18 year-old Jiyun Baek became a Christian during lockdown and shortly afterwards set off on a short term mission trip. She explains how stepping out of her comfort zone to serve on board Logos Hope, has helped calm her anxiety
Earlier this year, Oxford University Press announced that ‘anxiety’ had been chosen by UK children as their word of the year for 2021.
This doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone, least of all young people. As an 18-year-old coming towards the end of school, the last two years have been tough. Young people have always felt the pressure to make decisions about the future, but my generation has been left guessing in the dark, not sure what will be possible and what will be permitted. The last two years have been marked by uncertainty and the unknown; by anxiety.
A step of faith
Last summer, having just finished my A-Levels and with Covid-19 restrictions finally beginning to ease, I decided to take a step into the unknown. I boarded Logos Hope, the ship run by Operation Mobilisation (OM), as part of their Short-Term Exposure Programme (STEP). I had dreamed of spending my gap year on the ship ever since I’d had the chance to visit it when I was ten years old. Pandemic or no pandemic, I was sticking to my plan.
I began to realise how small my world had become, shrunk to the size of my room and my worries
STEP is a three-month programme working on board Logos Hope and travelling to different countries to provide practical support and share Jesus’ love with local communities. As I write, we are anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone, where we will remain for five weeks before moving on to Ghana.
The fear of stepping into the unknown and taking risks is perhaps greater now than ever. When I first climbed the steps to board the ship, my head was full of anxious thoughts. But I have seen that it is in the discomfort of not being in control that our faith grows, and we learn to truly trust God.
A bigger view
Logos Hope is home to the world’s largest floating book fair, promoting literacy and education around the world. In the Bahamas, our first port of call, we opened the bookfair and people began flooding in.
Being miles away from my hometown of Swansea, the culture shock was a little overwhelming at first. I grew up hearing that God was the creator of everything, but being somewhere so different to home opened my eyes to the wonder of creation. Each new place we visit has been completely different; a new place to acclimatise to but also a new place at which to marvel.
Having this bigger view of creation has been deeply humbling - and a precious reminder of the majesty of the God who created it. From that first day, I began to realise how small my world had become, shrunk to the size of my room and my worries.
A fuller picture
It hasn’t just been the vibrancy of the scenery that’s amazed me; it’s been the people too. Life on board Logos Hope is a melting pot of ages, cultures, nationalities and personalities; all eating, sleeping and working together. This is the first time I have lived alongside cultures that are completely different to my own. I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been a challenge at times - I discovered the indirect British approach to conflict is definitely not something that is shared with other nations!
It’s the same story on shore too. During our time in port, we have ‘Connect days’, where we get involved in local church and sports ministries, as well as offering practical help, such as eye testing, working on building projects or donating books. Attending a local church service is something to be enjoyed. The dancing, clapping and exclamations of the congregation took some getting used to, but their joy, and the love we received, spoke volumes of the incredible love of our heavenly father.
It is in the discomfort of not being in control that our faith grows, and we learn to truly trust God
Meeting new people is often scary and anxiety-inducing; most of us are pretty out of practice since Covid-19. At home, it was tempting to hide and avoid meeting new people. Evangelism is definitely out of my comfort zone, but each time we have stepped out in faith and shared Jesus’ love, I have been amazed by the fruit he bears through our work. In the Bahamas, I got talking to a security guard who believed that one of her children was an angel, and the other of the devil. We were able to share Jesus’ love, pray with her and give her a Bible.
A clearer vision
During my time on Logos Hope, God has begun to open my eyes. I have come to realise that my view of God has been limited. I have squashed God into a box that fit my understanding of how the world worked. I have expected him to act in a way that aligned with the values and behaviours I have grown up believing. But God is so much bigger than I imagined. As the walls of my box have been broken down, I have begun to see the beauty and magnitude of God’s character in all its glorious technicolour.
It is going so well that I’ve just extended my time on Logos Hope for another two months. I don’t know where God will lead me, but I trust the path he has set me on and I’m at peace, despite the uncertainty. I will go wherever he sends me next in the adventure of living out his love, and I’m excited to see what is ahead!