Bags packed, passports in hand, excitement building—19 women/students from SEBTS gathered together at the airport ready for a week-long adventure filled with cross-cultural ministry. This year’s London mission trip was the biggest yet, with nine single and eight married ladies taking part. Led by Denise O’Donoghue and Kittie Trail, the students knew they were in for more than just an adventure—the week was bound to be filled with personal growth and guidance from these strong female leaders.
Traveling across the pond was something I had always wanted to do, and I was thankful for the opportunity provided by SEBTS to minister, travel, and earn school credit all at once. Many of the women on the trip are preparing for full-time overseas ministry, and the trip provided them a small taste of what life is like for a missionary living abroad.
The week consisted of many different activities with no one day looking similar to another. We boarded a flight Saturday afternoon and awoke (for those of us who slept) to an early-morning landing in London. The first day of our trip was spent worshiping with an Evangelical Church of England, and then a scavenger hunt to help us learn to navigate the tube in London. The day may not have tested our mental or spiritual limits, but I’m fairly certain each woman was asleep early that night after such a long day and having had little to no sleep on the plane.
On day two I was thankful to hear we’d be receiving training for the ministry ahead of us. Led by the local IMB personnel, we all gathered together to review some of what was learned in our required reading and also to learn more about the background of the people group we’d be working with. It was fascinating to learn about how such diverse groups of people coexist together in one British city, and even more intriguing to learn how while they are all so very different, they maintain their identities instead of melding with one another. Upon the completion of training, many of the women were sent into the local area to meet and minister to women in the community. I, however, was part of the team given the task of cooking our first meal. The rules were simple, yet daunting—we could only shop at Arab markets for ingredients. Having never been to an Arab nation, I was unfamiliar with what ingredients could be found in such a store. Thankfully, the stores had ingredients similar to the U.S., and we were able to buy wonderfully fresh meats and vegetables to cook for supper.
On day three we traveled out to Uxbridge, where the IMB personnel help immigrants acclimate to life in England by providing free ESL classes. These classes were especially interesting to our group, as we were given the opportunity to meet and work with internationals from all over the globe. One other SEBTS student and myself helped a Syrian refugee woman learn to properly use –ful and –less words in her sentences, and we were also happy to play with her boys while she studied a new language. The conversations had that day by many in our group were fruitful and exciting. The second half of day two was filled with knowledge, as we spent the afternoon with IMB personnel from across the city learning about their day-to-day lives ministering abroad in such a diverse city. Each of the women came from different backgrounds, which helped each student connect to one of them in a different way. We were blessed to learn from such strong women of God who have left the comforts of home in the U.S. to live among different people groups.
Day three was my personal favorite day of our trip. We arose early and traveled to Hayes, where we met some of the most fun and loving people I’ve ever met. Many of us spent our morning at the Somaliland center learning how to paint henna on one another. During this time we were able to tell stories through our personally-drawn henna designs, and some of the women enjoyed our drawings so much they had us paint henna on their hands. It was encouraging to meet them and walk away knowing they had heard the good news of Jesus and had an imprint of the gospel on their hands through henna. The other half of the team spent their morning teaching a painting class to internationals in the area. Through their artwork the ladies were able to share the truth of Christ with ladies from all over and also provide a creative outlet for ladies in the community. Both morning events were without a doubt a success.
Day four was the tourist day of the trip, and different groups traveled through and around London visiting historic sites, national monuments, favorite local spots, and more. The day was filled with fun, laughter, adventure, and exhaustion from so much walking. It was definitely a fun day to remember by all.
Day five, Friday, was our debriefing day before we boarded a flight the following morning. Throughout the week, both in and outside of scheduled activities, we were all able to have meaningful, gospel-centered conversations with immigrants and even British people. We were all physically exhausted, but spiritually and mentally energized by the good labor that had been done in and around London. After tallying the number of conversations from the trip, we had shared the gospel with nearly forty people and prayed that all conversations would be fruitful in drawing the lost to Christ. The local IMB personnel guided us through writing down our highs and lows of the trip, and also gave us tips for how to talk about our experiences with others back in the States. We ended the day by once again going out into the community and sharing the good news with local women.
By the time Friday arrived, many of us were ready to head back to the States, but not because we were ready to leave London and all of the beautiful people we had met. As stated previously, many of the women on this trip took part to explore the possibility of serving full-time overseas. Thankfully, the Lord confirmed in many of them the call to serve with their families in an international context. Our excitement to return home wasn’t so much to leave London, but instead to rejoice with our families in the direction and growth the Lord had provided during our time abroad. And while not all of us were given clarity about whether or not we will serve full-time overseas, the Lord worked in each of our hearts to draw us closer to Himself, stir a deeper love for who He is, and motivate us to share the good news of Jesus with those around us every day.
If you have never taken part in a short-term mission trip through SEBTS, I highly recommend it. The trips are led by some of the strongest men and women of God at Southeastern, and the connections, training, and experience you’ll receive from such a trip will teach you how to better depend on the Lord in uncomfortable situations, stir in your heart a desire to share the gospel with those who do not know Christ, and will also provide you with class credit for your international missions practicum. Visit sebts.edu for more information about how to get connected with an upcoming trip through SEBTS.