I am now half-way through the Equip missionary training program, and all I can say is I got more than I bargained for. During this 10-month program, I am training with current and prospective missionaries in cross-cultural evangelism and leadership training. My husband and I came to New York this July with the hope of receiving training in how to share the gospel in relevant ways with many different cultures. What we did not expect is that this was no “school.”
You see, when I hear training program, I often think of books, paper, lectures, teachers, even simulations for a “real” hands-on training. Yes, at Equip missionary training there are books to read, classes to attend and such. In Equip, however, these are not just “simulations” of cross-cultural evangelism, we actually live at the heart of an unreached people group. These are people who have not heard the Good News of Christ right here in my apartment building. They have needs and heartaches just as you and I. They are not just guinea pigs for my training program — they are people who God loves, people he wants to know him.
A change of heart
While the training program has given me much information and many tools to use both here in New York City and for use overseas, it is a change in my heart that has been the most effective. As my husband and I have been preparing for long-term missionary work overseas for the past few years, I thought I understood what it would be like. I thought I understood the need. But I was so far off the mark.
I did not understand the deep pain I would have seeing my friend whom I have been sharing with for months want nothing to do with Christianity. I did not understand the deep misunderstanding my neighbors would have, thinking that all Christians are like the actors in American TV shows. How shameful and dishonoring they think Christians are. I did not understand how much culture and religion are so deeply intertwined in their identity. But more than all this, I did not understand how much I would stop seeing them as a people in need of the gospel and start seeing them as people who God loves so deeply.
Not only has my heart changed towards the people I am trying to reach, my heart before God has also changed. I have learned my inadequacy on a deeper level than ever before. I have no ability in myself to make someone follow Jesus. Only God can do that. My one task is to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and might and to demonstrate that love to those around me.
Equip – the beginning, not just a means to an end
Equip missionary training is so much more than just a training for overseas missions. It is training for today. New York City and many other parts of America are full of people who need to hear the gospel for the first time. I came thinking I was preparing for the real mission field overseas, but I realized that in July, I arrived at my mission field. The harvest is ripe, right where we are. So whether you are looking for training before you go overseas long-term, or you are wanting to know how to share Jesus with your coworkers and neighbors right here in America, or you have no clue where God is leading you, Equip is the program for you.