Burkholder Fulfills Dream to 'Be a Light' on NGU Mission Trip to Middle East
The first time Matt Burkholder ever left the U.S. was on a plane to the Middle East.
Burkholder, a junior business major, and 11 other North Greenville University faculty, staff, and student L.I.G.H.T. team members traveled on a short-term mission trip to the often-infamous region over spring break 2016.
“To be honest, I’ve always really wanted to go out to the Middle East. So when I saw [information about the trip], I just thought that would be such an incredible opportunity to really look past the label the Middle East gets of nothing but terrorism,” says Burkholder.
That desire materialized for Burkholder and his entire team during the mission trip through a variety of educational and outreach ministry opportunities, which included teaching English, hosting an appreciation banquet for area teachers, sharing testimonies in both small and large group settings, and visiting local homes.
The trip was not a stand-alone effort, but rather a continuation of a multi-year partnership for NGU, a partnership that Allen McWhite — director for Cross-Cultural Engagement and Global Leadership — believes has already begun to inspire significant changes.
“God is absolutely moving in this part of His world, and we are excited about what we believe He is going to do in the future as we are faithful to carry His message of hope and transformation to the nations,” says McWhite. “Each year that we go back, we are seeing greater openness and receptivity to what we are trying to do.”
Burkholder definitely noticed this openness and receptivity on his trip to the region:
“When we did the chapel services, it wasn’t really a requirement for the kids, but [the teachers] said that more kids came than usual to sit and listen to us and our testimonies,” he says. “And, too, when we went into the homes, they allowed us to pray for them in the name of Jesus.”
In Fall 2015, the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina approved a $12,000 grant to help NGU continue this long-term partnership. NGU plans to use the grant funds to purchase training materials, updated technology, and transportation for key administrators and teachers in the Middle East region to South Carolina, where they can learn new teaching methods both at NGU and other nearby schools.
These grant funds also partially covered travel costs for the spring break L.I.G.H.T. team, including visas, on-field transportation, room and board, and other logistical expenses, allowing NGU faculty, staff, and students like Burkholder to experience foreign missions firsthand, sometimes for the first time in their lives.
“He loves [the people in the Middle East] just as much as He loves us. He’s a God of all nations and cultures and people,” says Burkholder.
You might say that, even though he doesn't plan to become a full-time missionary in the traditional sense, this same driving force behind Burkholder’s decision to participate in the recent mission trip drives his career plans for the future. He's already eager to be active in the U.S. Army after college and, eventually, to enter the field of law enforcement.
“I look forward to being used to be a light in a dark area and to show the people around me the goodness of God and His love. You can disciple the people you encounter every single day. That's been good to learn and understand more and more,” says Burkholder. “To know that He’s receiving the glory and the recognition for [my serving] and it's furthering His kingdom is very joyful and satisfying to me.”
For more information about missions at NGU, visit ngu.edu/globalengagement
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