At times unbelievers, those who have not yet met Christ, come on an SI outreach. Some of these adventurous souls make a life-changing decision while on their trip. Team leader Cindy Noblitt had a front-row seat at the life-transformational power of the Holy Spirit when she brought her group down last year. Here is their story:
Alex, a Chinese international student at Heritage Christian School in the Los Angeles area, heard about the upcoming Students International outreach in the Dominican Republic and signed himself up with his parents’ encouragement. When his leader Cindy asked if he knew Jesus, he said no. But, he said, he would like to go and serve. Cindy encouraged him to still come along, but that he should be sure to keep his ears and heart open to whatever the Lord has planned for him.
The team arrived on Saturday evening. The next morning, Palm Sunday, Alex went on a hike with some of his teammates. One of these students, another international student named Leon, asked Alex a lot of questions while hiking. Leon asked Alex about his thoughts on Christianity. Other students shared some of their faith experiences, which really started turning the wheels for Alex as he thought about his own stance towards the God of the Bible. That afternoon they went to church. Alex said the church service was eye-opening. The people worshiped because they were passionate about the Lord. They were crying, kneeling, and everything seemed to really matter to them.
That Sunday night was “culture night.” Jim Ralstin and Junior, site leaders at the Young Men’s Social Work site where they’d be reaching out to the Haitian-refugee shoe-shine boys living on the streets, came to the base to help with teaching the students about Dominican culture. Afterwards, Jim and Junior talked with the kids from Heritage Christian. One of the leaders interpreted for Junior and as he heard Junior’s story he couldn’t help but cry as he spoke. Junior grew up very poor in Haiti. He told the boys, “I had nothing and I found Jesus. You guys are wealthy and you look like you don’t have the joy of Lord. Where is your joy in the Lord? Look at your faces, I don’t see the joy in the Lord. You don’t realize how lucky you are. Do you read your Bible? I never had a Bible. You don’t realize what you have.” That night they prayed together.
After a first day of ministry sites in the communities, the Heritage group had a team meeting back at the base. The high school kids, including Alex, shared how they were blown away by their experience talking with Junior and Jim. Many of the kids encouraged Alex after sharing. The next day Alex approached Cindy with some questions. She and Alex talked for over two hours. She encouraged him to keep asking questions. Alex felt like no one gave up on him, and described this process as feeling like this was when they as a group became a family.
The week’s outreach was great. On Friday they had a special Good Friday service at the base, and it all came together for Alex. Cindy gave a devotional and gave the kids, including Alex, some cards about Christ’s sacrifice. SI staff member Miriam prayed over the students in Spanish. The whole time, Cindy noticed, Alex’s eyes were as big as saucers, and that something was working inside Alex’s heart. Afterwards there was a big bonfire, and everyone dispersed. The night had a pivotal feeling, change was in the air, as it was the last night in the DR before heading home.
Cindy was back at her dorm room to pack when she heard Alex was looking for her. She went out and saw that he was sitting on a bench talking with Dan, one of the other team leaders. She was grateful for her co-leader, decided to hold off, and went back to packing. After a while she heard a knock on the door. Dan was there with Alex, and Alex was glowing. He said I wanted to let you know that I have accepted Jesus in my heart. Cindy cried. For the joy of the Lord! She suggested they share with the team tomorrow at their debrief.
The next day, Cindy tried to keep it casual and said before the group, “Alex, before we start the debrief, would you like to share anything with the team?” He quickly responded, “Yes. I asked Jesus in my heart.” Everyone just exploded with joy and love. As they debriefed and ended their time in the DR, Cindy shared how they are coming home “as an unbroken circle.” Clearly, the Lord has been at work amongst this group. To this day almost a year later, they still enjoy getting together and encouraging one another. And Alex? He continued his exchange program for another year, and will graduate from Heritage this year. He’s been on some more local outreaches, and he’s going to a great church. Praise the Lord for his work in our hearts.
Tremble, O earth, before the Lord,
Before the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of water.
Psalm 114:7 & 8
Recently, almost a year after the outreach, Cindy had the chance to ask him, “How did the trip impact you and change your life?”
Alex replied, “Now that I am a believer I am growing and I have a much better perspective on life. My sins are forgiven. I am making better choices, and I am getting spiritually stronger each day. I am no longer a slave to fear. But I am bold and strong in my faith.”