DENVER (BP) – Beginning in the fall of 2021, Send Relief plans to facilitate compassion ministry by hosting monthly mission trips in cities across North America. The goal is to give thousands of Southern Baptists an opportunity to meet physical needs and share the hope of the Gospel as they do it.
During its 2021 national Send Relief mission trips, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will cooperate with churches, local associations and state conventions as well as community leaders to determine how best to meet needs in those cities and the surrounding areas.
“We are focused on reaching those in need of physical and eternal help across North America with these events,” NAMB president Kevin Ezell said. “We want to work with churches all over the nation in order to do that. We will serve local schools, churches and other community centers that may have needs.”
The efforts will resemble the ministry already taking place in nearly a dozen cities around North America through Send Relief’s Ministry Centers.
In Denver, Jason Tipton met Zach while he was working with a local church to distribute food at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zach and his friend yelled from across the street to ask if they could get some food, too.
What might have come across as rude at first became an open door to a Gospel conversation.
Tipton, a NAMB missionary, went to speak with the two young men who wanted food. Zach was quiet and evasive in their conversation, but he did admit to being lost while, ironically, wearing a t-shirt with the famous quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
After speaking with Zach, Tipton looked to one of the pastors who was helping with food distribution and said, “God’s about to save this guy.” Unfortunately, when Tipton returned with the food, Zach was gone.
The Holy Spirit was not done, however, because as Tipton was leaving, he saw Zach sitting on the steps of a local church. He hurried to speak with him, and as Tipton talked through the Gospel, he could see Zach’s demeanor start to change.
“The scales came off his eyes, and he came to Christ,” Tipton said. “He said to me, ‘I can’t believe I told you earlier that I was lost. I’m not lost anymore.’”
As a NAMB missionary, Tipton is focused on Send Relief compassion ministry in Denver and leads the Send Relief ministry center there. This year, Send Relief ministry centers across North America have been well positioned to meet needs during the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Through compassion ministry in New York, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico, NAMB missionaries have had numerous opportunities to meet needs and share the hope of the Gospel.
“In the first months of the pandemic, Graffiti Ministries in New York City gave out five times as much food as it normally does with the help of Send Relief and other partners,” said Taylor Field, a NAMB missionary. “As we emphasized ‘food and follow-up,’ one woman recently accepted the Lord over the phone as we walked with her through our follow-up. She is now one of our most faithful members online.”
The Send Relief ministry center in Pittsburgh has had the privilege of piloting a new church-based approach to meeting needs, building relationships and changing lives.
“We have worked hard to serve various poverty needs throughout our community,” said Rob Wilton, NAMB missionary and pastor of Vintage Church Pittsburgh. “We’ve also partnered with sister Send Pittsburgh churches to see the ministry of Send Relief multiplied throughout the city.”
Along with helping others in the community, the newly planned national mission project efforts will also aid local churches that may be in need of assistance.
“There may also be some local churches that could use some work around their facilities,” Ezell said. “We want to come alongside them too, so they can be better equipped to reach their communities.”
As the national mission trips take place, more Send Relief Ministry Centers will come online in cities and regions across North America in 2021 to go along with those already in places like New Orleans, Appalachia, South Dakota and Los Angeles.
While not all of these centers will have a physical building or complex, they will be staffed by NAMB missionaries who will aim to help churches, both in that local region and from around the U.S. and Canada, to conduct compassion ministry with an intentional focus toward sharing the Gospel.
“Compassion ministry, in and of itself, is not evangelism,” said Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief. “But meeting someone’s physical need often builds a great bridge to discussing their spiritual need. Many won’t even give the Gospel a hearing until they realize that we care about their physical wellbeing.”
Following the various travel restrictions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, one aspect of the Send Relief mission trips is to refocus churches on the Great Commission.
“COVID put such a dent on churches taking mission trips,” Wright said. “We are hoping to see many churches step up to the plate in 2021 as the virus begins to lift. We need to be sure to rekindle our sense of going, serving and sharing the Gospel with those in need.”
Send Relief hopes to schedule its first national mission events for Fall 2021.