ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Summer student missionaries serving with World Changers, PowerPlant and Families on Mission gathered at the North American Mission Board for the annual “Great Send Off” commissioning service June 2.
The 84 summer student missionaries will travel in 21 teams across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico helping lead 25,000 participants in construction, ministry and church planting projects during the summer.
Harry Lewis, NAMB’s vice president of partnership missions and mobilization, delivered the commissioning sermon while summer staff worship leaders led the music. John Bailey, NAMB’s student volunteer mobilization team leader, welcomed staff and family members.
The summer missionary teams will coordinate logistics, lead worship and provide support at 122 projects related to World Changers, PowerPlant and Families on Mission.
“God is in the sending business,” Lewis told the student missionaries, citing examples from the Old and New Testaments.
“When God sent Paul to the Gentiles, He began a missional movement,” Lewis said. “Who knows what God’s going to accomplish through you this summer.”
Lewis reminded the students that they are being sent with the vision of Jesus, the authority of the Father, instructions for the task, the message of the Gospel and the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit.
“You are going to touch the lives of 25,000 young people,” Lewis said. “The potential in this room is tremendous.
“I’m looking forward to the reports when you come back of how many people came to Christ and how your lives were changed.”
Through World Changers, some 23,000 students will travel to 85 cities — including Waianae, Hawaii, and Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico — to participate in 97 projects involving roof installation, drywall repair, painting and ministry evangelism this summer –- the program’s 20th anniversary since it began under the former SBC Brotherhood Commission.
Another 2,400 students will participate in PowerPlant projects in 19 cities from Los Angeles to Ottawa, Ontario. Through PowerPlant, students learn about local church planting efforts and work alongside a church planter.
Families on Mission, the third ministry given the “Great Send Off,” will involve more than 600 family members who, as families, will undertake missions projects in six cities throughout the U.S.
World Changers, PowerPlant, Families on Mission summer staff are leaders in their college churches and campus ministries. Many have served multiple summers, like Daphne Davies, a member of First Baptist Church in Belton, Texas, who is in her third summer with World Changers.
Davies, 21, recently returned from Chile where she spent four months teaching English through the International Mission Board’s “Hands On” missions experience. A recent graduate of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, Davies hadn’t planned on serving with World Changers this summer, but when a last-minute opportunity opened up, she jumped at the chance.
“I came back because it was another opportunity to enable students to share Christ,” Davies said. “This is a real opportunity to reach thousands of people, and I’m glad to serve and be a part of that.”
Davies said World Changers gives student participants an awareness and perspective of the United States they may not have experienced before.
“Many have never been out of their state,” Davies said. “They meet real people who have real needs, and they can be a part of helping them. That changes their perspective forever.
“For an entire week, they are challenged to look around and see the needs of others and participate in changing other people’s worlds.”
Davies will be leading a team encompassing three other students headed for World Changers projects in Alabama.
Colby Huftalen of First Baptist Church in Weston, Fla., who will serve as the team’s music leader, just graduated from high school this spring. Although the 18-year-old is new to summer staff, he’s a seasoned World Changer. Having accepted Christ at his first World Changers project, he’s participated in eight projects during his middle school and high school years.
“I’ve enjoyed introducing my family and classmates to World Changers over the years and watching God work through them,” Huftalen said. “I want to be a youth pastor. Hopefully this summer will help confirm my calling.”
Simeon Bricker, a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, serving as the audio-visual technician for one of the PowerPlant teams, is returning for a second summer.
“Seeing churches focused on their communities and reaching people with the love that Christ called us to is one of the main reasons I came back,” said Bricker, a member of Strasburg (Mo.) Baptist Church. “My hope for the summer is that God would move in the hearts of students and give them a desire to go back to their own communities and live out what they learned at PowerPlant.”
Bricker’s passion for seeing Christians awaken to the needs of the mission field has spilled over into his college coursework as a studio art major.
“I’d like to use multi-media to bring missions to life,” he said, “and let people have a view of what’s going on in the world through missions.”
The student missionaries spent nearly two weeks in training at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., with Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as the speaker during worship sessions.
Ross has had a rich history with World Changers since attending his first project in Alaska in the late 1990s.
He challenged the summer staff to “lead students to a radically different view of God’s call.”
“It’s not just about living for Christ,” Ross said. “It’s about allowing Him to live in me and through me to bring His Kingdom more on earth.”
Ross described Christians as vessels to be used by God to carry His Son Jesus and the Good News of Christ’s Kingdom to the rest of the world.
“If a loss of passion for missions is a primary crisis in the SBC, then students leaving the church after high school is a secondary crisis,” Ross said. “But if churches send out students on the greatest and hardest challenge of their young lives, and they see Christ at work with their own eyes, and they rub shoulders with great Christian missionaries and leaders, losing them when they get home does not seem likely.
“I really believe young people could be the spark of the next revival,” Ross said. “I want you to consider being on the frothy edge of a tsunami if God chooses to start a movement with your generation.”
Carol Pipes is a writer for the North American Mission Board.