Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Most college students look forward to graduation with the anticipation that they will find their dream job. Jessica Gaines, a 2013 graduate from Oklahoma Christian University, found herself doing just that shortly after her senior year
“I’ve been in love with the LST (Let’s Start Talking) ministry since I was in high school,” Gaines said. “It was a total God thing that a position opened up, and now I am working full time as a campus team developer.”
LST is a ministry that began in 1980 at Oklahoma Christian. The founders of LST, Mark and Sherrylee Woodward, wanted to figure out a way for students to participate directly in missions despite the language barriers.
“The Woodwards decided to take advantage of the widespread desire of people around the world to improve their spoken English and developed study materials based on excerpts from the Gospel of Luke,” Bob Carpenter, professor of missions, said.
The study books are used in private Bible studies with students around the world.
“It is an open-ended approach to doing one-on-one Bible studies with people who are highly motivated to study,” Carpenter said.
Gaines, along with the other campus team developer Mitch Roush, will be traveling across the country this fall recruiting college students to participate in LST trips.
Oklahoma Christian students are not new to the LST program. Many people have participated in the mission trips in past years.
“I went to Natal, Brazil twice with LST,” senior Jess Tucker said. “I have gained more than words can express from being involved in this program.”
Branson Hartshorn, a junior at Oklahoma Christian and current LST intern, has been involved in mission work since the age of 15.
“I was the intern for the Shabolovka Church of Christ in Moscow, Russia,” Hartshorn said. “I learned by experiencing a different lifestyle firsthand and it is because of those experiences that I continue to want to do mission work.”
The one thing that most of the participants agree on in regard to the experience of being part of an LST mission group is that it’s a life-changing experience.
“I gained such a great understanding of the differences and how a church works in other places,” Joshua McCoy, a recent Oklahoma Christian graduate, said. “Just because someone does something differently doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing it wrong.”
Tucker knows that anyone who has the opportunity to go abroad and see how other people live will be changed by that experience.
“I personally have gained maturity, self-confidence, joy, hope, love, knowledge, strength, and humility from my time with LST,” Tucker said.
Aside from the experience of traveling to another country and helping locals improve their conversational English, being able to meet and bond with new people is an added benefit.
“I can’t speak enough about the amazing people and their generous, hospitable nature,” Tucker said. “I’ve been graced with the opportunity to build great friendships with the people of Brazil and my readers were generous enough to let me share a part of their lives.”
McCoy was quick to say that the trip was a huge opportunity for growth, in many areas.
“The trip really challenged me as a person,” McCoy said. “To be in a new environment, meeting complete strangers, and then trying to make connections with them was really a self-discovery sort of thing.”
The trips vary in length; one group could be gone anywhere from three to seven weeks. There are destinations available in five different regions: Central America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
“I think LST is different from a lot of mission programs because you have a lot of say in what you do and where you go,” Gaines said. “God places desires in you for where you want to go; it’s not just one place and one time.”
Carpenter has been on nine different LST trips, six times to Brazil, twice to Turkey and once to Russia.
“Participating in an LST project is a great way to grow spiritually while seeing God at work through his word and through his people in other countries,” Carpenter said.
Several LST information meetings will take place during the fall semester. The first will be Thursday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m. in Williams Branch Center for Biblical Studies room 128. For more information, contact Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.