Michelle (second from left) and Sara (far right) have been serving in Thailand for a year and a half. (Photo courtesy of InterVarsity)
International (MNN) ― Michelle Kao began her studies at Johns Hopkins University as an engineering major. She also got involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where God gave her a heart for serving the poor.
Kao changed her major to public health. She graduated from college in 2003 and has worked in urban ministry ever since. She ended up ministering with Servant Partners, a non-profit ministry to the urban poor, in Bangkok, Thailand.
"It's been so sweet to see God work in different ways: in people's lives, and in the community, on my team, even at home," Kao said. "After this past year and a half, I feel like I can definitely say that I love God a lot more."
Sara Stephens, another InterVarsity alum, also serves with Servant Partners in the Bangkok slum. She said the experience has transformed her perspective on poverty.
"Before I came here, I would think of the poor as kind of nameless and faceless; I thought of 'the poor' as simply a demographic," she said. "I think as I've come here, I have come to know individuals and have seen the depths of their personality and character that I just never would have seen before or considered."
400 students are traveling all over the world this summer to serve God with InterVarsity's global projects. Over the last school year, nearly 600 were involved in 37 urban ministry projects around the United States. That kind of experience has produced countless Christians dedicated to service in God's Kingdom.
"I want to see more of God here," Kao said of her work in Bangkok. "I want to see more of God in people's lives and in my own life; that's what keeps me here, and that's what brought me here."
InterVarsity's triennial missions conference also plays a huge role in inspiring students to work in missions. Stephens said it impacted the decisions she's made in her life.
"I went to Urbana 2003 kind of asking God what He might have me do," she explained. "I was able to talk with some missionaries and hear from people's experience on the field. I started seeing myself as somebody who could actually do something like that, rather than seeing missionaries as people who are just super spiritual or seemed called to missions since their birth."
The 22nd triennial Urbana 09 will run from December 27 to December 31 at the Edward Jones Dome and the America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri. This year's theme is from John 1:14, titled "He Dwelled Among Us." 6,358 people have already taken advantage of early registration (June 30) for Urbana 09. Another discount is available until October 17.