Well, it’s that time of year again. October has hit and at CBU that means there are less than 10 days till ISP/USP applications are due. If you are a student here at CBU, you know that these service projects are important to our community here at CBU. If you don’t know what ISP or USP is, let me tell you. ISP stands for International Service Projects and USP stands for United States Services projects. These projects take place over the summer, spanning from 11 days to three weeks. The Office of Mobilization sends out teams all over the world to serve communities. Two summers ago, in 2012, I had the privilege of serving on an ISP team that went to Southeast Asia.
Let me give you a little overview of what the months looked like prior to leaving for the field. The first part of the process is to fill out the application, get your references in and schedule an interview. Sometime before thanksgiving break, I finally received a letter that told me I had been accepted to serve on an ISP team and the letter told me when team reveal happened. Team reveal is an exciting and awkward time. A few of my friends and I arrived at team reveal, excited to meet our teams. There was a time of worship and announcements at the beginning, then they sent us on our way to meet our teams. The first time you meet your team is probably one of the most awkward moments ever. You don’t know any of these people and they basically just tell you “This is who you are going to be spending the next semester with and the people you are going to spend three weeks overseas with.” So, you have all this awkwardness, and then my team leaders had us drink tea and do crafts. It was an awkward yet fun night. The whole next semester was spent getting to know the people on my team and preparing to serve on the field. This was a time that I really grew to love my team and a time where I developed a heart for the nations.
Fast forward a few months to our departure. After spending many hours on a plane, we finally made it to Southeast Asia. There was a mix of emotions going on. I was both excited and nervous for what was to come. The first two days were spent training in the big city. Then we moved to a city south of where we initially arrived. Each day, we would wake up in the morning, have breakfast, do a devotional, head to the university for our class, come back, have lunch and coffee dates, and at night we would teach English. At first we didn’t know how we were going to be able to fill our afternoons with coffee dates, but it was easy to find people who wanted to hang out with us. Being able to teach at the English school gave us many opportunities to make friends. While we were there, the administrators put together a special program called “Coffee Talk,” in which we would meet with students at their coffee shop and go through a sheet of questions to help them practice their English. Most of the time, the students did not want to follow the list and wanted to ask us questions and hear about our lives. We were able to meet some great people and develop some great relationships.
There was one person we met during our time there that I will never forget. This guy was absolutely amazing. When we first met him, he was not a believer, but by the end of the trip we were able to witness his baptism. He had a complete transformation that was amazing to see. He would visit us almost every night at our hotel with new questions that he had from what he was reading in his Bible that day. He had started with the gospels, which have many metaphors, and we learned early on that the people in Southeast Asia do not understand metaphors. We would have many discussions about different passages almost every night. It was amazing to see the faith that he had after only a few days of believing.
Being able to serve on an ISP team changed my entire perspective on how we can bring the gospel to the nations. It had a great impact on my life and really challenged my relationship with God in a good ways. If you are thinking about applying for ISP or USP, I would strongly recommend that you follow through. It is a life changing experience.