SBTS mission trips strengthen churches and share the Gospel

Communications Staff — July 26, 2006

Nearly 40 students and faculty members from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary fanned out across four continents to spread the Gospel of Christ during spring and summer mission trips.

Teams led by professors traveled to South Asia, Peru, Canada, France and Guatemala between March and June. Another team is working in the Pacific Rim July 14-Aug. 1.

Brian Vickers, assistant professor of New Testament interpretation, led the trip to South Asia and said seeing the intense suffering of South Asian believers illustrated the seriousness of following Jesus. Vickers’ team taught and discipled Christians, focusing especially on teaching how to understand the big picture of the Bible’s plan of salvation.

“Many of those we met had suffered and still suffer for their belief in Jesus,” he said. “We heard stories of beatings, being driven out of homes and towns, disowned by families, becoming homeless, all for the sake of the Gospel. They were living testimonies of men who take the call of discipleship seriously.”

Vickers said the opportunity to serve God and lead devoted students encouraged him to take more trips to South Asia in the future.

“The opportunity to lead such excellent men on this trip was a high point,” he said. “Lord willing I‘ll lead more trips to South Asia, but it’s hard to imagine that I could ever have students that could surpass this year’s group.”

The Peru trip, led by associate vice president of distance education and innovative learning Hayward Armstrong, surveyed villages to discover the extent of evangelical presence in the area. The group also prepared a 17-page photo guide for potential volunteer groups that will travel to the region from U.S. churches.

Highlights of the trip included participating in worship services in three languages—Spanish, English and Quechua—and encouraging pastors, Armstrong said.

“As we discovered some weak and struggling groups of Christians, we were blessed to be able to encourage them and give them hope for possible assistance from volunteers in the future,” he said. “Our unexpected, brief visits with lonely lay pastors serving faithfully in remote areas seemed to be a booster shot to their commitment to the task.”

In Canada, Southern students laid the foundation for the start of the first Southern Baptist church in the province of Newfoundland. Working with the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB), the team searched for people interested in beginning Bible studies and gathered cultural data for church planters.

“We met many people and had numerous opportunities to share the Gospel,” said J.D. Payne, assistant professor of church planting and evangelism and the trip’s leader. “Possibly the highlight of the trip was meeting a retired couple … who had led several people to the Lord, saw them baptized and had started a weekly Bible study with them.

“After contacting this couple, who greatly desired to partner with other churches in their mission work, we put them in contact with the CCSB leadership. Now it looks as if the Lord is preparing to birth the first Southern Baptist church in a province of 530,000 people.”

The France trip, also led by Payne, worked with missionaries from the International Mission Board (IMB) to conduct personal evangelism training with two French congregations, prayer walk and lead worship services. Payne led a strategy development workshop for IMB missionaries in Paris and taught a personal evangelism course in conjunction with Southern’s Master of Arts in Theological Studies-International Leadership program.

Payne noted that a new church might soon begin in Paris as a result of IMB work.

“It appears as if the Lord is preparing to birth a church from a Bible study,” he said.

The Guatemala trip involved students from Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate school, led by professor of Christian theology and missions Mark McClellan. The team worked primarily among Mayan people in the villages of San Pedro La Laguna and Huehuetenango.

The Boyce team participated in personal evangelism, presented dramas of Bible stories, conducted sports ministry and shared testimonies. The team also led worship services that were broadcast on the radio and conducted conferences for youth on biblical and theological issues.

One pastor told the team they made a major impact with local youth.

“The pastor said it was the first time that a team had ever come and worked specifically with the youth,” McClellan said. “There were changed lives and commitments made by children, youth and adults.”

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