After taking a short hiatus because of worldwide travel restrictions, Youth Outreach Ministry Missions Teams (YOM) have resumed and offer short-term trips specifically for Pensacola Christian College students, alumni, and faculty/staff members. This year, five teams were scheduled to reach Ecuador, Spain and France, Chile, Australia, and Côte d’Ivoire, equipped to assist missionaries and churches.
When she signed up for her first missions trip, Emily Studer (Jr., MI) felt that God was saying it was her opportunity to go. “I realized that when God presents an opportunity to us, it is our responsibility to listen and say, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me,’” she said.
Leaving the Comfort Zone
International missions means experiencing different languages, environments, people, cultures, and more—but sharing one message of hope with the lost. Each team stepped up to help missionaries reach their communities for the Lord in many ways, including English or health classes, soul-winning, youth rallies, and more.
“Almost as soon as we stepped off the plane, I was hit with culture shock,” said Christina Wooten (Sr., SC), an Australia team member, who loves all things from the land down under. “I had to accustom myself to things being different from the U.S.,” she said, choosing to focus on what was most important: getting the Scripture to those in need. “I learned to be flexible with my vocabulary and realized that because people behave differently, the gospel could not be shared exactly the same way as in the U.S.”
“We were all able to be used by God in our own unique way on this trip, and that was beautiful to see.”
Eagles basketball coach Jason Bell and his co-leader, Eagles athletic director Mark Goetsch, anticipate bringing their team to Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, mid-August to help missionaries Bob and Becky Mach reach more people through sports and develop a template for future trips involving athletics.
This year’s trip will mark number eleven for Coach Goetsch. On his previous ten trips, he’s brought Eagles basketball players to Romania and has treasured witnessing firsthand how God changes their hearts and minds. He loves “seeing them develop a love for the people of that country, grow in their love for them (especially the kids), and step up and serve in ways they never thought they were capable (teaching Bible lessons, preaching, etc.).”
As each team went outside their comfort zone seeking the unifying cause of Christ, many great friendships resulted. Chile team member Bella Souza (Jr., GA) related, “Here we all are, students from all different backgrounds and majors, yet we were all able to be used by God in our own unique way on this trip, and that was beautiful to see.”
A Taste of Missionary Life
God calls and equips missionaries for a life of service. And while the teams came willing to serve, members got a real perspective on what that life could look like.
“Growing up, my church supported missions, and I really wanted to see what day-to-day life was like for missionaries on the field,” said Manley Hicks (Sr., VA). He had the opportunity to pass out tracts in a French village and felt pulled to leave some at the more isolated houses, burdened with the thought that these villagers could be easily overlooked.
“It doesn’t matter what you are studying or what your job is: God could be calling you to missions.”
Mechanical engineering student Mark Stavros (Jr., FL) also learned how he could serve on the field. “This trip [to Chile] showed me that having a good team makes serving much easier, enjoyable, and [can] even help me find the right words when I did not know what to say,” he said. Mark had the privilege to share the salvation story with children twice. “It doesn’t matter what you are studying or what your job is: God could be calling you to missions. I’m studying engineering, which is not the typical major to go on a missions trip, but God used me.”
Liberal arts faculty member Miss Anna Beth Oxner, first-time co-leader of the Chile team, was most encouraged by her team’s talents and spiritual gifts in action. “I loved seeing them completely immerse themselves in the culture and new experiences while standing in awe of God’s handiwork in the people and creation in another country.”
Realizing Religious Freedoms
The teams learned a lot about how open or closed other countries are to Christianity. The trips were designed to survey respective areas and aid many local missionaries. Each team connected with multiple foreign believers and learned about their cultures—with the Spain team even visiting sites from church history in Europe.
In Quito and the Galápagos Islands, natural sciences faculty member Mr. Caleb Bomske led the Ecuador team and learned how to present the Word of God tactfully. For example, they could present the Bible to an entire school in Quito but had to keep it individual-based in the Galápagos Islands. But despite the restrictions, Mr. Bomske could still see lives being touched. “This personal connection between people offers a beautiful platform to present individuals with the gospel and other biblical truths that can encourage them,” he said. “This was especially true for our afternoon classes in Ecuador, which involved children from underprivileged homes. Those kids were hungry, dirty, and sometimes abused at home. To have others investing in them and their families free of charge surely has a lasting spiritual impact, as well as a physical blessing of needs being met.”
The Spain team, which also assisted missionaries across the border in France, consisted of natural sciences and nursing students. They were able to evangelize and disciple young people through small camps because Christian schools are rare—or, in some locations, even illegal. But at Synergy International Christian School in Spain, “our students taught sessions on chemistry, creation science, genetics, and several other science subjects,” explained team leader Miss Heather Hartkopf, chair of Nursing. Nursing students also presented healthy nutrition lessons to the primary school students, followed by an after-school Bible club.
Having wanted to join a missions team during her college career, Rebekah Levander (Nursing ’23) had the privilege to go right after she graduated. “My eyes were opened to how incredibly blessed I am to have such a large group of young adult friends who are followers of Christ,” she said. “The amount of evangelical churches within Pensacola and the surrounding area doubles the amount of churches in all of France, and that completely changed my perspective on the privilege it is to be surrounded by a large community of believers in Pensacola and in my hometown in Illinois.”
Miss Hartkopf’s team had a special opportunity to explore church history sites and learn more about ministry to Jewish people in Europe. “In Paris, we toured several sites significant to the Reformation; in Southern France, we hiked to Château de Montségur, which was the site of early church persecution; in Tarragona, Spain, we saw a Roman colosseum where early Christians were martyred for their faith,” she shared. “The team definitely left with a greater appreciation for church history and our religious freedoms today.”
“Missionaries and ministries around the world are so real, and they desperately need your prayers and support.”
“Missions trips are a valuable way for you to grow in understanding how big our God is,” shared Spain team member Natalie Giffin (Jr., IL). “I walked away with a tremendous amount of thankfulness for my own country, but I developed a love for those in [other countries] and especially for the missionaries willing to leave their own home to reach people around the world. Missionaries and ministries around the world are so real,” she added “And they desperately need your prayers and support. Please remember to pray for them and to pray for them sincerely.”
With YOM Missions Teams back in session, PCC students, alumni, staff, and faculty can look forward to future opportunities to go on a short-term missions trip or participate through prayer or financial giving—meaningful ways to deepen the love for evangelism.