An Exhortation to College Students: Leverage the Time You Have

The first week of January, my pastor sent me a message that blew me away. My sending church had not only met their goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) but exceeded it and set a new church record for LMCO giving.

My church wasn’t the only one that gave sacrificially and generously for gospel proclamation overseas. Hundreds of Southern Baptist congregations came together to fund overseas missions work for another year. From bake sales to banquets to silent auctions, churches found no shortage of creative ways to raise funds.

A New Perspective on LMCO

I’ve been a part of Southern Baptist churches my whole life, but this year I’m on the receiving end of the LMCO for the first time, and it’s incredibly humbling.

I just began a two-year term working with university students in East Asia. LMCO gifts make everything about my work possible, from the training I received before I moved, to the language classes I take, to the rent I pay.

I’ve never held a full-time ministry job, and I don’t have decades of experience serving in a church. I don’t have a seminary degree. I’m twenty-two. I studied journalism and history in college, and my only work experience includes being a swim coach, babysitter, and newspaper intern.

On my own, I don’t have the training or resources to engage unreached people here in East Asia. All I really bring to the table is a willing spirit. But by the grace of God, the IMB is able to provide everything else, largely through LMCO gifts.

Students, Just Be Willing

Reaching the nations with the good news of the gospel is a responsibility that rests with the entire body of Christ. College student, that includes you. If you are a disciple of Christ, you have all you need in him to herald the gospel overseas. You have much to offer this work right now, just as you are.

“Reaching the nations with the good news of the gospel is a responsibility that rests with the entire body of Christ. College student, that includes you.”

In fact, the flexibility of your years in college, as well as your first few postgrad years, gives you a unique opportunity to be part of reaching unreached peoples in unreached places soon after you graduate, just like me. Because of the incredible way Southern Baptists partner together, all you need to begin the work is a willing spirit.

This year, there were more than four hundred requests for recent graduates to join IMB teams for a two-year term of service. The need is great. But so are the resources to fund and equip you, thanks be to God.

I wasn’t the only recent grad sent out this year. Approximately seventy others were trained alongside me this summer and then sent all over the world. We came from all over the country. We studied everything from accounting to biology to women’s ministry in college. Some of us have graduate degrees, but most of us don’t. Some of us want to spend our lives overseas, but others of us plan to live in the States after our two-year terms are over.

One Thing in Common

We’re a diverse group, but one thing we all have in common is that we were willing to empty our hands of our own postgrad plans and let God direct our steps overseas. I’m not saying this was easy. Considering overseas service made me painfully aware of my own weaknesses, fears, and idols.

But it wasn’t complicated. I spent a summer in Thailand before my junior year of college, surrounded by people who place food and drink offerings multiple times a day at the feet of lifeless idols. I came back to the States deeply burdened for the lost.

When I began making postgrad plans the next year, I never had a dramatic moment of enlightenment that God was calling me overseas. All I started with was a clear understanding of the deep need many places have for the gospel, and a conviction that I needed to at least be open to helping meet that need. I started an application with the IMB the summer before my senior year unsure of where it would lead or where I even wanted it to lead.

As I took small steps of obedience, the Lord worked on my heart to make the job I have now serving in East Asia not only something I was willing to accept, but something I accepted joyfully.

A New Year’s Resolution

Students, if you follow Christ, be willing to follow him anywhere. Don’t buy into the self-deception that the missionary task is for a special class of Christians and you don’t make the cut. Be willing to say yes to God before you even know what he will ask of you.

If you don’t feel strong enough to leave everything behind for a season and move overseas for the sake of the gospel, join the club. Christ doesn’t call us to be strong on our own, he calls us to be totally dependent on him.

“Christ doesn’t call us to be strong on our own, he calls us to be totally dependent on him.”

As you start out this new year, resolve to consider serving overseas with an open heart. Christ may not be calling you to serve this way, and if not, serve joyfully and faithfully where he has placed you. But at least be willing to ask the question with a humble and willing spirit.

A year from now, you may find yourself immersed in a new culture, a new language, and a new ministry just like me. If so, I pray that seeing your church joyfully give to provide for you and missionaries all over the world will encourage you as much as it has me.

Stella McMillian serves with the IMB in East Asia, where she spends her days loving college students, perfecting her chopsticks skills, and trying not to get lost in the megacity she now calls home.