“That woman sitting over there is crying,” I said. Anna turned around, taking a quick glance. “Do you think we should talk to her?” she asked. “Maybe you should approach her first,” I suggested. Anna walked over to her, “Are you okay?” The woman wiped the tears from her eyes, and with a thick accent said “No English, only Russian.” Anna motioned to me, I said a quick prayer, scooted my chair over to the lady’s table and prepared to switch my mind into translator mode.
Anna is a senior at Moody Bible Institute (MBI) in Chicago and spent this past summer in Russia as part of our EnGage! team. I had the privilege of meeting her when I was there for two weeks visiting the field. This October I represented InterAct during MBI’s missions conference, connected with Anna to see how she was doing and to debrief a little about her summer. She suggested we take a short trip to a Slavic section of the city to try out a bakery where we could get some authentic Russian food. It was there that God opened up the door to meet this lady, hear her story, and hopefully start a relationship with her that will lead to a lasting impact in her life.
Say the word “mobilization” around missions people and the first thing that comes to mind is usually “recruitment.” And while it is that, it’s so much more. When our InterAct mobilizers visit campuses and represent the mission at conferences, we certainly are working to get the word out about opportunities to make disciples among the least-reached peoples of the North Pacific Crescent. But the potential for making an impact goes far beyond simply gathering a list of names and checking a box if they send in an application.
One definition of “mobilize” is to “organize and prepare for action.” The action here being workers going out into the harvest. It’s oftentimes used in a military context to speak of an army “mobilizing for battle.” There’s planning, preparation, equipping, strategizing, etc. And with Scripture reminding us again and again that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, it’s an appropriate term to use.
Frequently our mission mobilizers encounter students that are looking for as much guidance, advice and wisdom as they can. They’re passionate to serve the Lord and want to be faithful to him, but are wrestling with questions like, “Where is God calling me to serve? Am I ready to go? Will I be able to raise my support?” and some even ask, “Should I marry the person I’m dating now?” While we always take the time to share with these students the opportunities we have at InterAct, we also strongly desire to build relationships with them. We have coffee with them or take them out for a meal, email them and call them on the phone. We connect with them on Facebook and listen to their concerns and struggles. We pray with them.
In the midst of this relationship amazing things can happen. I think about the door God opened for me and Anna to speak with the Russian lady at the bakery and all of the circumstances that had to line up for us to meet at that providential moment. It’s a poignant reminder that God is in control. And it also illustrates the importance of building genuine relationships with students as we’re mobilizing. Had it merely been about trying to get a student to join our mission, we would have missed sharing that amazing opportunity.