I Loved Missions Week: How Stories of Changed Lives Change Us

Esuga’s story from Sunday, March 10


When I was 7 years old I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. It was a warm July day during missions week at Westgate Chapel Christian and Missionary Alliance church in Toledo, OH. In the foyer of our church was a bulletin board with a map of the world. And on that map were push pins with lines of red string reaching out from Toledo, OH to places like Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, India, Honduras and the Philippines. These were all the places in the world where our church supported missionaries.

For one week every summer, these missionaries would all return to tell us stories of what God was doing through his global Church. I loved missions week. Every night of that week we would hear stories, and see picture slides and most importantly our missionaries would tell us that our prayers and financial support were being used by God to further his kingdom in the world. And at the end of that particular mission week, a missionary stood up at the front of the church and said that if anyone wanted to follow Jesus, to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior and to serve him, they should wait after the service and someone would pray with them. The Holy Spirit opened my heart and that night I became a follower of Jesus. And my life has never been the same. 

So the story of my Christian faith has always been inextricably linked to the story of what God is doing through his global church. That’s why when I was asked to join the diaconate at City Church, I chose to join the Global Team. I wanted to help our congregation think about ways to connect our practice of faith to the work God is doing through his church all over the world. One way the Global Team has tried to do this is through story-telling. During the January term earlier this year, for four Sundays during our Sunday school hour City Church hosted missionaries or told the stories of missionaries who have been called to serve in places like Japan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

For those who did not have the opportunity to hear those stories, we will be having a new storytelling session on March 31 when we will be hosting Jean-Luc Krieg and hearing about his work in Mexico City with Urban Mosaic. I had the opportunity to meet Jean-Luc for the first time almost three years ago, and he is an amazing person; born in West Africa, raised in Switzerland, trained here in Philadelphia and now living and working in Mexico City with some of the poorest neighborhoods in the world. My wife and I had the privilege to travel to Mexico City and visit the neighborhoods where Urban Mosaic is working and it was clear to us that God is using this ministry to transform lives.

One example was particularly powerful to me: we saw a park and playgrounds where there used to be a literal trash heap. Jean-Luc told us that when he first moved to that community he asked local leaders what they needed, and they all responded unanimously that they wanted to clean up the trash heap. Because it was in the middle of the community, people had to walk through it every morning to catch the buses that took them to work in the city. And at night they had to cross it on their way home. So Urban Mosaic mobilized a few volunteers to start cleaning the trash. And little by little, they cleared a small area. Then, as people saw what they were doing they added more volunteers and cleared a larger area. Pretty soon they had cleared the whole field of trash. Then they decided to pave a portion of the field and put up basketball courts so the neighborhood children would have a place to play. Pretty soon the local municipality took notice, and although they had previously ignored the trash heap they now contributed money to build a community center and municipal building. Now people get married there. This is one example of the practical implication of the gospel at work in transforming people’s lives, and in turn transforming their communities.

On Sunday, March 31 at 9 am, you can come and hear stories like this for yourself. I know that you will be blessed and encouraged and inspired by what you hear.  For a bit of a preview, you can watch a video about Urban Mosaic here.