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OVERSEAS MISSIONS (FIRST-PERSON): Mission trips — the best discipleship program imaginable

MISSOURI CITY, Texas (BP)–Why do mission trips?

I spent ages 10 to 13 on the mission field as the child of International Mission Board missionaries. After my father died and I was grown, my mother returned overseas as an IMB missionary.

By getting to experience the mission field firsthand, I learned to appreciate other people and cultures. I learned God loves and is pursuing the lost. I learned God does great things despite the imperfections of His messengers. Most of all, I learned the value of love, humility, sacrifice and commitment evidenced by the lives of missionaries.

That is why my church, Colony Baptist Church in Missouri City, Texas, made a commitment to “adopt” the Mankanya of Senegal.

People ask, “How long is your commitment?” Our answer is, “Until our people group is starting biblical churches and sending out missionaries.”

Why do mission trips? Because, there aren’t enough full-time missionaries to work with each people group, so we — churches — need to help fill that gap.


People may ask, “Aren’t there enough needs in churches’ backyards?”

The Great Commission commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. Our backyard is very important, and we have a responsibility to share Christ and minister where we live, but that is not a reason to ignore or neglect the spiritual needs of the world.

Another question is, “Why partner with others when you could go out on your own?”

We have discovered that as we have been obedient to follow God’s lead, He has positioned us with others who also are obediently following His lead. That is what it means to be Kingdom-minded. Our role is just one piece of the puzzle. Failing to partner with others means you will miss the big picture of what God is doing. You miss the real “koinonia” fellowship of believers working together. You miss opportunities to learn, grow and share what God is doing.

In our small church’s journey to adopt people group in West Africa, an IMB missionary made us aware of the need, an IMB missionary gave us our initial training, an IMB journeyman (short-term missionary) took us on our initial trip to locate our people group and the IMB found a church — Bethel Baptist Church in York, S.C. — that God was calling to our same people group and helped link us together.

African believers in Senegal serve as our translators. Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International provide us with material in our people group’s heart language. They led us to key contacts who are wonderful resources in helping us understand our people group’s unique language and culture.

I believe it may be harder to partner initially because it requires humility and patience. It requires giving as well as receiving. Being a “maverick” at times means you can do what you want and go where you want — but at best you will learn the hard way, and at worst, disaster.


“What can small churches do? What if you don’t have a large membership or a big budget?”

Missions partnerships are for those who hear the voice of God and have the faith to follow Him. The size of the church does not matter.

Our church is a small church. We have a big God. We have learned that where God guides, He provides.

Two years ago, if you had told me we would spend the money we have spent to go on mission with God, I would have said, “We can’t afford it.” Graciously, God did not tell us the two-year amount, He just said, “Follow.”

When we adopted our people group two years ago, we had an average Sunday morning attendance of 100. As we have trusted God, we have seen that He has always provided. We have received resources we could have never imagined to provide for this work. We have not lacked for anything else God has called us to do.

Our church has grown locally both spiritually and numerically because of our faithfulness to God. I believe adopting a people group is the best discipleship program imaginable.

Our members meet to pray, plan, prepare, strategize and learn the language. To date, 16 church members have visited our people group in West Africa. They also meet missionaries firsthand and learn from them. What thrills me is seeing God work in our church as well as in our people group as a result.


Being from the Houston area, we emphasize that NASA uses astronauts, but everyone at Mission Control is essential and involved. Adopting this people group is the mission of the entire church.

Our church members see God at work and are personally challenged in their spiritual growth. Like many volunteers, they say, “I cannot wait to go back.”

Then they add, “I need to be doing this here.” Perhaps that is why our small church has almost doubled in two years.
Mark Dean is pastor of Colony Baptist Church in Missouri City, Texas. The International Mission Board is the Southern Baptist Convention missions entity that serves churches to facilitate their involvement in the Great Commission and the sending of international missionaries to bring all peoples to faith in Jesus Christ. The IMB has more than 5,500 missionaries supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. For more information, please visit imb.org.

    About the Author

  • Mark Dean