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Pastor’s mission trip strikes responsive chord in layman

GULFPORT, Miss. (BP)–Bret McKee talks a lot about Romania. He’s been there twice and plans to go back every year. Though his experiences never turned into a presentation of the gospel, God used his reminisces as the first step in changing at least one man’s life.
McKee, pastor of Gulfport Heights Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss., said his burden for Romania started in 1991, when the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Oradea, Romania, spoke in his church about the war-torn, poverty-stricken country and how the gospel was penetrating it in amazing ways. McKee said he wanted in, and tried to go in 1992, but the trip was canceled.
“Romania was somewhere I just really wanted to go,” McKee said. “It’s a place I’ve always had a burden for.”
Seven years later, as a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, McKee was able to see his dream come to fruition. He traveled with a missions team to Comanesti, Romania, where he led Bible school activities for children as well as street ministry and evangelism. Upon his return to Gulfport, he could talk of nothing else but his amazing experiences in overseas ministry. At least one layman was listening.
Edward Davis, a two-year-old Christian and faithful worker at Gulfport Heights, said McKee’s memories excited him, and he decided almost immediately upon McKee’s return that he would be going on the next trip.
“I’ve only been a Christian since December of ’97,” Davis said, “and I’ve spent the last two years making up for my years away from God. I saw this trip as an opportunity to do more for the Lord.”
The next opportunity presented itself soon after. The Romanian American Mission (RAM), a U.S./Romanian missions partnership, was sending another group of NOBTS students to join medical teams and lay workers from across the country for a two-week missions initiative in cities all over Romania. McKee would again travel to Comanesti, and Davis said he was determined to accompany him, but last-minute obstacles made him wonder if his desire would become a reality.
“I had decided that I was going to go, but it never would come together,” Davis said. “One week before leaving, I finally prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to go on this trip, I’m putting the responsibility back on you because I don’t know how it will work out.’
“I got to church the next morning, and a man walked up to me and said, ‘The Lord laid this on my heart last night,’ and he handed me a check for $500.
“I learned a lot about trusting God on that trip,” he added.
In Romania, Davis, McKee and 10 other team members led Bible school activities in a central park in Comanesti. Each day, more than 100 children would converge on the park for recreation, coloring and puppet shows, all leading to a presentation of the gospel. Though most of the people of Comanesti lived in dire poverty, Davis said the Christians there modeled a life he’d never seen in his peers.
“Before I went, I was still unsure about where I stood in terms of ministry and what I would do for Christ,” Davis said. “I saw those people and saw that all they had to hang on to was Christ and they weren’t ashamed of it at all. It broke my heart. After seeing that, I’ve made a commitment to share the gospel with at least one person every day for the rest of my life.”
Not only has the trip challenged Davis to be a bold witness, he said God is drawing him more and more into the ministry.
“I want to be a part of it,” he said. “I don’t know where or when or how I’m going to do it, but I want to be a part of the mission field. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a person come to Christ. My children are ready to go with me.”
For McKee as a pastor, he said the experience has taught him the absolute necessity of getting his congregation involved in missions work, or in any type of Christian service where needs are being met.
“You can talk about missions and you can give to missions,” McKee said, “but when you go and see the needs of people and then meet those needs, it’s a world of difference. It’s changed our whole church.
“It gets you beyond the attitude that says, ‘My money goes to the Cooperative Program,’ and gets you to the attitude that says, ‘I really can make a difference for Christ somewhere.'”
Davis said McKee’s memories have made a real difference in his life, and he hopes that his memories, which he’s recounted to family, friends and countless others, will make a difference, too. He said he’s not ashamed to talk about his faith anymore.
“I don’t worry about being embarrassed anymore,” Davis said. “I just worry about the soul sitting next to me.”

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