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Seminary students engage international summer mission trips

Emma Cann and her classmates visit Tagaytay, Phillipines with the Taal Volcano in the background. Photo provided

NASHVILLE (BP) – It’s one thing to learn about missions in a classroom, but it’s a totally different experience to share the Gospel face to face with those who’ve never heard. Though summer has barely begun, students from Southern Baptist seminaries have already had that experience.

For Emma Cann, a senior at Boyce College studying education, a trip to the Philippines was a time to seek clarity in her calling. Boyce is the undergraduate school affiliated with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Boyce student Emma Cann pictured in front of Mount Daraitan, Philippines.

“One of my hopes with this trip was to see if this kind of context is somewhere I can see myself,” Cann said. “I have had interest in going overseas for a while, but I haven’t actually been able to go and see what international schooling looks like.”

Cann and 10 other students left for the country in the early morning hours on May 12, the day after graduation.

The group connected with local ministry partners, including some former Southern students, and served various local schools by teaching English reading comprehension.

The trip was led by Melissa Tucker, associate professor and chair of the education department at Boyce.

She told Baptist Press every school the group visited, both public and private, was open to the students’ sharing the Gospel.

Cann told Baptist Press the trip provided a chance to be “thrown into the fire” of international teaching.

Through this process, she found some of the clarity she had been searching for.

“It really grew my desire and interest in working overseas,” Cann said. “I felt more confirmation that I should pursue teaching. I think it definitely made me a lot more excited and open to pursuing what that might look like, whether in the Philippines or another country.”

She spoke highly of her experience at her school.

“I have treasured my time at Boyce and to be in this community,” Cann said. “The overall atmosphere of our campus is one of seeking the Lord and wanting earnestly to know Him and to use His Word rightly and obey His commandments faithfully. The Bevin Center presents opportunities for us to take what we’ve learned and to use it in such different contexts. It’s such a blessing.”

J. Keith McKinley is associate professor of Christian missions and director of the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization at Southern.

He told Baptist Press Cann’s trip to the Philippines was just one of several trips Southern students have taken over the last year, and more will take place this summer.

Trip locations include locations in the Middle East, India, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

In total, the trips encompass more than 50 students and seven different locations.

“It’s fantastic,” McKinley said of the student trips. “I was very happy with our students in both our seminary and the college last year.

“The thing that I want my students to get is what it’s like to be a missionary in that location. We love when we get to work with a missionary family.”

Many of the trips are facilitated through partnerships with the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, he said. The goal for all students is to realize their part to play in missions, no matter their specific calling.

“Not all are called to be missionaries, but all of us are called to participate in the missionary mission,” McKinley said. “Let that experience feed your ministry desire for the rest of your life. Let it influence your calling.”

Southern is not the only seminary with students already participating in international missions this summer.

Megan*, a Gateway Seminary student, recently returned from a five-student trip to Southeast Asia.

Much like Cann, Megan was seeking confirmation about her calling to serve overseas, only for her, it was about a specific country.

“I think these kinds of trips can confirm your calling if not already,” she told BP. 

“I think being able to ask the workers out there how they choose their places was helpful. What I did not know before was thinking through the type of place I would need to be in and thinking through the rules of that place and whether or not I could survive in that type of culture.”

Gateway announced a new partnership with the IMB earlier this year titled the GoGrant which will fund one short-term mission trip for each student during their education.

Joe Kim, associate professor of intercultural education, said the partnership has already proved fruitful, as evidenced by the recent trip to Southeast Asia, on which he led Megan and four others.

He said cooperation like this ensures these summer seminary trips are not merely a fun way for students to spend their summer, but a step toward an ultimate purpose.

“I think it’s (partnership with IMB) critical,” Kim said. “We are a Southern Baptist entity, and so we are training our students to be missionaries. I think a natural thing is because we do have the International Mission Board, that is the natural pathway for our students to be sent our as IMB missionaries. All the pieces within the Southern Baptist Convention play a role in not only in training future missionaries, but making sure that there is a pathway for them to get on the field, which is the International Mission Board.”

*Last name withheld for security purposes