SMU: equipping and motiving students for local, overseas missions

SMU hopes to motivate and equip more students for missions in the upcoming year, but it is up to students to make the commitment.

Ethan Froelich, Writer

After Missions Conference, students were invigorated and challenged to be mission-minded. Yet, students can face the problem of how to practically apply what they have heard into their day-to-day lives in the Biola bubble. This is where the SMU comes in.

Mission of SMU

According to its mission statement, SMU “ is a student-led organization that motivates and mobilizes students to align their lives to the completion of the Great Commission.” Last year’s SMU presidential candidate Ian Mayta, currently a junior double majoring in art and film, said that the words “motivate and mobilize” are key. “Mobilizing” refers to equipping students to go to other countries, crossing political boundaries to share the gospel with unbelievers. However, Mayta said “motivating” needs greater emphasis.

What it means to motivate

Motivating students to engage in missions does not just refer to crossing political boundaries. Mayta insisted that motivating students to be engaged in missions needs to happen where we are now. Already, a team of dancers is being mobilized to go to Nepal. Explorations are being organized by SMU where people can sign up to take trips to mosques and Buddhist temples in the Los Angeles area in order to build relationships with people of other cultures and religions.

When running for SMU president, Mayta tried to motivate students to get involved with missions whatever their background and wherever they were. Mayta’s pointed out that “it’s not about political boundaries, but about ethnic boundaries” — we don’t only participate in missions by going across borders of other countries, but rather we participate in missions when we engage another culture other than our own that needs the gospel. These cultures are all around us, and as more people move to cities and urban areas, our opportunities for reaching other cultures expands drastically. Mayta said, “If someone tells me they want to go to India, I would ask them, ‘Have you gone to Little India?’”

Emphasis on local missions

The apostle Paul is a great example of a man who places local people before distant people. While most remember Paul as being a missionary to the Gentiles, he didn’t start there, nor did he have the accreditation of being “missions ready.” Acts 9 follows Paul’s journey from Damascus to Jerusalem. All throughout Galilee and Samaria, the church was built up and multiplied. Paul did not become a Christian, change his ways, and then hop on a mule to the farthest corners of the earth. He worked his way outward — starting at home in Israel before moving his ministry out into the world. Paul didn’t major in intercultural studies, he made a career out of persecuting the church. Yet he is considered one of the most, if not the most, successful missionary because he followed God’s call.

Importance of overseas missions

Luke Payton, SMU’s current president, said that SMU’s missions statement represents the need to “think globally,” which was the slogan he used in his campaign for president last spring. While there is a great need for outreach in our local area, Payton believes overseas missions is still something to emphasize. Just 30 years ago, SMU was sending out their first overseas trips. For Payton, the lack of overseas trips for students, was a challenge for him at the beginning of his term.

Payton said that he saw the need for SMU to be a place for students to be better equipped and mobilized for the mission field. His dream is that in the next few years, specialized mission groups, like the group of nursing majors heading to Iraq, would become a larger part of SMU and that more students would get involved. Payton wants to see SMU continue to be a place of welcoming for students who want to get involved in missions, both overseas and in their local area.

Equipping students to serve

Both Payton and Mayta look forward to what SMU will do in this upcoming year. Payton said that he supports new SMU president Chris Johnson’s campaign for SMU to be “a place of unity.” “I am fully confident in Chris’ leadership,” Payton said. Mayta said he hopes that this year, SMU will become more relational, and a place where more people can equip themselves for missions.

SMU faces a change with Johnson as the 2011-2012 president. Yet, this does not necessarily mean a change in student involvement. While SMU is a student organization and more people should get involved, this is not entirely the president’s responsibility. Instead, the majority of the responsibility falls on the listener, the reader, and even the writer of this article.

SMU is our SMU, and it shouldn’t just be an organization that students know about, but a union that students have gotten involved in. Whether it be in the farthest corners of the earth, or off the corner of Biola Avenue, SMU is ready and waiting to equip and encourage us to engage in missions.

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