JEFFERSON CITY – The scope of MBCollegiate isn’t limited to Missouri college students. Sometimes a simple connection through a friend is all it takes to reach across state borders to impact collegians on other campuses in other states. Olivia Helm is one such case.
Helm, a senior at Campbellsville University in Kentucky, learned of a Mexico mission trip opportunity over Christmas break through a Campbellsville friend who had done her undergraduate at Hannibal-LaGrange University. Now, just months after the Mexico trip, Helm is spending her summer serving as a summer intern with MBCollegiate Campus Missionary Scott Westfall through the Summer Missions program.
Helm came to know Christ at VBS when she was in 3rd grade. Like many children, her faith began with a simple quest to know Jesus and grow close to Him. She faced bullying in middle school and high school because of how she had chosen to live her life for Christ. “This caused me to question whether this faith was worth it or not,” Helm says.
High school only got harder when two close friends passed away within hours of each other. “It was hard for me to understand what God’s plan was through that,” she says. In her grief, Helm realized she needed support. “My eyes were opened that I needed some help and God was the only one who could give me peace.” She started attending FCA and Bible study meetings held before school.
Her senior year, Helm went to a Christian retreat for teens. Cut off from technology and immersed in nothing but worship, God’s Word, and nature for three days straight, Helm’s life completely changed in one weekend. She decided to rededicate her life to Christ. “I wanted to fully live my life for him,” she says. “I felt it was only right to truly pray and say, ‘I want to do this for You. Here I am, Lord; send me.’” In that moment, she felt God saying ministry was her life calling. At the time, she didn’t think that meant a vocational call to ministry.
Helm started college at Campbellsville as an elementary education major. God continued to press ministry on her heart until she realized He meant vocationally, but “I was terrified,” she says. “Fear paralyzed me. My stress levels continued to increase.”
While struggling to surrender to that calling, Helm experienced another trial. After her freshman year of college, she fell extremely sick, and no one could figure out what was wrong. “My plans for that summer crashed and burned,” she says. “I grew a lot closer to God through it because I didn’t know some days if I was going to make it through or not. I knew it was time to get serious about my faith.”
Eventually, doctors diagnosed her with a rare metabolic condition and helped her bring it under control. As her college career continued, Helm kept jumping back and forth between readiness to respond to God’s calling and the fear that held her back. She found herself waiting for people’s approval to go into ministry, but she wasn’t getting that.
“My junior year I realized I didn’t need approval from the world to do what Go was calling me to do,” she says. “Now whenever I’m asked the question, ‘What’s your plan?’ I just say, ‘I’m going to do whatever God tells me to and go wherever He sends me.’” She’s faced her fair share of critical reactions, even being told she’s relying too much on God, but she says, “I would rather be told I’m relying too much on God than not on Him at all.”
In January, Helm led two middle school girls from her home church to Christ. One girl had been her student in children’s church a few years ago when Helm was in high school. Even after Helm went off to college, the girl continued messaging her asking questions about Christ. This past January, she reached out. After conversing with Helm, she said she wanted to give her life to Christ but was scared. Helm talked through that fear with her and helped her work through the misconception that people can only come to Christ at the altar. “So many people believe you must be at church or at the altar or do it a certain way,” Helm says. “That’s not true – Jesus can save anytime, anyplace. Once we got to the bottom of that, she gave her life to Christ.”
Not long after that, the girl called her best friend and shared her testimony. Her best friend wanted to know Christ as well. Helm led her through that process and connected them with the youth leader at their church so their discipleship can continue. “For some reason they felt like they could open up to me,” Helm says. “That was what they needed in that moment.”
Helm is set to graduate in December with a degree in Educational Ministries and a minor in Music. Her hope is to attend seminary, possibly Midwestern. “I’ll pursue the ministry wherever God calls me to go,” she says, “I know His timing is perfect to reveal His plan.”
God used the Mexico trip in December to reveal one step of the plan for this summer. Westfall told Helm about the Summer Missions program while they were on the trip. Helm readily said yes. For her, being a summer internship is all about serving and pouring into others, whether they are in Mexico building another house, pulling weeds for an inner city farm, or holding VBS.
“It’s shedding light to people, some who do know who Christ is, others who do not,” she says. She firmly believers that all Christians, regardless of their vocation, are called to be missionaries and that making Christ known to others “should not just be a ‘this is what I’m doing this summer’ but ‘this is what I’m doing with my life for Christ.’”
Just a few weeks into the summer internship, Helm is already seeing the benefit in her own life. “Our mentors have truly poured into us,” she says. “One day I would be interested in mentoring younger people as well. Our mentors have helped prepare me for that.”
Looking back on her story, Helm sees how much fear held her back from living her life for Christ in the past. She wants other college students to hear her story and decide to let go of the fear that paralyzes them. “It’s God who has us in His hands,” she says. “He takes care of every single need we have. He will provide what we need even if it doesn’t feel like it. He is the one who is ultimately in control.”