We talk a lot about changing the world, making a difference, and other take action warm and fuzzies. But can we really make any difference?
Ask any Veritas student, and they will probably tell you: “It was nothing like I expected.”
Why? Because they thought they would change the world. He thought he would be the next Billy Graham leading thousands to faith in revival. She thought she would spend ten hours a day nursing children back to health in the slums. He thought it would look like this, and she thought it would look like that, and they thought it would be just like the short-term mission trips they took with their youth groups where they built bunk beds and dug wells for five days straight.
But it wasn’t. He didn’t start a revival, and she didn’t heal all the physical ailments of the children. They didn’t spend every moment of every day “in ministry.” But things changed.
The way these students view missions changed.
Ask any Veritas student and they will probably tell you: “It was nothing like I expected—it was better.”
The mission of Veritas Christian Study Abroad is to provide college-level study abroad programs at accredited host universities while helping students develop as mission-minded Christian leaders.
We look at it like this: imagine missionaries (and all believers) go through a series of schooling and development just like we do with the actual education system. There are primary and secondary schools where you live under the authority of your parents, but also in the shelter and comfort parents provide. Your schedule is set for you, your needs are met, and you do as you’re told.
Then there’s college: the ultimate stage of freedom. You set your schedule, you may or may not have the provision of your parents, but they aren’t there to tell you what to do or not do. You’re free to choose when and where to go to church, how to live, and whom to surround yourself with. You begin to make your faith your own.
That’s what Veritas is. Veritas provides a rite of passage for students from the planned itineraries and tasks of organized missions transition to independence and responsibility of living life on mission.
Veritas students come alongside existing ministries and missionaries. Some are ex-pats and some are natives, but all dedicate their lives to ministry and to the Gospel. As Kat P. who studied in London last summer noted,
“Our Veritas group came to encourage and help [long-term missionaries], not to take over their ministry. I found this to be one of the best ways to serve cross-culturally on the ‘mission field.’ Encourage, support, and work with people who have been sustaining the ministry for years. It would have been easy for us to go to a park and pass out water bottles and share Christ with homeless individuals, but I believe it’s more effective to come alongside existing ministries instead.”
In Spain, Maddison M. didn’t think cultivating community could ever be as effective as medical missions until she experienced it firsthand.
“I felt as though this experience challenged everything I knew and believed—even the way I saw myself…Through engaging in these ministries, I realized my short-term work with these organizations paved a way for long-term results.”
Holli T., who studied in Cusco, identifies that change from a short-term mission trip to a cross-cultural Christian lifestyle.
“With short-term trips, I spent a week focused on ministry and woke up each day with the sole purpose of building relationships with kids or painting schools in order to share the gospel. However, in Cusco, I woke up and had to do household chores, attend class, and take public transportation to meet friends or shop for any needed groceries. Although we were part of ministry work in the girls’ home, our days were filled with numerous other activities. The Lord taught me the importance of allowing him to be part of my daily routine and look for ways to share him with others as I went about my day. I began searching for opportunities to be a light on the buses and in classrooms with other American students.
It is easy to stay focused on sharing him with others on an intense short-term trip, but upon return to the United States, that routine loses its hold…Thankfully, I learned how to minister day in and day out in Cusco, which is something I have brought back to my home in the United States.”
Primary and secondary schooling is a vital part in the development and education of children. They are able to learn in a safe place. College students, with all the freedom and coffee, manage their studies and their bills, their social lives and their faith. Veritas aims to serve as the springboard for college students.
We offer students the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and into authentic cross-cultural experiences that require not only passion but also diligence. Students learn to live in community, develop relationships, and live out their faith in an unfamiliar environment.
The mission work doesn’t always look like what students imagine. Sometimes it’s hugging an orphaned child, playing tag with kids, singing ridiculous songs, and smiling to the strangers around you.
written by: Carrie Hokanson