When Tommy Wilson said he was ready to jump out of a plane with a Bible and a shovel to help earthquake victims in China, he was only half joking.
“They ran out of parachutes,” he said.
The junior Christian ministry and business major may not have gone skydiving during his stay in Hong Kong, but he believes he served God in a big way.
“That’s something every Christian can do without a seminary degree,” Wilson said.
He packed up after his sophomore year at UMHB and moved to Hong Kong, China, for a year of missions.
“I felt God calling me there,” he said. “The opportunity was there, and I felt I could meet the needs of the people.”
Wilson’s main focus was youth ministry, which he had done before in the United States. He organized weekly youth services on Fridays and also led mission trips to India, mainland China and a summer camp shortly before he returned home.
He happened to see filming for the summer blockbuster movie The Dark Knight, in which Batman jumps from Hong Kong’s International Finance Center Tower, but Wilson kept focused.
“We did a broad range of things, and all of them had youth involvement,” Wilson said.
Senior recreation major John Mark Harvey visited Wilson in Hong Kong and watched his ministry in action.
“Tommy really adapted well to a culture and language different from anything in Texas,” Harvey said. “He had such a servant’s heart; it was incredible. Tommy was all about serving people.”
Wilson went to India twice, to a city near the Pakistani border, where he worked with a local pastor to help newly-formed churches in slum areas, churches that were ministering to the needs of the most vulnerable in Indian society.
“We went to a school that a church started where they brought in young girls and taught them how to sew, read and write,” Wilson said. “When they left, they would have a skill to support themselves so they wouldn’t be forced into prostitution or slavery.”
What impacted Wilson the most, however, was the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province in China on May 12, killing nearly 70,000 people. He was able to travel to the affected areas two months later.
“The amount of destruction was phenomenal,” he said. “Home after home was just demolished. Some entire cities only had two buildings left standing, and even those were so heavily damaged they had to be demolished. There were reports of villages near mountain ranges where the mountains just crumbled down on them; entire villages of 10,000-20,000 people buried under 60 feet of rock.”
Wilson welcomed the opportunity to share Christ’s love with some of the most devastated people on earth.
“While the Chinese government was providing very well for people’s physical needs like food and shelter, we got to provide for their emotional and spiritual needs,” he said.
While most evangelism is illegal in China, if a Chinese citizen asks about Jesus, a Christian is allowed to explain his or her faith.
“People would ask us, ‘Why are you here? This is not a good time to be in China,’” Wilson said. “We got to share Jesus, to tell them we were called here, and to share the hope of Christ.”
He said that the Chinese government did not stop Christians from coming to help the earthquake victims, but rather encouraged anyone willing to lend a hand.
“The government was in favor of anyone wanting to help coming. Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus came as well. But what people there said to me was, ‘The Muslims came here for two weeks. The Hindus came for two weeks, and the same with the Buddhists, but when the cameras pulled out they all left. Only the Christians stayed to take care of people’s needs.”
Wilson has adjusted rather well to life back at UMHB, which he considers a “warm, inviting” place.
Senior art education major Brent Richardson noticed how well Wilson seems to fit back in.
“All semester, he just hit the ground running. If anything, he is more intense now than before he left.”
Wilson urges everyone to listen for anything God may call them to do, and to have faith that God will provide the means.
“If God is calling you to something, get busy and do it, because you don’t have time to waste.”