A taste of missions in South Asia

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A team from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) experienced a taste of missions in South Asia for two weeks in May.

From sleeping arrangements to food to local customs, the team’s stay provided a unique view into the local culture. The team of 15 split into three groups where they encountered everyday life as they lived, taught and learned with the nationals.

Joshua Chapman, currently studying for an Advanced Master of Divinity at Southeastern, and his wife, Anna Kelley Chapman, participated in the mission.

The Chapmans spent four nights in a village, which gave them a glimpse of the day-to-day lives of the people. They slept in the mattress-free home of a local resident. Each day, they woke up when the rooster crowed, brushed their teeth in a nearby stream and used “squattie-potties.”

“One brother, when thanking us at the end of the week, memorably mentioned how much he appreciated us eating, playing and sleeping right along with them during the training,” Joshua Chapman said. “As hard as it was, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Throughout the mission, God gave Joshua a heart of compassion. “I was able to look into the eyes of Hindus and Buddhists who were completely and sincerely deceived and I hurt for them,” he said. “I knew that God wept over them as well. I am often tragically too objective and cold in my response to unbelief.”

One morning, a lead pastor in the area, took several team members on an early morning hike up a nearby hill. After reaching the top, he began to point out the villages in sight where he was going to plant churches next. “They needed the gospel, so he and his church we’re going to multiply in that direction,” Chapman said. “We prayed over him as the sun rose and I prayed that the Spirit would plant this same bold sense of mission in my own heart.”

“This trip was an incredible spiritual adventure in and of itself, but more than that it was a primer and a call to action for future, more extended missions efforts that my wife and I plan to pursue,” he said. “I refreshingly felt like a very small part in a very big Great Commission movement growing in South Asia.”

Hilary Ratchford and her husband, Thomas Ratchford, are both pursing a Master of Divinity in Christian Ministry at Southeastern.

The Ratchfords were hosted in a different village five hours outside of the capital city by a local pastor and his wife. The locals started their day at daybreak and breakfast typically consisted of plain rolls drizzled with honey, spicy chickpeas and “chai,” a black tea with milk, sugar and spices. The pastor’s wife served meals to the group as they sat in a circle on the floor of a small room.

The Ratchfords were on a team that focused on training national believers using a contextualized curriculum in South Asia, known as “Four Fields,” based off of the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29. 

The training included times of sharing and worship in the local language with lots of dancing and clapping. Each team member took turns teaching while a local partner translated.

During this time of training, Hilary Ratchford taught the nationals how to share the gospel using a simple Romans Road illustration. Then they went out into the village together and shared with over 70 people within a two-hour time span.

“Although I have been on several mission trips prior to this one, this trip stands alone in its intentionality to fulfill the Great Commission,” Hilary emphasized.

After the morning training sessions, the team had lunch, which usually consisted of rice and water buffalo meat in a curry sauce. “You would usually have to tell the pastor’s wife enough or she’d try to spoon more rice onto your plate,” Hilary said. “It is considered offensive if you do not eat everything on your plate.” 

Before dinner their team walked through the rice fields to the river to bathe with the locals. The women had to be very modest and swim fully clothed.

“Without the option of showers, we didn’t care what we had to bathe in,” Hilary said. “I felt like God was peeling off layers of ‘fleshly desires’ and exposing ‘respectable sins,’ as Jerry Bridges calls it, in my life. It was certainly a time of refining.”

When looking back on the experience, Hilary said, “The local believers that we ‘trained’ actually taught us. They exemplified true joy in the Lord that was not dependent on their circumstances or material possessions. … They were authentic disciples of Christ.”
“I am so grateful that Southeastern gives students the opportunity to serve the Lord internationally and partner with local missionaries and nationals all over the world in conjunction with a degree program,” she added. “My husband and I were so blessed, not only through the friendships that were developed with other students, but by having the opportunity to be in the ‘laboratory.’ So much of what we learned from various courses could be implemented and lived out in this trip.”

To view photos from this trip, please click here.

To learn more about the overall mission, please click here.

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