Step by Step :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Step by Step

Rachel Steffensmeier
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“What do you hope to be doing in five years?” questioned the well-intentioned woman when I was still a teenager. When I told her of my interest in using music on the mission field, she seemed perplexed about how music and missions could fit together. I was also unsure of the specifics, but I knew that God had given me an interest in missions and had gifted me in music. What I didn’t know is that step-by-step God would one day lead this country girl from rural Wisconsin to serve Him in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

Ever since I was young, I was fascinated by stories of great missionaries from the past and loved meeting the missionaries that visited my church. I was excited to finally experience foreign missions firsthand the summer after my freshman year of college. Those three short weeks in Mexico whetted my appetite for more. When I later returned to work with a missionary family for four months, I experienced both the joys and challenges of everyday life on the mission field and became burdened for the needs of those around me. As I was involved in a variety of ministries, my eyes were opened to the opportunities to use music teaching and ministry as tools for building relationships and edifying the body of Christ. I returned to the States with a deeper interest in serving God on foreign soil and started serving in my church’s Spanish ministry while continuing to study music in college.

When the Lord opened the door to graduate school, He led me to pursue music composition. One of my goals was to be able to write church music in languages that do not have the rich wealth of music that is available in English. During my college years, I met various people connected with the ministry at Bob Jones Memorial Bible College in the Philippines, and I became increasingly interested in the possibility of teaching music there.

A year before my graduation, I providentially crossed paths with a short-term teacher from BJMBC. She had been praying for someone to replace her while she went on deputation the following year and asked if I would be interested in teaching her music composition classes for her.

“Would I be?” I could hardly contain my excitement as it seemed that God was dropping the perfect opportunity right into my lap. He was opening the door for me to use music as one of many tools to spread the Gospel and disciple believers.

As my trip to the Philippines approached, my excitement was mixed with fear of the many unknowns. After the long flight across the Pacific, my initial apprehension quickly turned into a love for the people and the ministry I was privileged to be a part of, and I began to see how the gifts and training that God had given me all along the way fit the needs there.

During my four years of short-term ministry in the Philippines, my burden for missions increased. Living in Manila’s endless maze of traffic can try even the most patient person, but what about the thirteen million souls sitting in that traffic, walking down the crowded streets, or lying passed out in the heat on the hard sidewalk? As I became acquainted with a small handful of these millions, my burden grew for the individual needs that Christ alone can meet.

I met some of the millions Sunday after Sunday when a lady from my church rounded up her neighborhood children so they could hear about the Savior’s love for them. One day we received the sobering news that a young girl from church had died of dengue fever. The following Sunday I had the opportunity to share Christ with one of the other girls. A short time later, she was backed over by a car, but walked away with merely a broken arm. The young soul so quickly carried into eternity and the close call of the other one yet unsaved increased my burden for these lost children.

My burden for college students also deepened as I got to know them through teaching, mentoring, and visiting their homes and churches. My eyes were opened to their ministry burdens and challenges. When a student was suddenly taken home to be with the Lord during summer break one year, I longed to see each of our students follow her example and offer up their brief lives in service to the Lord.

Working with the music ministry in my own church and in churches around the Philippines has impressed me with the need for God-honoring music in their heart languages. It has been exciting to begin to meet these needs by writing music in Tagalog and training nationals to compose church music in their own languages so that their church members can worship the Lord from their heart as they “sing with the spirit . . . and with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

I have taken the next step on my missions journey and am now on deputation to return to the field as a career missionary. COVID-19 has temporarily closed the door to some countries and limited many in-person ministries, but Jesus’ words vividly capture the urgency of the work: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). I am eager for the day when I can once again cross the Pacific and translate my burden into action.