“I Need Religion!”

ASIA 2018

by Joanna Grove, Grace OPC, Vienna, VA (August 2018)

Joanna Grove and her twin sister, Janelle, both served in Asia this summer

I returned this past week from Asia where I got to play a small role in the longer-term work that’s taking place there. For five weeks, I taught a daily English class and lived with five local students as part of the English House program.

The students’ curiosity about foreigners created opportunities for me and the other summer volunteers to talk about our faith in the context of sharing our lives and culture. Everyday, I participated in a class with my roommates -- leading a group discussion, helping them study, and grading their homework. We participated in many group projects and activities. Because we lived together, my roommates would ask me questions about what I was doing every morning when I would leave the room with my Bible, or why I thought I should thank God for the food before every meal.

I was very grateful that one of my roommates in particular opened up to me and showed great interest in Christianity. Early on, as we talked about both of our health problems, she shared with me about her severe mental and emotional problems and an extremely difficult family background. I got to tell her that she’s beautiful and special and here for a reason. Over the next few weeks, she asked me questions about hell, evolution, and the purpose of life. She told me about her belief in multiple realities and how she has already convinced several people to believe like her.

One day, the two of us were alone in our room. From the bunk above me, she started telling me about how hard it is to be the way she is. She feels like no one can understand her. I sympathized for a while, and she kept sharing, so I told her that I had just been reading part of the Bible that tells us how God knows us and understands us completely. Almost before the words were out of my mouth, she stuck her head over the side of the bed, looked down at me, and passionately said, “I need religion.”

She came down next to me, and I let her read part of Psalm 139 in her language from my bilingual Bible. She loved it and asked if she could sometimes read with me in the mornings. Of course, I was thrilled! She was so excited when I gave her a Bible in her own language. I knew she was reading it because I would see it in the study room next to her homework. We never got to read together, but she kept challenging me with hard questions. I answered what questions I could, and she appreciated that I graciously listened to her questioning.

Near the end of my time there, I was a bit discouraged that I hadn’t had an opportunity to be more direct about the whole message of Christianity. I asked people to pray that I would have that opportunity, and God provided a day when my roommate said she was available to talk in a private place. All through the day, she kept pushing our meeting back to a later time, until it seemed like it was completely too late. I had to learn to trust God that He has the best timing even for someone’s salvation. Finally that night, we had time alone together in our room, and I got to share the gospel with her thoroughly. She seemed to understand her sin and the offer of salvation. Our time was cut short a little sooner than I would have liked, but I got to share the most important things. Later that night, my roommate came back into the room again carrying her Bible; I knew she must have been reading. It warmed my heart so much!

Please take a moment right now to pray for my roommate’s salvation.

I praise the Lord for the privilege of being part of the work this summer and part of this girl’s journey. It strengthened my faith to see how He brought it about and answered the prayers of so many people each step along the way. I also praise the Lord for the workers who are there longer-term and can follow up with my roommate, share with her in her own language, and take her to church.

I encourage anyone college-age to 20s or 30s to seriously consider joining this work for a summer. English House is only part of what you get to do during the five weeks. You get to experience local life and culture, interact with students from the class you teach, and get to know and participate in the OPC team there. English House is truly a unique privilege and opportunity. These students have professors in their lives who meet with them regularly and invest in them spiritually, but these professors never have a chance to room with and interact so closely with their students. Five weeks is a short time, but because of the way it fits with the longer-term workers there, it can have a deep impact on the students.

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