For decades, mission has been viewed as a largely human endeavor with three simple ingredients: come up with a plan, enter a target country, and then execute the plan.
But what would mission look like as a primarily divine endeavor?
What would it look like to do something so simple and yet so full of faith and trust in God that it might seem radical and insane?
This is exactly what the GYC mission to Iceland this August was all about.
GYC’s mission to Iceland was conceived two years ago as a crazy idea among those of us on the GYC Executive Committee. We had all seen people reach small towns and even cities through literature programs and public evangelism. Still, we asked the question: if we could do anything for God, what might we attempt to do? A town or city seemed like an achievable goal. But why not try to reach a whole country? As we further discussed our crazy idea, Iceland soon stood out as a country that could conceivably be reached by a group of 50-100 people.
As the planning began to take shape and focus on Iceland though, I didn’t like the idea at all. Iceland is a country sometimes associated with a secular, humanistic culture and a very small Adventist presence. In my mind, it made more business sense to build success into the equation by selecting a country that would be more receptive and open or at least one with a strong Adventist presence that could provide plenty of enthusiastic support. Attempting to reach the country of Iceland felt like a setup for failure.
Despite my reservations, planning went ahead! By this point, we decided that approaching this mission trip with a traditional goal of distributing flyers and conducting public evangelism might not be the most effective use of our time and energy. But although we knew what we wouldn’t do, we weren’t sure what we would do. After all, the people of Iceland don’t appear to have many needs – the standard of living is high and services like healthcare are freely available.
This is when I believe God struck us with a simple, yet profound idea. We would just go to pray. Person by person, street by street, town by town.
The mission trip was now only a few months away and by this time those of us who were going needed to start organizing flights. The problem was, I didn’t covet the work I knew it would take even though I had said I would go. The difficult process of applying for a Schengen visa was not encouraging. As a South African citizen, this required a lot of work too. When I discovered that the consulate I needed to go to for the visa interview was completely booked out, I was a little relieved, yet conflicted. With some reluctance and a sense of obligation, I prayed God would make an opening for me if He saw fit. Actually, I told Him I would only go if an appointment became available within the next three days.
First day: nothing.
Second day: nothing.
Third day: nothing.
Phew! What a relief.
And then, right before I went to bed that night, God impressed me to check one last time. With even greater reluctance than before, I pulled up the page for the consulate and there it was: a dreaded green availability slot… for the very next business day.
I wasn’t thrilled, but I knew that since God had clearly set me up here there was no point following in Jonah’s footsteps. So I planned for the best and God began the miracles!
The day finally arrived for the mission trip to begin. No sooner had we landed in Iceland and we discovered that we were over capacity for the building our team of about 50 people was supposed to stay in. As quickly as the problem arose it was resolved. As it turned out, another large group of people who had made a reservation long before had failed to show up and a second building on the campus we were staying at was available. From our perspective, God literally caused an entire group of people to vanish and not show up just so we could use the needed space for our missionaries. Wow! With God working overtime so soon into the mission trip I was really glad I hadn’t stayed behind.
Over the next few days, there were numerous difficult circumstances that God resolved for us in direct answer to prayer. Each day, we would come together in the morning and evening for up to an hour of united prayer. Though these times, God drew us together in a way that we had never experienced before. But the power of prayer became especially apparent to all of us as we began to go out into the community. Although many stories could be shared from the 10 days of the mission trip, I have selected a couple of experiences from our team members.
“I came into the trip exhausted from three weeks of intense summer camp. I already knew that if I was going to survive and get anything done, I would need help from a higher place. To get anywhere, I had to ask God for strength, for words to say. God always came through. He gave me strength when I was at my weakest. He healed me when I was in pain. He brought people to me to give me a smile, and I knew that He was there.[One day] I was knocking on doors with another girl in our group. We were nearing the end of our last territory, and it was my turn to knock. A lady answered the door, so I shared my quick, little line: ‘Hi! My name is Eden and this is my friend Brittney! We’re with GLOW Iceland. We are Christians that believe in the power of prayer, and we’re wondering if you have any prayer requests that you would like us to pray for?’ The lady looked happy and called her son to join her. ‘Tell him what you told me!’ The lady, Barbara, asked. So I repeated who we are and what we were doing. Her son shared a personal prayer request and then we prayed for him. After we prayed, Barbara shared that her husband is a Christian pastor. He soon joined us at the front door and asked us who we are with. Upon sharing, he told us that he has a Seventh-day Adventist uncle. The whole family was very excited about what we were doing! ‘We’ve been praying for revival in Iceland!’ he told us. It thrilled my heart! That is exactly why we were there! To pray for revival! What a blessing to know that our work was not in vain. Other Christians in the country are praying for the same thing we are!”
“I was in a spiritual crisis before this trip. No one in my family goes to church anymore and it sometimes annoyed me that they would tell me to go on a mission trip to help my spirituality as if they had a good spiritual life of their own. One day I was browsing on social media when I saw a story about a mission trip opportunity in Iceland: the number one place on my bucket list. It sparked my interest because it was like hitting two birds with one stone. I could go on a mission trip like my family always wanted me to and it would be at the destination of my dreams!
Once the mission trip began, however, I began to regret that I was there. Listening to the testimonies of others made me feel worse. Why couldn’t I be as good as them? Some nights I just sulked and wanted to give up. One morning, however, Jonathan Walter talked about how we shouldn’t be discouraged if others are good at outreach and we are not because we were all called to Iceland for a reason. Of all the people who could have gone, we were chosen. That day I felt positive and even began singing ‘Walking with Jesus.’ Everything was just like previous days until I was dropped off at my last territory. It consisted of huge apartment-looking buildings. After distributing glow at the first big apartment complex, I moved to the next one which accounted for almost 30% of my total territory. It didn’t look like an apartment on the inside but instead seemed to be a hospital. I didn’t know how to reach the people there but I was bothered by the thought of skipping such a large building.
As I considered what to do, I went to the next apartment building and met a man in the parking lot. We talked for a bit but he wasn’t interested in prayer. However, he pointed at a woman who was just leaving the apartment building and said: ‘that woman might need your prayers.’ I immediately went up to her and began a conversation. She shared that her sister had recently died and she was struggling to recover from her loss. I prayed for her and continued to talk only to discover that she was also an Adventist! She wanted to help me with what I was doing so I asked her to help me share GLOW in the large nursing facility. With her help, I was able to get permission from the staff to talk with the patients and share my testimony with them as well as leave GLOW tracts on bulletin boards and activity corners. I’m not sure what plans God has for that nursing facility but I am still praying for them to this day. I hope my visit will make a change in the patients’ lives and their outlook towards God.”
These are just two of the many stories that were shared by our team members. I wish I could say I began this trip out of love and a passion for the lost. In reality, I did it because I knew God would use it to melt my indifference.
By the time the 10 days were up, 150,000 glow tracts had been distributed and our group of nearly 50 had reached over half the population of the country of Iceland. With few exceptions, nearly every home, apartment, and person in Reykjavik and the surrounding cities were offered prayer personally or else received a glow tract if they were not home. We encircled every area we walked in prayer, pleading for God to bring revival and Christian growth to Iceland, and we know the best is yet to come.
What does success look like when you go to do something as utterly radical as praying for a country person by person, street by street, town by town, no strings attached? What does it look like when you literally leave the results with God? For Iceland, only time and the progression of history’s story will tell, but for those of us who went, life will never be the same again.
We are thankful to the Iceland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the Trans European Division for dedicating their personal and financial support throughout this trip. Please keep them in prayer as they continue the work in Iceland. We know God has incredible things in store!
VP of Communications, GYC
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