"This is it. We're really doing it."
Reid Stevens' Journey to South Asia
During the final hour of our last leg of what was a total of 21 hours of flight time, I took a deep breath because that was when I first realized that this was not going to be a routine mission trip like ones I had been on in the past. We circled above the airport for almost an hour due to a very aggressive dust storm below, which I later learned shut down the schools for a couple of days. The pilot lifted his mic to announce that we had 30 more minutes of fuel before we have to divert. Divert? “What on earth does he mean by divert?,” I asked Nathan Taylor. The well-dressed gentleman across the row leaned over and said, “I travel a lot for business, and this is the most difficult place to land a plane.” Like I said, this was when I realized that this would not be routine. I am all about routine—from the amount of coffee I drink every day to the routes I take to work and class, to the order in which I get dressed in the morning. This trip could not have been further from what any of us would consider routine. This trip broke me, Reid Stevens, out of my comfort zone, and I thank God for that.
We finally landed at approximately 12:00 am on May 11th. Standing to stretch my legs after such an exhausting travel schedule felt like, well, you know the feeling. The smell I first noticed was that of a Bath and Body Works sea breeze candle; it is one that I will never forget, and one that I will forever associate with so many wonderful stories and memories that are far greater than any smell one could ever experience. As we navigated through the full and unclean South Asian airport, we found the missionary and his two boys who were waiting on us outside in the parking garage. He took us to a very nice hotel where we were able to shower, which was much needed after 21+ hours of travel. Isaac Parker and I woke up the following morning to a knock on the door from Nathan. As we answered it, he greeted us by saying, “This is it. We’re really doing it.” This phrase was one that was spoken aloud more times than I could count as we experienced spectacular views, ate interesting foods, and smelled indescribable smells.
The Real Journey Begins
We departed early the next morning for the city where the missionary and his family lived, which was a 6-hour drive. This wasn’t exactly ideal after the travel we hadn’t even recovered from yet, but, again, this was not a routine trip. On our journey across the crowded, chaotic, and rather bumpy highway, we had the pleasure of catching up with the missionary and hearing about all of the ways that God was using him and the other missionaries there to reach the people groups and villages of South Asia. We learned that their main priority is to share the gospel with South Asian people with hopes that they will then become pastors and missionaries themselves through the effective training of the missionaries. He told us that we would have the opportunity to meet several of those people and that we were actually going to stop for lunch on our way to his house to meet with some pastors and church planters.
The tall apartment complex with paint peeling off the side, bending balcony rails, and stray dogs running around everywhere, was a highly sought-after place to live compared to most other living conditions in the area. As we walked into the courtyard that was sandy with patches of grass, we saw a handful of kids who lived in the complex with their relatives playing cricket. “This is it. We’re really doing it,” I thought to myself. We continued up the elevator to the 6th floor, and we were welcomed by a most hospitable family and friends who invited us in for conversation, coke, and lunch. We sat across the room from church planters who were responsible for the planting, growing, and discipling of over 200 churches. “Whoa,” was all that I could say. They chatted with us, shared life stories with us, taught us, and encouraged us. This was precisely what we all needed after all of the travel. I am thankful for the fruitful time we spent with these brothers and their families.
People Believe in Jesus
We met our primary driver and translator on the morning of May 13th and began our journey to a village to train and equip local pastors in sharing the gospel and discipleship. It was such a long journey that we had to stop a little over the halfway mark to rest. This provided us with our first opportunity of the trip to share the gospel. The man who owned the home where we spent the night was an unbeliever, but God opened the door for us to stay up late into the night to share the gospel with him. As we sat on the floor covered with blankets, pillows, and the occasional spider or other South Asian insect, we took turns sharing the gospel as the others whispered prayers to God for his salvation. Although the man was very hospitable, he refused to believe in the gospel. This was going to be an unlikely place to see people believe, or so I thought.
As the journey in the cramped cars with no backseat air conditioning continued through the wavy roads hugging the sides of the mountains, we pulled over to share the gospel with some cow herders and later, some farmers. As I shared and the native believer translated, I saw the eyes of the dirty, smelly, thirsty cow - herders begin to be opened. I was sharing all I knew about the gospel as the translator and the herders were speaking back and forth in loud voices, so I thought this was going horribly until the translator looked at me and said, “They are ready to believe. Tell them what to do.” All Isaac and I could do was grin in awe as we looked into the eyes of these bearded, sweaty, and very grateful men and led them to “confess with [their] mouth[s] that Jesus is Lord and believe in [their] heart[s] that God raised Him from the dead” (Rom 10:9). These four men were saved! To be a part of this and three other salvations that day blew me away. Praise God for new citizens of the Kingdom!
Pastors are Trained
Late on the night that we shared the gospel with the herders and farmers, we arrived at a pastor's home to get a good night of sleep in order to train 10 pastors in a place that has a high resistance to the truth of Jesus. I was dozing in and out as all of the pastors, our translators, and Nathan and Isaac fellowshipped with one another. On one occasion of falling asleep for a few minutes and waking back up, I opened my eyes to a spider on the wall by my face that seemed to be 5 inches in diameter. What woke me up for good that evening was my attempt to kill it with Nathan’s crocs. The pastors got a long laugh out of the sight of my attempt to kill a spider that they deemed harmless, but that I saw as a death threat. I will admit that I am a bit of a baby when it comes to spiders, and the pastors did not fail to remind me of that throughout the next day.
Through the laughter over the spider incident, we were able to teach and train pastors who I felt were way more knowledgeable and definitely more experienced than I was. This was a humbling experience as we all stood to lead our segment of the training and whispered prayers for them as we sat and the next person taught. I use the word humbling because for the first time in my life I returned to my seat on the ground from the podium and thought to myself, “every single person in here listened to every word, understood (thanks to the translator), and will go out and practice what God gave me the opportunity to teach.” I still pray for these pastors today, and I do so with confidence because I know in my heart that they are looking at each other, as they labor in the harvest (Luke 10:2), and saying, “This is it. We’re really doing it.”
Although I was only able to fit in a few short stories, I hope that this gives you insight into what God used Nathan, Isaac, and myself to do in only 10 days in South Asia, and what the missionaries and national partners are still doing and witnessing right now. This indeed is an indescribable experience that I have learned tremendously from and will never forget. We look at each other and people we share our experiences with now and say, “That was it. We really did it.”
Our story doesn’t end there, and it doesn't only include the three of us on the trip. It is merely the beginning, and you’re invited to make an eternal impact every day by being intentional with your classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and all of Starkville! I encourage you to be courageous and step out of your routine so that you can look at your friends and family and say, “This is it. We’re really doing it.”