When Emily Zhang went to Kenya in 2013, she wasn’t a Christian, but her teammates and her experiences pointed her to Christ and have forever impacted her life. Check out her story below:
How did you know God was calling you to go on a short-term mission trip?
At the time, I didn’t feel that God was calling me on this trip. Looking back, I can see that it was so clearly the Lord. When I went to Kenya in July 2013, I was not a Christian. I was a strong atheist and actively avoided Christians. I told my dad after coming back from a service trip to Brazil that I wanted to go to Kenya. A few weeks later, he came back and told me that one of his patients was bringing a group that upcoming summer.
What was the most memorable experience on your trip?
The most memorable times during that trip were the nights when my roommate would ask me about my opinions on Jesus, the Gospel, and Christianity. She was so open and understanding to my thoughts, and she helped me view Christians in a different light.
What was the biggest surprise of your trip?
The biggest surprise was to learn that the girls on the trip struggled with some of the same things that I did – there were some sins that I was so afraid of sharing, but I learned that they struggled with them too. Their vulnerability drew me into this community, and ultimately led me to discover Christ.
How has your short-term missional experience impact your daily life and/or your faith?
This trip impacted my life in such a powerful way. I found a group of girls that encouraged me and loved me for who I was, before I was even saved, in the midst of my darkness. I found the Lord, and discovered that He is in fact gracious towards me, and that He offers me fulfilling hope and love. It was from this trip that not only did I become a follower of Christ, but where I started to discover a calling to go into missions long-term.
What advice would you give someone who is considering going on a short-term mission trip?
Pray. For the mission trips I have gone on since going to Kenya, I was very unintentional with some and very intentional with others. A mission trip is not a rite of passage for Christians to go through. Rather, it is an avenue that the Lord may or may not be leading you towards at this moment in your life.
Also, be aware of people with you. Everyone on the 2013 Kenya trip was a Christian, and I was the only non- Christian. It was because of the community they showed me that I began to have my eyes opened to the possibility of what following and believing in Christ looks like.