Neal spreading the gospel in East Asia

by Trinity Gruenberg

Mission trips are not uncommon for many, but it’s less common to travel to a place that cannot be named.

Addison Neal of Verndale traveled to East Asia over Thanksgiving. For the safety of the people in the country, she cannot name where as they don’t like Christians.

Neal is part of a youth group, called CRU, on the North Dakota State University campus where she is a pre-med student. They had a speaker come in and talk about this trip he leads every fall and he was looking for people to join him.

“I felt compelled to go to the meeting. I had no interest in East Asia before,” said Neal

In the early 2000s, Pete (the speaker) decided to live in East Asia with his family for a year. He has led this trip every year since then.

“I was 75-80 percent interested. I’m not a person that goes on a mission,” said Neal.

Pete followed up with them and it continued to heighten Neal’s interest in going. She spoke with her cousin, Rachel, who is a missionary and was told how great it was and that she should do it.

Neal signed up to go on her first ever mission trip.

They visited East Asia for a week over Thanksgiving.

She was joined by fellow CRU students and others from NDSU as well as Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia University.

“There wasn’t time to get over jet lag. There was no time for culture shock. You just get thrown into it all. You’re so busy taking it all in you don’t have time to process everything,” explained Neal. “You unpack it when you get home.”

They had to fundraise to cover the cost of their trip. Pete suggested to the students to send letters out to family and friends, explain what they were doing and ask for financial assistance and prayers for the trip.

Neal was grateful for everyone’s generosity that covered the $2800 bill which included the flight, a fairly nice hotel and food. Neal explained the economy over there was different and cheaper.

A few days before the trip Neal received a list of words she couldn’t say while in East Asia, including God, Jesus, prayer and amen, as well as a list of code words to use instead.

“It was weird because they were common words that I use every day,” said Neal.

She explained that when they talked to their teammates in public they would use their “manners” or code words so guards wouldn’t pick up on what they were discussing. It would seem like a typical English conversation that the guards could understand.

The group spent most of their time on different college campuses and talked to students. They would pull students aside and say they wanted to learn more about the culture and asked them if they would take a survey.

“They were very open to it. Being awkward isn’t a thing there. You had to embrace it,” said Neal.

The local students were very hospitable. Neal and company would follow up with some questions on the survey to lead them into a spiritual conversation, such as what are three words that describe your life and what do you think the meaning of life is. It was something most of them have never been asked. Most responded to being happy. Then they were asked if they knew who Jesus was.

“You’d get one of two reactions. They’d look at you completely confused and have no idea who you’re talking about, or the looked at you and you could just see the fear register on their face,” said Neal.

Those who were scared didn’t want to talk about it

“They’ve been told we’re there to brainwash and hurt them,” said Neal. . . . .

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