There are 1.3 billion people in the world who have never heard the gospel. God calls all believers to go and make disciples, baptizing them in His name (Matthew 28:19-20), but reaching so many seems overwhelming. World Christian Week at Columbia International University is a time to focus on God's work throughout the world. Though missionaries sometimes may grow weary, God continues to work because, in the words of a persecuted Chinese believer, "They cannot stop us if we are not afraid to die."
Dr. David Garrison addressed the student body throughout the week during chapel. Garrison has served in South Asia with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention. Using Habakkuk 1:5 as his text, he encouraged students with statistics and stories of God's work worldwide:
Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days--
You would not believe if you were told. (Hab. 1:5)
But with the encouragement came a challenge from Garrison: Believers must to go to the ends of the earth, with the gospel message. Along the way believers may have to confront five major obstacles to the gospel: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, and Secularism. Garrison also reminded CIU that God uses all kinds of people, whether they feel impaired by their past, crippled by a loss, or think they know it all. God uses broken people to reach others.
"My prayer is that you wont be satisfied hearing the stories," concluded Garrison. He reminded students that, "the lessons you take and absorb ... here at CIU will impact the whole world," but only if we go or send.
World Christian Week involved more than four chapel services. Representatives from 26 mission agencies set up informational booths in the Rossi Student Center. Programs, luncheons, and suppers were available for those seeking council on their involvement in missions. Thursday was a Prayer Day -- classes were canceled as students worshiped God through prayer, singing, and another lesson from Garrison. A group named Proskuneo (which comes from the Greek word for "to worship") led the time of worship through multicultural and multilingual songs. One of the most power parts of worship was the reading of Habakkuk 1:5 in 21 languages by 21 different students or professors. A 22nd student stood silently to represent the 200 million people without the Bible in their language.
With eyes newly opened to the need and opportunity around the world, CIU students were ignited to serve God through missions. "This week reawakened my desire to go overseas," said Melissa Turlington, a freshman who wants to teach English and Bible overseas once she graduates.
"I had never thought about going to an unreached people group before ... and now I'm more prone to do it, more curious about it," Turlington said.
"Before, it wasn't even on my radar."