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Short-term mission trips spark church’s passion for missions

HOUSTON (BP)–Someone once told Pastor John Neesley not to get involved with short-term mission trips, that it would shift focus away from the church’s missions offering. But for Lazybrook Baptist Church in Houston, Neesley has found the opposite to be true.

After participating in multiple mission trips around the globe, the 230-member church beat their $30,000 Lottie Moon Offering goal last year by raising $40,000, which the pastor said was no easy task.

“We’re not a wealthy church,” said Neesley, who has led Lazybrook Baptist Church for nine years. “The year before I came, we had a goal of $2,000. We’ve really grown.”

Located on the northwest side of urban Houston, the congregation is diverse and made up mostly of retirees, people on fixed incomes, young couples with small children and a few single adults.

“I believe the difference has been living the experience,” Neesley said. “[Missions is] our passion, our purpose. It’s not what we do in between Christmas parties.”

The church has found that being directly involved with missions and working with fulltime missionaries creates an excitement that no other campaign or promotion can match.

This year, the church has sent members on volunteer mission trips to the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Mexico and northeast Africa. One of the trips involved medical mission work in areas devastated by last year’s tsunami. In addition to volunteer teams, the church also has two members who are fulltime workers in Bangladesh. A team from the church recently went on a volunteer trip to help them with their work.

When church members have returned from their mission trips, Neesley said their stories have had a powerful impact on the congregation.

“[The church] saw pictures, heard stories -– they saw the sacrifice,” he said. “They saw a picture of a national who is in jail for preaching. It puts our sacrifice in perspective.”

Though Lazybrook is not a large church compared to many other congregations, Neesley said their size has not kept them from sending volunteer teams to the field. He sees their size as an advantage.

“Actually, because of our size, I’m a part of something much bigger,” he said. “We know we can’t do it on our own.”

And expenses haven’t gotten in the way, either. For those who volunteer, the church covers half the cost of the trip.

“As the people come and the projects come, the money comes,” Neesley said.

Another way Lazybrook stirs excitement for missions among its congregation is through a missions banquet and an annual silent auction. The church also owns a mission house where missionaries on stateside assignment can live. And every Wednesday, the church opens its prayer meeting with prayer for missions.

God honors churches that make missions a priority, Neesley said.

“I think that is the big difference,” he said. “It’s why we’re here. It’s our priority. It’s just about trying to keep that priority before us.”

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  • Shawn Hendricks