By Matt Norman
Back in the early 2000s, my wife, Michelle, and I felt called to long-term mission service. As we discerned where and how we should serve, the Global Service Corps assignment in Toronto through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship kept coming to the fore.
Yes, the two-year assignment required us to raise funds to serve, and it meant heading north to colder weather rather than some exotic traditional mission location. However, what we discovered and learned carries with us to this day, some 16 years later.
Little did we know as we drove into the city on a grey August day that we would grow spiritually, relationally and emotionally as a family and as ministers. The friends that we made would cause us to reflect on our theology, worldview and understanding of mission service. And the foundation that we built would enable us to serve CBF in Atlanta and later as field personnel in Barcelona, Spain.
The first day of the Fall semester, we greeted new international students at York University alongside our campus ministry partners serving with Intervarsity International Student Ministry. A post-Doctoral student from China greeted me with the words, “Hello, can we have a conversation about God? I would love to know more about faith and the Bible.”
Taken aback by the straightforwardness of the question, it took me a moment to respond.
That year, we had great conversations about God. I looked forward to our weekly Bible study where he and other students met and we explored scripture. He also brought 7 different newspapers each week. In each one, he would highlight certain stories and ask questions about the stories. Questions about culture, vocabulary, education, and also theological questions related to the stories. That interaction taught me much about how God is working in the lives of people even if they have never read the Bible or had the opportunity to go to church.
As a family, it stretched and grew us. We lived in the poorest neighborhood in Toronto. Many were afraid to venture into our area after dark. Yet, as we lived, walked and met our neighbors, we begin to see the area in a new light. It was called “the corner of 100 lands” because it was a largely immigrant neighborhood. We grew to love the different cultures, the foods, the people and the celebrations of different cultural holidays. We learned about ourselves and our cultural perspectives and expectations, as we learned from our new friends their cultures and perspectives.
Before we realized, our worldview had become fuller, affected by our neighbors and those we ministered with and among. We were experiencing transformation and growing deeper in our faith.
That is the blessing of service.
You go with grand ideas about how you can serve God in new locations and affect change, yet you realize somewhere along the way that God is transforming you. The GSC program offers a great way for you to experience this blessing firsthand. But be warned, you will never be the same.
Matt and his wife, Michelle, are CBF field personnel currently serving in Barcelona, Spain. They were participants in the Global Service Corps program in Toronto from 2003-2005.
The Dick and Jesmarie Hurst Global Service Corps (GSC) is a two year mission engagement that provides an opportunity for graduates (and retirees) to: go and work alongside seasoned career field personnel & partners in over 20 countries; serve in a context that enables both giving and receiving of gifts; grow in their understanding and experience of how God is at work in the world.
GSC now has open positions for service in Uganda, Slovakia, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Learn more and apply at www.cbf.net/gsc.