How can anyone make an impact on someone’s life in three short days? Lillian shares how obedience and the unity in Christ has taught her to trust in our faithful God who is at work. She challenges each of us to listen to God’s calling.
My name is Lillian Hsiao and this year was my 4th time going to YSMP. I’m happy to be here today to share a little bit about my experience and how I saw God at work.
At this YSMP, I had two main responsibilities: I had to help lead morning crafts for the children and I was also a co-teacher, along with JT and Yujun, for the Youth Bible Study.
Leading Youth Bible Study was something that I haven’t done at YSMP before. In fact, before this trip, I had never been a YSMP teacher or TA for just one class. In the past, I had always done either games or crafts where I get around 20 minutes with each grade level every day. This year, I was pretty excited to be with the youth because I would be able to see the same faces for a longer time every day and hopefully develop a deeper connection with them. I was also excited to work with JT and Yujun, whom I did not know very well before the trip.
Learning to trust Him with obedience
On Day 1 of VBS, we had our first Bible study and the youth were very shy. This was expected. From what I can remember, every year at YSMP, the local Pastor, Pastor Hoyt, and his wife, Paula, always make a special note about the youth. They say that the youth at Whiteriver are going through the toughest times of their lives and are struggling with broken families, alcoholism, drug abuse, and more. Statistically, the Native American youth are also the ethnic group in the US with the highest suicide rates. The challenges they are facing makes it harder for a lot of them to open up. So, I expected them to be shy… but it still left me a bit discouraged. I started wondering in my head, “How are we even supposed to make an impact if we only have 3 days of Bible study? It will take 3 days and more to get the youth to even trust us.” During the debrief, Paula encouraged the group saying that often the church at Whiteriver sees the fruit of YSMP after we leave. For example, they might see the people who attended VBS and Bible study continue to go to church. I recognized what she said in my mind, but I still felt a bit doubtful in my heart. Exactly how meaningful is the work that we are doing? I prayed for God to help me trust in Him more.
Praise God, on the second day, I felt so much more encouraged. God used some of the suggestions we received at the debrief to help me, JT, and Yujun find more ways to engage the youth. This time, we split the youth off into small groups separated between boys and girls. This helped them feel more open to talking. I was also able to have more one-on-one interactions with them. In one conversation with a youth girl named Bailey, Bailey shared with me that she remembered doing crafts with me from three years ago! God used that as a big encouragement to me and reminded me that He is working. Even if we don’t see the fruit we expected, our obedience is not in vain. I saw that by coming consistently, year by year, the Apache people were learning to trust us and were able to see Jesus’ love for them through our love and commitment towards them.
Praise God that by Day 3, the last day of Bible study, we were able to share a comprehensive view of the good news of Jesus from creation to redemption. We also invited the youth to think about where they are in their relationship with God through the parable of the good soil. That night, a few of them were able to share honestly about how they felt about God and the challenges they faced with coming to church. It was through God’s power that they were able to open up a little more every night and I know that He is still working in ways we can’t see yet.
With this experience, I think God taught me to trust in him more: to trust that He is working even when I am flawed, even when I don’t know how to engage the youth, even when the youth are facing difficult circumstances, and even when we are limited by the time we have with them. Even when I have little faith, God is faithful and He is at work.
Partners in Christ
Throughout this trip, I also saw unity in Christ in bringing three churches together to partner for His work. Today, as we testify about God’s work in YSMP, we even have our partners from ACBC here with us at CBCWLA. I’m so happy to be able to see them again. I saw unity in Christ at work as we worshiped God together in three different languages: English, Mandarin, and Apache. I saw this as we shared different cultural foods from popcorn chicken and dumplings to Indian fry bread and acorn stew, serving each other through the time and effort of cooking. I saw this as all three churches prepared and served in VBS together. I saw this as everyone came together to complete the art projects.
This year’s YSMP theme emphasized supporting and serving the local churches. It came from Exodus 17:12 which says, “But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and He sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.” During the opening rally, the speaker explained that likewise, our role going to the mission sites was to support the local church in their ministries. We were to be like Aaron and Hur supporting Moses. This theme of partnership was present in my mind throughout the trip, reminding me that the mission isn’t a one-sided project or an opportunity for us to feel good about ourselves. Instead, YSMP is an opportunity for us to partner with the other churches and the local Christians to do God’s work. It is a partnership enabled by God’s grace and we are all depending on God. It is a partnership that is blessed by the unity we have in Christ which surpasses our cultural differences, age differences, personal differences, and more.
Challenged to listen to His calling
Finally, I want to share a more personal takeaway I received from this trip. On Wednesday night after the last debrief, a few of us from the team had a long conversation with Pastor Hoyt and Paula about missions. They talked about a lot of insightful things, but the one I want to emphasize here is about calling. Paula shared that receiving a calling from God was very important. She shared that it took her years at the church before the Native people began trusting her enough to bring their struggles to her. She said it was a spiritual victory just stepping into their house by the church when they first moved in. She said that if God had not called her for this role, she would not be able to survive and remain sustained doing ministry at the reservation.
That conversation kept replaying in my mind and it made me think about what God’s calling might be for me. It challenged me to be more prayerful about how God wants to use me.
At the closing rally back in Phoenix, we sang a song that said “Make me a vessel. Make me an offering. Make me whatever You want me to be.” God has a unique purpose for each of our lives and my prayer is that I will be able to discern what his calling is for me and to follow wholeheartedly wherever that may lead.
I want to encourage those of you here today to also listen to how God is calling you. Maybe He is calling you to next year’s YSMP, or to reach out to a neighbor on your street. Or He could be calling you to choose or change your career for him. Whatever it is, may God give us an open and obedient heart to see how He wants to use us for his kingdom.
弟兄姊妹們， 我也鼓勵你們學習聽神的呼召。或許祂是叫你去明年的YSMP，或許祂要你對職業規畫做一些調整 。無論神給每個人的計畫是什麼，願主幫助我們能明白也願意順服祂的呼召。