LONDON—Hudson Smith wishes he hadn’t worn his nicest pair of jeans that day. But he’s not too bothered by the paint splatters here and there.
“I was up for whatever was needed,” he said.
Smith didn’t know he’d be painting a fence that day in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of London’s Kingston area.—just like he didn’t know he’d end up sitting next to Tadeusz on the bus ride home.
“I struck up a conversation with him about God, and he said he had been praying to the universe to show him the truth,” said Smith, a student at Louisiana Tech University. “I told him I thought that I was the first answer to his prayer, because I could show him the truth.”
For more than an hour, with his Bible open on his paint-stained jeans, Smith shared the gospel with Tadeusz, a Polish immigrant to England. Tadeusz was so engaged in the conversation he purposefully missed his bus stop just so he could keep talking with Smith.
“I gave him my e-mail address and asked if we could keep the conversation going. It reminded me of why I’m here—no matter what it feels like, God is always moving around us, working in people’s lives,” Smith said.
Smith was one of 70 students who traveled to London early this summer as part of International World Changers , an overseas student missions experience sponsored by the International Mission Board. Some were from his church—Calvary Baptist Church in Rustin, La.—and others were from churches in Virginia, South Carolina and Florida.
All of them spread out to spread the gospel in London.
“On the surface, the city is dark, but God is stirring hearts,” said Donielle Yancey, a college leader with Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. “People are open to having conversations. We feel like a lot of our conversations were tilling the hard ground to get the rock out so that the gospel can be planted in it.”
Yancey’s team spent time on college campuses striking up conversations with students about their spiritual state.
“It was definitely challenging, but they were more open than I thought they’d be—and very honest,” said Jessi Tomlinson, a student at the University of South Carolina and a member of Shandon Baptist. “It definitely challenged me to know the word (of God) better and know answers to questions that people of other faiths have.”
With less than 2 percent of university students claiming faith in Christ in London, the student body there is considered to be an unreached people group, said Susan Goodman, an IMB missionary who does student ministry in London with her husband, Michael, former Baptist Student Ministries director at Dallas Baptist University.
“Go to any campus, and you’ll quickly see Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindu — you can share with any faith you’d like to there,” Susan Goodman said.
In addition to campus ministry, the IWC group held barbecues in impoverished neighborhoods, helped out with homeless ministry and did sports camps for kids. They also performed street drama and handed out water and bacon rolls to partiers over the weekend.
“The conversations were amazing during the course of the evening,” said Michael Goodman, who also served previously as Baptist Student Ministries director at East Texas Baptist University and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.
“We shared the gospel about 250 times during that outreach. Some of these students that we met that night then came to our outreach events during the week.”
These connections will be followed up with too, Goodman said. He and his wife host a weekly Bible study for students who are seeking to understand more about God.
“The volunteer team this week really gave our work a boost,” Susan Goodman said.
Jay Mudd, student pastor at First Baptist Church in Leesburg, Fla., said the harvest came in unexpected ways sometimes.
“Two boys about 12 years old were sitting in a tree watching us build a porch, and they asked why we were there,” Mudd said. “I told them I didn’t come to build a porch, and if they’d come back to talk to me about it later, I’d buy them a drink.”
They came, and brought eight more youth with them.
“The others weren’t interested in hearing what I had to say, but these two—Luca and Dan—didn’t break their gaze when I was telling them about what it means to be a friend of God,” Mudd said. “I asked them what kept them from being a friend of God, and they begin pouring out all their sins—graffiti and a whole host of other things I could’ve done without hearing.”
He shared with them the heart of the gospel, and Luca looked him dead in the face. “I want that relationship,” he told Mudd.
Mudd was able to connect them with a local pastor who is following up with discipling them now.
“It was a good day, and a great week,” he said. “God did amazing things.”
International World Changers offers student teams and individuals the opportunity for a hands-on missions experience. For more information, visit http://www.thetask.org/iwc .