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A Year in Africa to be Transformed by God

training, south sudan, missions, lisa knodel, discipleship, battiato, africa,
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Civil unrest, poisonous snakes, extremely limited electricity and lack of water taps might deter most from traveling to South Sudan...

but Andrew Battiato is excited to see how the Lord will transform him over the next year while serving RP Missions alongside the Cush4Christ mission team.

“I pray the Lord will use this year as preparation for a lifetime of missions,” he explained. “I want to learn the ropes and experience the messy side of missions.”

The Cush4Christ team is a ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in Aweil, South Sudan. Andrew left the U.S. on June 13 to begin his journey beside the Dinka people.

Andrew, 23, graduated from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., in May with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature with minors in Communications and Spanish. According to the Institute of International Education’s 2013 Open Door Report, Purdue has the second-largest international student population among U.S. public universities.

Earning his degree on a diverse campus coupled with his own blossoming relationship with Christ deepened Andrew’s longing to reach the lost with the message and hope of the Gospel.

“Purdue has a large international population with many new people hearing the Gospel for the first time. I was interacting with a lot of international students on campus about Christ. It gave me a heart for people from different lands that haven’t heard the Gospel,” he said.

During a semester-long study abroad program in Mexico, Andrew worked with adults teaching English as a Second Language.

“Even though Mexico wasn’t a mission trip, it gave me more of a vision for missions,” he explained. “I was interacting with people I wouldn’t normally spend time with, and in English I could speak about spiritual things. I felt I could do this the rest of my life.”

Upon his return in 2012, Andrew attended the Urbana Student Mission Conference, the world’s largest students missions conference hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

“That conference really helped stir up my heart, especially for unreached people groups,” he recalled.

Although Andrew felt a sense of calling, he was hindered by questions, among the most pressing was, “I’m a new Christian; am I ready?”

Andrew was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school and believed he was a good person.

“I started college and went to a Bible study through Campus Crusade. Through that Bible study, through hearing the Gospel, I was convicted of my own sin,” he recalled. “In January 2010, I was saved. The Gospel went from my head to my heart. I started studying Scripture and realized inconsistencies from what I had been taught my whole life.”

As Andrew searched the Bible for answers, he also sought out a new church home.

“I had no idea what Protestant denominations were all about,” he confessed. “I searched around a lot to learn what was out there – nondenominational, Baptist, Assembly of God, other denominations. I really studied what Scripture taught about a Biblical church.”

That study led him to [www.9marks.org], which sets out nine indicators of a healthy church: expositional preaching, Biblical theology, Biblical understandings of the Good News, conversion and evangelism, Biblical church membership, Biblical church discipline, Biblical discipleship and growth and Biblical church leadership.

“I evaluated every church I visited against these nine marks,” Andrew explained. “Two years after coming to Christ, I was a little jaded. I was getting good instruction online – John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur – but I hadn’t found a church.”

Through a friend of friend, Andrew was invited to Purdue CORPS (Collegiate Organization of Reformed Presbyterian Students), a group of students integrated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette.

“I was amazed by the intensity of the study of the Word and the desire to obey the Word,” he said. “These were things I was really hungry for; it was more than a social group with a Christian name.”

Andrew quickly began meeting with Pastor Dave Long and became a church member in 2013.

“I know God calls people to go out to the mission field, and I knew I was willing to go. I asked myself, ‘If I match God’s calling in His Word with my desire to go, why not go?’” he explained. “As I was meeting with Dave Long, I mentioned that I felt the Lord was building a vision and putting it on my heart. He asked me to think about serving in South Sudan.”

As Andrew learned more about the work of Cush4Christ, he thought the yearlong trip would be used by God to help clarify his a sense of calling, aid in addressing weaknesses and uncover untested strengths.

“It’s a hard environment, and I believe it will be a good training ground for me for wherever I might go in the future,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the privilege of being discipled by Vince Ward. It’s already an established work, so I can jump right in. There is seriousness about preaching the Word, training up church leaders and doing the deeds of mercy ministries.”

The timing was right in Andrew’s professional and personal life, too.

“It didn’t seem right to go straight to seminary; I want to make sure that I’m applying the things I’ve been learning. Being out on the mission field will help me better know how I need to be equipped when I come back and go to seminary,” he explained.

Over the next year, Andrew’s preparation for a lifetime of missions will include three months of language study, a month of prayer and study, three months of learning about the different Cush4Christ ministries, a month of prayer and reflection, three months of hands-on work in the ministries and another month of prayer, evaluation, reflection and journaling.

“I’m excited to see what God will do in terms of ministering to the needs of the team and the needs of the people and coming back a completely changed man,” he said.

Andrew knows the months ahead will include many physical and spiritual challenges.

“I’m most concerned about physical persecution. There is enough about it in the news and in Scripture. Persecution is normal for Christians, but physical persecution isn’t something everyone will face,” he admitted. “I don’t know what will happen in the next few months in that nation, but I know this trip has been in the works for awhile. God’s hand has provided – my funds were raised for the trip in a matter of weeks, and He sustains us and protects us. God is sovereign, and I trust in Him. This is an opportunity to trust God more. I want God’s Kingdom to advance, so let His will be done. I’m sure that will include my being humbled and brought low so He can be lifted up.”