Do you Wish You Could Do Something?
When I was in college I thought it might be nice to do some mission work, but since I hated bugs and loved my blow dryer I didn’t think I was a good candidate. My church has always been mission minded and before it was popular, began offering short-term trips. In the mid 1990’s, during one of our church’s commissioning services I remember thinking, I wish I could do something like that! Later, I approached our mission’s pastor and volunteered my services but I never dreamed that he’d actually take me up on my offer. Before long I received a call from someone at Faith Academy, a K-12 school for children of missionaries serving in the Far East. The principal asked if I would come to Manila, Philippines for two weeks and teach some counseling skills to their staff around sexual abuse as well as provide counseling for missionaries and teachers in marital distress.
I remember feeling scared to say “Yes” and I quickly began to think of reasons I should say “No”. For example, I had never been out of the country before, never used a passport, and I would have to travel all by myself. In addition, I hadn’t written any books yet, didn’t have a PhD, wasn’t a professor, and I didn’t read my Bible every day. Why would God want to use me? I argued with Him that he should pick someone else. The Lord confirmed to me that I was indeed inadequate for the task but he assured me that this was my job if I wanted it. So I said “Yes” and began to learn in a deeper way what it means to walk by faith. Living in this great country doesn’t afford us many opportunities to have to totally depend on God. When He took me out of my comfort zone, it put me on my knees!
My first mission trip was around 1995, before laptops were common. To prepare, I photocopied a suitcase full of notes because I knew I would not be equipped to teach three hours a day, for 10 days without lots and lots of notes. Back on my knees! Since that first trip I’ve returned to Manila twice, taught in Russia, Romania, Hungary and Iraq (I’m still waiting for a call to teach in Paris). It’s been on these trips that my faith has grown exponentially and I’ve seen miracles with my own eyes.
For example, there was the time when I was in Siberia, Russia. I invited myself to go along with my husband’s sports ministry mission trip. Since I had no athletic value, I volunteered to train church leaders in counseling skills. On our way to the Moscow airport where we were catching our plane to Siberia, a van stopped our bus and asked us to hand carry hundreds of Russian Bibles into Siberia in our already stuffed suitcases. We didn’t know if we could fit them all in let alone cover the costs of overweight baggage. They begged us and told us it was impossible for their ministry to pay shipping charges. By faith, each of us packed as many Bibles as our suitcases would hold. Our bags were so heavy we feared we wouldn’t be able to afford the extra fees. But as all 20 of us hauled our bags over to be weighed, the airline official miraculously waved us through and didn’t charge us a penny more. We safely delivered all the Russian Bibles to SIberia, although most of our suitcases ripped after arriving and we had to duct tape them closed to travel back home.
While my husband’s volleyball team was teaching evangelistic sports camps, I taught pastors and church leaders biblical counseling skills. On the last day of class, an elderly woman came up to me and said, “I heard you were coming while listening on my radio. I’ve traveled 2 hours by bus each day to hear you talk about how to help people from the Bible. I was raised an atheist, I want you to tell me how to know God.” I was flabbergasted. I had assumed all week I was talking to believers. Little did I know that this precious woman came to the church hungry to know God.
The second week I taught in Siberia, I had the rare opportunity to train secular counselors, psychologists and even several psychiatrists in cognitive behavioral techniques. Although I would not consider myself an expert in this area, I am well trained compared to those in Siberia. I lectured (always through a translator), we did role plays, shared case histories, and took breaks to sip tea and munch on Russia chocolate. Privately many of them asked me what famous person influenced me the most in my counseling practice. In those moments I told them about Jesus.
Three years ago through an amazing set of circumstances, two colleagues and I traveled to Northern Iraq at the invitation of the city government to train counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists in post traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide assessments and other general counseling skills. In the evenings, we ministered to believers who were thirsty for encouragement and sometimes needed specific counseling help. In January 2015, I have the privilege to train seminarians and pastors at Havana Seminary in Cuba on counseling skills and strategies for emotionally destructive relationships.
I’ll be honest with you. The work is sometimes tough; especially teaching through a translator who you aren’t sure is saying what you mean. The pay is in spiritual dollars and you often have to provide your own transportation costs. But the rewards are great and the opportunity to stretch your faith is enormous.
As Biblical counselors, you and I have training that most of the world does not have. During this holiday season, I’d like to challenge you to gift some of your time and expertise to Christian leaders in a foreign country, sharing what you know. I could tell you more of what God has taught me through these mission trips but if you’d like to see some photos, you can view them athttp://www.facebook.com/LeslieVernickFanPage?v=photos&ref=ts and scroll through the photo albums.
On January 12, I leave for Cuba. I would deeply appreciate your prayers.
Posted on December 8, 2014