It was something she has always known, but never fully understood.
Kassie McDowell said her summer mission assignment to San Francisco, Calif., taught her a lot, but it has forever changed how she prays.
McDowell was part of one of four mission teams working in various locations through San Francisco. She was one of 13 missionaries staying in San Francisco from June 1—August 1 and she was one of 145 students that the Mississippi Baptist Convention commissioned to serve in various places throughout the United States and internationally. Altogether, the Mississippi Baptist Convention had university students serving in 14 states and 19 countries, according to Jeannie Taylor, associate director of Collegiate Ministry with the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
“Kassie served alongside career missionaries in San Francisco who have ongoing ministries with the homeless, runaway youth, and people in the red light district,” Taylor said. “Kassie served in the Haight-Ashbury area, primarily reaching out to hippies and runaway teens. The ministry is very relational and requires a great deal of boldness, since it is up to the students to find ways to initiate conversations with people who are typically very unlike them and have a diversity of beliefs. It can be quite challenging!”
“Kassie was part of the ministry to run away teens and homeless hippies in the Haight District of San Francisco,” said Tiffany Woodham, director of Short Term Missions in charge of the San Francisco trip. “Each day she would sit and talk to these young people in order to build relationships with them. Through this, she was able to share the gospel multiple times and even experienced someone accepting Christ as their Savior. She also would meet physical needs by not only feeding them but eating with them to show she truly cared. In the Haight this summer, there were at least 75 people reached with the gospel through Kassie’s team’s simple acts of obedience.”
“It was great,” McDowell said. “I loved it. I met so many different young adults with VERY interesting stories. Everyone in this area was super welcoming.”
In her particular area of missions, McDowell said all the people migrated toward “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park. Everyone asked the team what they were doing there or what are they were running from. Most of them didn’t understand why McDowell was “vacationing in a hippie/stoner park.”
“All those initial questions really open door ways for Divine conversation,” McDowell said. “It really was a community there. They had rules to follow and real care for one another. God really opened my eyes to being more than kind. They were kind and not Christians. How do you let the Light shine besides through being nice? By getting to know them. Being invested in their lives. Sitting with them daily. For a while I thought maybe it wasn’t working, but people started thanking me for sharing life with them instead of giving them food and leaving. Light was shown in the Haight. Christ was brought in the darkness and pierced their hearts. We read scripture, we talked about personal relationships with Christ, and thought was put into something Divine. They may not always have agreed with me, but sometimes we were just there to plant a seed.”
The difference for McDowell was prayer.
“This summer obviously taught me a lot, but if I could pinpoint one thing in my life that has changed forever it would be prayer,” McDowell said. “That was my weapon in the Haight. I couldn’t be kind enough for them to see Christ because they were already kind. I had prayer though. Direct conversation with the Creator. So I began to pray while in conversation with the hippies, which I should have done from the get go. God revealed to me that I never really understood the power in prayer. Often the phrase ‘You’ve just got to have faith’ has a negative connotation to it. As Christians that should be one of our most powerful phrases. Faith is strong for those who use it. If we continue to pray about things that are actually in our reach and could work out what kind of faith are we really using there? God calls us to pray boldly and confidently in our Giver. Ask and you will receive, but ask with the right heart.”
McDowell quoted James 4:2-3 (ESV) that really stood out to her over the summer: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
McDowell said there were so many “God stories” throughout the summer, but her favorite happened the last Sunday they were in San Francisco.
“Richard Clay and I were heading home from church on the other side of San Francisco,” McDowell said. “We ran into my friend Brad from the Haight, which is unheard of. This is at least a hour and a half commute. We ran into him on a street corner. He told us right as we found him he was going to run out in traffic and kill himself. He didn’t want to live anymore because the drugs and paranoia were too much for him.”
Clay and McDowell took him to get something to eat and started talking to him. Things got heated.
“He told me he knew God was watching out for him, he felt God,” McDowell said. “Richard asked Brad if he had ever prayed in the name of Jesus Christ to remove his paranoia. Brad proceeded to tell us that he doesn’t believe in Jesus and doesn’t believe Jesus is who He says He is. I asked Brad if I could just pray over him real fast. Brad said yes and I began to pray. In the middle of my prayer I said, ‘Lord, please shake Brad’s heart to the point where he can’t ignore You.’ Brad started coughing, bending over, holding his hand up saying enough. Brad said, ‘I don’t believe in Jesus.’ I said, ‘Brad, when I saw you on the street that wasn’t me, that was Jesus. When I became your friend that wasn’t me, that was Jesus.’ I started to say something else and he held his hand up and told me not say another thing and he walked away to meet up with my friend. Jordan. who I worked with in the Haight. So I immediately called her and told her all that he was saying so she could get an idea of how to guide the conversation. Brad did not accept Christ, but he swore off drugs and is trying to move back home to Alabama. No this isn’t a story were my friend ends up saved which is obviously the end goal, but it is a story were God is still faithful and watching out for the people who won’t trust Him. He still cares. I’m steady in prayer for Brad and I hope more Christians are sent to him to guide him to Christ.”
As part of this trip, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention Board, the 13 summer missionaries were divided into four primary mission teams that worked daily in specific areas of San Francisco.
- The first was a church planting team in the Sunset district. They had four people from this ministry: Kevin Robertson, Gage Gordon, Josh Cantrell, and Mattie King. They helped James Soy, the preacher and church planter, kick off the church. So they saw the financial side, the outreach and advertising side, and the tedious preparation. They had the first official kick off service on July 20 right before the teams left for home. McDowell said each of the team members may not have loved every process, but they loved every minute of getting to be apart of a church coming off the ground.
- The second was the team in the Mission district, which is where the missionaries lived. This team worked with a homeless group living just around the corner. McDowell said Amanda Markham and Andrew Clark were so good at engaging the homeless in games and activities. The homeless around that area were usually older gentlemen, many of whom had once served in the U.S. Army or moved from the South in their mid-twenties and never could get off their feet. Amanda and Andrew were responsible for cooking breakfast for them every Sunday, along with leading worship for our local community church for the homeless. McDowell said the Lord gave us a great turn out every Sunday morning.
- The third group worked in the Red Light district, with strippers, prostitutes, and people engaging in those club activities. That team had four summer missionaries including: Brittany Donahue, Brittney Spence, Brittany Thompson, and Richard Clay. McDowell said this team possibly had the hardest task out of all the teams, mainly because they were trying to share the gospel with people on the clock. People who were working. “However, God cannot be contained, McDowell said. “He was faithful in leading them into the right conversations, building relationships with the employees, and allowing them to meet them on their off days to discuss more Divine things.”
San Francisco was honestly so eye opening for me,” McDowell said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed this summer and I know it’s because of the people who helped put this opportunity together. It’s because of other Christians living in God’s will that I was able to be obedient and share the gospel with runaway kids.”
McDowell is a member of First Baptist Church of Eupora and she is the daughter of Curt and Brandy McDowell of Eupora. She is currently studying speech and language pathology at The University of Mississippi.
See this story in the September 3, 2014 edition of The Webster Progress Times at http://websterprogresstimes.com/2014/09/04/mcdowell-learns-power-of-prayer-during-mission-assignment/.