Zander is a first-year international intern (“STINTer”) serving in the Gateway City of South Asia. The following is the story of how God drew his heart towards reaching the nations in this city of 21 million people, despite very real and terrifying obstacles. It is a story of God’s strength being perfected in weakness; one of miraculous intervention in response to faithful surrender.
Last summer as a student at the University of Michigan, I had the opportunity to go on a 6-week summer mission trip to South Asia with Cru. It was a hard but amazing experience. It brought me to a place I didn't expect and didn't want to go: to the edge of death.
I have moderate asthma, and the city we were in has a lot of air pollution. My breathing had been a struggle for the 5 weeks we had been in country, but one night it reached a climax.
I woke up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe. Every breath was a desperate battle, and I became afraid. I woke up my roommates, and one of them went to get help while the other two held me, singing hymns and praying over me. I couldn't focus. My whole attention, all of my willpower, went into each gasp for air.
My body began going numb, and as the numbness crept ever closer to my chest, I felt sheer terror. I was dying, and I knew it. I had used my inhaler, but it hadn't helped. I used it again … and still nothing. I lost feeling in my limbs and stomach, and I knew this was it.
Suddenly, though, I took a huge breath. Again, I inhaled sweet, life-giving oxygen. “Breathe, Zander. Just breathe.” As my fear began to dissipate and smiles broke out on the faces of my friends, I knew with certainty that God had reached down and touched me. He had healed me. There is no medical explanation for what happened. It was a miracle.
I went to the hospital and got some more medication from the doctors, who confirmed that I really had been dying. After making sure that I was stable, they sent me back to the hotel where we were staying. A week later, our trip was over and I was home, where the air is clean and crisp and breathing is easy.
Not surprisingly, my parents were horrified to hear about the attack. They were so glad I had not died, but their fear was evident too. I had worried them, big time. I hadn't really processed my near-death experience, either. It was unlike anything I had ever felt. I had never felt more vulnerable, more fragile, or more weak. It certainly wasn't comfortable.
Fast forward to the start of classes: I found myself facing the possibility of STINTing – of returning to South Asia, to the city where I almost died, for a year of sharing the gospel with lost people who needed to hear it. I knew breathing would almost certainly be a daily struggle. If 5 weeks almost killed me, how could I do a whole year? Even if I didn't die, what would my quality of life be, barely breathing for months on end?
On top of my own fears and doubts, family and friends were concerned for my health and safety, too. I was advised to stay in the US, where I could either do ministry or enter the secular workforce in order to send others into global missions. People thought I was crazy for even thinking about going back.
And yet, I felt God's call to South Asia so clearly. I had seen the need: the deep spiritual darkness, the untold millions who lived and died without ever hearing about Jesus and what He did for us, what He offers us. The need was so great, the harvest so plentiful, but the laborers were indeed so few. My heart had been broken for the city and its people, and I knew God wanted me back there. But how could I say yes despite so much doubt, fear, and advice to the contrary? Was I willing to say yes to God, even if I was afraid it would kill me? Did I trust God enough to give Him my life in such a tangible way?
I am now writing this as a STINTer, from my apartment in the Gateway city – this beautiful but polluted city in South Asia, the place that God has called me to. I have been here for about 6 weeks now, and I haven't used my inhaler a single time. Not once. That blows my mind every time I think about it, how much better my breathing is this year compared to last summer. True, I am on a different medication, and it is working great. True, I wear a mask when the pollution is especially bad, and that helps.
But I know that it is God who is keeping me safe and well.
He called me here, asking me to trust Him with my life. I still had doubts and fears, but I said yes. And He has proven His great love and power by working yet another miracle in my life: I can breathe! I have been able to do ministry and live life here, resting in the confidence that God is holding me in His mighty and gentle hands. It wasn't the easiest thing, saying yes, but it is so worth it.
1st Thessalonians 5:24 says “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” I experience this truth every day here on STINT. God is so good to me, and is worthy of my trust. It is His breath, after all.
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As much as we would like to believe that there is one good strategy to bring Christ’s good news to the ends of the Earth, there isn’t. One technique may work perfectly in one conversation only to fail over and over again when we apply that same technique to other situations. Every heart is different, and the map to pierce each heart with the gospel is different.
"We’ve been praying that God would direct us to students who are ready to receive his gospel or who have already trusted in Jesus and are ready to share the gospel themselves. We knew these people existed on our campus; but, after years of reaching out, meeting such students seemed impossible."
We’re not always guaranteed that we will see our dream of students taking steps of faith come to fruition. So when we do see this dream become reality, we should see it for what it is, as a mighty miracle from God. And, to our continual amazement and praise, it seems like this miracle is occurring almost daily on our college campuses here.
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