South Africa – March 2018: Day 1

Sawubona! Hello from the South Africa team! We just finished up our first day in Durban after several delays. The entire team has learned about the most important attitude to have on a mission trip—flexibility. Here is a picture of our team pictured from left to right:  Amy Westerman, Brianna Leavell, Ryan Troglin, Ryan Martin, Jake Adel, Kyle Smith, Julie Yngsdal, and David Yngsdal.

Our first flight was late on Friday, so we missed our connecting flight in Dallas, which delayed the trip by a day. However, when we first arrived it was so great to see David and Julie Yngsdal. Since then, we have been spending a lot of time with them and have been greatly encouraged by their ministry and joyfulness in the Lord. This morning, we all woke up with jet lag but were quickly restored with a good breakfast and coffee with Jeremiah and Amy, some of the Yngsdal’s friends. They have two awesome kids named Elijah and Grace and have been South Africa for a little while now. Jeremiah told us about his ministry with Bible Talks (a ministry of Pioneers) on college campuses. They hope to share the good news of Jesus Christ through the use of the Bible. They have a regular meeting on Friday on campus and regularly do evangelism around campus.

The first part of our day consisted of going to campus with Jeremiah and the Yngsdals and participating in walk-up evangelism. However, once again, we had to learn to be flexible and trust in the Lord’s plan. The main area of the campus was having a student strike because of complications with housing prices, so we were not able to do evangelism there due to safety concerns. As we began moving to other areas of the campus, we began to engage in some conversations with the students. One of those conversations with the Yngsdals resulted in a young lady accepting Christ as her Savior. Please pray that she would continue to grow in knowledge and love of Christ. Jeremiah will continue meeting with her, as he resumes his ministry on campus. What a great reminder of God working all things according to the counsel of His good and perfect will!

After the initial part of the day, we continued to get to know the Yngsdals by seeing a lot of the places in Durban that they frequent for ministry. It was around this time that we began to see their desire for the Durban refugees to come to know the Lord. They shared stories and showed us their main ministry area on Dreadlock Corner. Yes, you read that right! One of their main ministry opportunities is among refugees who sell and insert dreadlocks in people’s hair. We finished the night at their house and hearing how they each became interested in missions. They shared about frustrations and encouragements in ministry. However, at the end of it all, they were able to say that the Lord provides in ways that are much better than anything that we could provide.

One year ago, Dreadlock Corner had been one of the most difficult ministry areas in Durban. However, now it was one of their most regular. We finished the night with a devotion from Jake on Acts 15:30-35 on encouragement, as one of the primary reasons for short-term missions. We then talked about ways to continue in encouraging the Yngsdals and spent some time in prayer.

Tomorrow, we will spend some time doing two Bible studies and a training session for pastors. We ask that you pray for boldness and clarity in the gospel and also energy. Today, I think we were all reminded of the providence of the Lord, so we leave you with James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Loving the Bride,

Kyle Smith


St. Louis – July 2017: Day 6

It has been such a blessing this week to teach English classes to 24 Arabic and Russian speaking adult students!  Wes, John, JJ, Brianna and I had 12 intermediate level students who were able to communicate somewhat well with us. Their biggest area of need was future and past tenses, job interview questions, map skills, personal character qualities (new word for them: obnoxious!) and idioms that you and I use every day in conversation.
There was also a large group opening gathering and closing time each night.  During these times, they would learn English songs such as “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and “This Land Is Your Land” which by the way is a very welcoming song for a refugee! Matt, the Church at Affton’s Discipleship pastor would also share stories from the Word or his own story of those who had honor but then did shameful things. In Muslim culture, honor is huge and many feel the weight and guilt of shame when they don’t measure up. Matt did a beautiful job of sharing the gospel Wednesday night of how Jesus is the only One who can take away our shame and guilt. We wondered if any would come back the following night with such an offensive message. However, to our delight, all came back!
Last night at the end, we were able to present each one with a certificate of completion. All of them seemed so excited and proud to receive their diploma. It was truly a big deal for them. We also took a written survey with each of them and had such encouraging results from it. Out of 24 students, 23 wanted to learn more about who the Church at Affton was. 21 wanted weekly conversation classes at the church, 12 wanted to learn more about what Christians believe and 11 wanted to specifically talk with the pastoral team or their wives about how Jesus could take away their shame. It was an incredible reminder of how good our God is to bring all nations to Him a nd the work He is doing just in holding conversational English classes.
Another amazing aspect of these classes were the children of the refugees that came with their parent to join in the Backyard Bible Club hosted by so many of our UBC folks. They had upwards of 20 children come each night. Not only were they hearing of Jesus, but it showed the team and the church that these fathers of these children trusted the Church at Affton. It’s hard enough for husbands (especially Muslim) to let their wives go inside a Christian church, but to let your children go as well. Only by the grace of our Lord does that happen! Most of these families do not get out much during the week much less interact with Americans, so it was a highlight each night to have somewhere to go, as several of our students shared with me time and again. We are anxious to see how the Lord will continue to build these friendships between the Church at Affton and the internationals, and where and in who the gospel will take root! Pray for those relationships to flourish and especially for husbands to hear the name of Jesus!
Written by Kathy Burgess
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis


St. Louis – July 2017: Day 5

Today started with a 70% chance of rain.  As a group we had to decide if we would go ahead and go to our Backyard Bible Club sites or to stay at the Church at Affton and pray for the kids instead, the teams unanimously decided to go.  The rain continued lightly as we set up tents, but the children still showed up.  Along with three of our regulars we were able to welcome four new children. The lesson today was about the gospel and JJ asked the kids to raise their hands if they had heard the word sin before.  They hadn’t.  Then he asked if they knew the name Jesus?  And again the answer was no.  We shared the gospel with several who were hearing it for the first time.  Brianna was then able to share a picture illustration of Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The kids listened well and were very interested to hear what were were teaching.  They even asked questions.  Each person on our team has had a sweet connection with our new friends and we will be sad to leave them tomorrow, but God is faithful and will continue His work in them.

Pray for the safety of these children and their families as they live in a very rough neighborhood.

Pray for Talisha, Cory, Elijah and the rest of the kids that they would know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Pray that God would bring other Christians into their lives.

Today was a wakeup call that we should not take for granted that just because we live in America that all have heard of Jesus.  Praise God for allowing us the opportunity to share the hope we have in Him.

Written by JJ & Braidi Tartaglia

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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis


St. Louis: July 2017 – Day 4

Kathy Burgess and I had the opportunity and privilege to be a part of a wonderful mission experience today – one that is all about building relationships.  This friendship exists with a sweet and outgoing Bosnian woman.  Rachelle Helmbacher meets with her regularly and works with her on learning English.

We met in her home where she graciously served tea and Bosnian coffee.  There was heartfelt exchange of love and really good conversation.  The four of us then went to a local Bosnian restaurant and shared five different Bosnian pitas, quite different from Greek pita and continued good English conversation and Bosnian conversation.

Be in prayer this sweet young lady and her husband and their families that are so far away in Bosnia.  Pray that one day they might experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  We are all His children.  Pray that we always look for the next mission opportunity that God directs us to and we will praise Him in expectation of great changes He will make through these encounters.

Written by Pam Martin

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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis


St. Louis: July 2017 – Day 3

I have observed the natives living in Tower Grove Christian Academy this week, engaging in some kind of morning ritual beginning around 6am. They emerge groaning from their communal bedrooms and begin a slow shuffle towards the locker rooms. The reason why they subject themselves to the freezing shower water at this early hour requires further study.

Joking aside, our time here in St. Louis has been filled with blessings. I’ll be the first to admit waking up at 6am isn’t my idea of fun, but seeing the preschoolers of UBC being gung-ho to start their day gives me energy to start mine as well. It truly is wonderful to see so many people, often with nothing in common besides the blood of Christ, rising to faithfully minister to the Church at Affton. For the UBC members reading this at home, please know that your prayers are greatly appreciated, and please know that we are praying for you as well.

Our goal for this mission trip was twofold. First, we wanted to serve the Affton area through VBS for kids and English classes for the adults, and second, we wanted to serve the church itself. Myself, Ken Martin, and Matt Luttrell were given the responsibility of sprucing up the church building. I couldn’t have asked for two better guys to serve with. They have blessed me everyday with their fellowship and willingness to serve the Church at Affton. The work hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t always been fun, and it has never been clean, but with God’s blessing it will be worth it. We’ve pulled carpet, power washed, weeded the parking lot, ripped out a ceiling, landscaped a flower bed, and I’ve personally ruined two shirts. In my not so humble opinion, it’s been a pretty productive week so far. Also, I want to give a special shoutout to the youth of UBC. They have worked incredibly hard in 100 degree heat with no complaints, and without them the larger projects wouldn’t have been possible.

Last, but most certainly not least, I can’t wrap up this blog without giving a shoutout to the wonderful ladies working in the kitchen. Mrs.Burns, Mrs. Watkins, and Mrs. Mueller have all kept us fat and happy this week.

Written by Daniel Watkins


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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis


St. Louis – July 2017: Day 2

Initially when we started the second night of the English class I wasn’t expecting an impressive turn out considering the previous night we had a total of 14 people, including kids. By the third night we had an outstanding total of around 40 people! It was so incredible to see God work within the church, as we are seeing so many new relationships built and so much trust among each other within these few days.

I personally worked with the Bosnian and Syrian kids while their parents took the English course. It was amazing to see each kid open up and become comfortable around the UBC family. A little girl named Hibba found a special liking to me. She and her friends all sat around me attempting to teach me their language, although I didn’t learn much. It was still an awesome experience to see all the children working together to help me communicate in their language.

After the English class we all came together as a whole group and sang. Wow! It was so encouraging to see God’s creations working together despite their differences. To my left I saw Arabic men and woman laughing and enjoying the presence of their English teachers and to the right I saw children playing and simply enjoying their time at the church. It has been such an amazing opportunity to experience God’s people rejoicing and loving one another.

Written by Bethany Mueller, Hannah Huneycutt & Zoe Nix

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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis


St. Louis – July 2018: Day 1

This is my first time going on a UBC Family Mission Trip and I was unsure of what to expect and unsure of how God would use us this week. Though we have only been here a short while, I have already seen God do amazing things. Today we started our day by joining the Church at Affton’s congregation in worship. Through this time we got to learn of the great ways in which the Lord is using this church in the community, and we got to hear a message from Matthew 18:21-35 over forgiveness. After lunch we spent time canvassing the neighborhoods in which we would do Backyard Bible Clubs the rest of this week, and afterwards we came back and prepared for our first night of English class. While some prepared to love on and play games with the kids of those coming to learn English, the rest prepared to teach English at Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels.

I had the joy of being on a team with Wes and Kathy Burgess, and John Mueller, teaching about eight students at the Intermediate level. We had students from multiple countries such as Iraq, Syria, Tajikistan and the Ukraine. Some of the students have been in the United States for many years, while other have been here less than a year. One thing that seemed to stick out for most of these students was that we would come all the way from Arkansas just to teach them English. They were amazed that we would take the time to go so far for something they believed would be trivial to us. Though they were shy at first they quickly opened up. They enjoyed getting to hear us talk in our native tongue as we would ask them questions as well as getting to practice their English skills to ask us questions. Many of the women that I talked to during the extent of this first class wanted to learn English so they could earn their GED or go to college and get a job. It was encouraging to see their desire to learn a language that is not only difficult to speak, but hard to understand at times. I am excited to see as the week continues the ways in which the Lord will continue to use us in unexpected ways as we seek to teach these students.

As you are seeking to pray for us, I would ask for prayer in a few areas:

  • First, I ask you pray for our team. Pray that even as we get more exhausted or find certain tasks we are assigned difficult this week, we would find strength and humility in the Lord. Pray that we would have unity as a team, as there are quite a few of us here! Pray that even in our weakness the Lord’s name would be made great.
  • Second, I ask that you pray for our witness. Pray that through Backyard Bible Club’s and English classes God would give us many opportunities to share the Gospel. Pray that the Lord would use us in mighty ways this week to reach the people of this city. Pray that the people of this city would be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Lastly, I ask that you pray for the Church at Affton. Pray that we would be an encouragement to them as we seek to serve both they and their city. Pray that even after we leave the contacts we have helped gain and grow would continue to be fruitful.

As I said before, we have only been here a short time, but God has already began to use us in mighty ways to make his name know. I am excited to see how He continues to show up in magnificent ways the rest of the time we are here.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.   2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Written by Brianna Leavell

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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis