Street preaching, Muslim outreach among student mission work in Detroit

Communications Staff — April 24, 2014

Ten students from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary spent a week of their spring break on the streets in Detroit, Mich., evangelizing, ministering to the homeless and sharing the gospel with Muslims in the community.

The seminary’s Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization sent the team to struggling Detroit neighborhoods, March 29 – April 6, to partner with the North American Mission Board’s urban ministry program, helping local church plants and evangelism in the area.

The Detroit team is one of 11 mission trips the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization at Southern Seminary and the school’s D3 youth camp will send during the spring and into late summer. With about 70 participants total, teams will work in domestic locations, including Maine, Connecticut, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Utah, and internationally in southern France, central and south Asia, Uganda and Brazil  during the summer break.

Mark T. Coppenger, professsor of Christian philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., engages in street preaching in Detroit during a recent student mission trip he led.
Mark T. Coppenger, professsor of Christian philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., engages in street preaching in Detroit during a recent student mission trip he led.

Mark T. Coppenger, professor of Christian philosophy and director of the seminary’s Nashville, Tenn., extension center, led the Detroit trip. He said mission trips are “transformative for the short-termers. But, having served as a church planter in a ‘pioneer area,’ I can assure you that volunteers can be a great encouragement to the saints who live there and are doing their best to be salt and light in the community,” noting the importance of mission trips for urban church plants.

At the beginning of the week, students spent one Sunday ministering at Victory Fellowship Baptist Church whose pastor, Darryl Gaddy, is the moderator for the Greater Detroit Baptist Association.

They also worked with Matt Vroman, pastor of Eastside Community Church. The group helped him canvass the neighborhood in which he ministers through flyer distribution, inviting families to the church. On their final Sunday in the city, the group drove Eastside’s church van to pick up people for the morning worship service. Coppenger preached and the students led the service.

Later, the team met with the North American Mission Board’s Send: Detroit and associational leaders to create promotional videos for five selected neighborhoods in the city: Rivertown, Corktown, Lafayette Park, Midtown and Poletown. Students filmed videos of local residents in each area for NAMB to use for church planting promotion in the selected neighborhoods.

A primary focus of the trip was evangelism to Muslims, including a visit to the Islamic House of Wisdom mosque where they attended a service, met and shared the gospel with the Imam — the leader of the mosque — and shared a meal with him and his wife.

The team later worked with a Detroit parachurch ministry to homeless people, distributing more than 80 sack lunches which lead to several evangelism opportunities. Later that day, Coppenger took the group to Wayne State University to meet with the campus ministry director and current Southern Seminary doctoral student, Ben Edwards. The group toured the campus, learned more about Edwards’ ministry to students and those in the area and did more street evangelism later that day.

“I think we had an impact,” Coppenger said. “And, who knows, the hook may have been set in the hearts of some team members so that they’ll respond to the tug to return to the field as new student residents-on-mission.”

Steve Runner, a student who went to Detroit with the team, said the trip benefitted him as a seminary student.

“Especially beneficial on this trip was the exposure to the Muslim community in Dearborn,” he said. “We were able to attend a Friday prayer service at a mosque, then spend some time with the Imam and his family. This ‘boots on the ground’ experience is unavailable in the academic environment, and provides invaluable insight into the ‘real lives’ of people of other belief systems.”

The seminary offered five hours of applied ministry course credit for students who went to Detroit.

In conjunction with the D3 youth conference, nine high school students and several Boyce College students will work with Sufficiency of Scripture ministries in hospitals, schools and orphanages in Uganda. A group will also go from D3 to Maine to work with Redemption Hill Community Church.

In south Asia in the Himalayas, June 13-27, seven students will help train local leaders with an emphasis on fundamental theology and hermeneutics.

Ten students going to southern France, June 14-28, will work with local church plants and evangelism outreach among unreached peoples.

Seven students will do mission work in south Asia, May 17-28.

Later in the summer, June 16-28, four students will visit central Asia to teach English classes and evangelize to locals.

Travis Kerns will lead four students on a trip to Utah, where they will interact with other students and do campus ministry at the University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University, June 23-30. The will also interact and share the gospel with several Church of the Latter Day Saints leaders.

The Baltimore trip will canvass the city before the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in June.

More information about mission trips with the Bevin Center, ways to support students going on the trips or ways to pray, visit the Bevin Center, located in Honeycutt 218.

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