the church after each night and so much more! The local pastor, his wife and children (the Hoyt’s) were also engaged with the setting up and various activities at the church’s VBS week. Lastly, I believe I was trying to do as much as I could without help from others. Yet when I was at White River, I had to rely on my teammates so much more that I couldn’t have done what I did without them. Even for the opportunities to share my faith. None of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for this church in White River. The church in White River may look different than our church here in West LA. But the people who go there have the same faith as we do. They gave me the opportunity to share my faith with those at White River.
Thank you CBCWLA for giving me the opportunity to go to YSMP this year.