The Lopez family eagerly awaited the arrival of their international exchange student at Los Angeles Airport with balloons and a sign. Their assigned exchange student, Xin-xin, appeared in total dismay when she recognized her name on their sign. In a frantic she demanded to talk with her agent and to return home; there had been a misunderstanding as to whom her host family would be. Taken back by the situation Xin-xin refused to go with the them when Erica Lopez then approached her gently and honestly.
“I know you’re confused. We were assigned your new host family,” Erica shared. “We’ve prayed for this experience, for you and we love you before we’ve even met you,” she pleaded, “all I’m asking is that you give us a chance.”
Erica and her family have been members at Shepherd Church for seven years now. They came by way of referral for the Christ Powered Recovery program when concerned about a sick family member. The CPR program led them to an Encounter experience which encouraged them to become involved with the School of Discipleship ministry. Since their beginning here at Shepherd, there have been 10 baptisms within Erica’s family.
They found their way to the American Home Life program (the program in which they applied and were granted Xin-xin, their exchange student) through a staff member at Shepherd who is also a coordinator for the program.
Erica and her husband have one child together and we’re planning on growing their family when suddenly Erica was diagnosed with Lupus—an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the tissue in your body causing inflammation, swelling, pain and damage. Due to this, Erica’s chances of successfully carrying through a pregnancy were drastically decreased.
Having wanted more children, and following God’s confirmation in their decision making—the Lopez family inquired about the American Home Life program and were blessed with an experience that forever changed their lives.
Xin-xin accepted Erica’s plea of giving the Lopez family a chance that day at LAX. She spent the next 2014-2015 school year with them where she would completely blossom both spiritually and socially.
“As she grew closer to knowing us and allowing us to love her,” Erica shares, “she began to express goals in her life. She expressed her desires for college and [her] future. She became open to sharing her feelings.”
Xin-xin began to embrace touch and affection—something that was a cultural difference and difficult for her to accept initially. She began to express more emotions and shared in both laughs and cries with the Lopez family.
“I love that she came as this quiet, non-lovable student with so many walls up” admitted Erica, “with time, lots of love and prayer she developed a love for us as we fell more in love with her …my husband taught her how to drive and obtain her license, she also helped him serve the homeless and [Xin-xin] sponsored one of the nights [by] covering the cost of meals.”
The experience served as a period of growth and learning for both Xin-xin and the Lopez family. A love grew between them that surpassed either of their expectations. Xin-xin shares with Erica that she calls herself a “China-Mex” (a Chinese-Mexican) and Erica shares that Xin-xin is forever apart of their family now. The two have kept in touch beyond Xin-xin’s stay with the Lopez them.
When Pastor Dudley shared the 30 Cities mission with the church this past January, Erica felt an emotion joy. She knew in her heart that seeds would be planted in 30 cities across the globe, that the experience would generate churches and that lives would be saved.
It had always been on Erica’s heart to travel but with her diagnosis of Lupus, she pushed this passion to the back of her mind. “When Pastor Dudley spoke one Sunday about running from your calling.” Erica shares, “my heart sunk. My husband and I just looked at each other—this was something we had talked about often.”
When Dudley continued to share about the potential mission trips with the 30 cities Ministry, Erica and her family began to pray. It was through small confirmations almost daily that all pointed to China, that Erica would decide to answer the Lord’s instruction and apply for the mission trip.
The Lord answered this prayer.
Erica would be accepted and given the opportunity to travel with Shepherd Church and the 30 Cities Ministry to Guangzhou of southern China.
Following her acceptance, Erica wrote to Xin-xin sharing her opportunity to travel with Shepherd to teach individuals how to read English from the Bible. “She wrote back with a little character jumping up and down in excitement,” Erica said, “she even offered with her family to help sponsor my trip.”
The two planned to meet while Erica was on Xin-xin’s side of the world this time. A unique and special friendship reunited across the globe. While Erica was more than excited to see her extended family member Xin-xin, she also shared her hope and prayer for the trip.
“My prayer is that we go there and we plant seeds and build the foundation for new churches there.” Erica learned through her time hosting Xin-xin that love always wins. Even those who may be from very culturally different backgrounds, with prayer, love and patience they can still experience the love of Christ through our own illustrations towards each other and through our own actions.
Her China trip and visit with Xin-Xin has come to pass but there is still much to do for the entire 30 Cities Ministry for the remainder of 2018.
“My excitement is knowing that Shepherd put in all these efforts to go and see so many cities,” Erica shares, “we’re not only sending people out but we’re sending bibles, providing food and we’re using the power of prayer. We won’t even see the full magnitude of all the things that God is going to do.”
To apply to a mission trip or find out how you can get involved with the 30 Cities Ministry, visit 30cities.com