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To this Gen Xer in missions, ‘whatever’ means as God leads

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–Whatever.
You’ve heard that response, casually dropped from the lips of stereotypical members of Generation X with just the right mix of apathy and disdain. Especially if the questioner is a parent or any member of the Baby Boom generation. It may be the most common word in the Xer lexicon, after “like.” As in, “I’m, like, … whatever.”
Far be it from an Xer aspiring to be cool to admit deep feelings or opinions. As if.
Amanda Barger, 26, must not be cool. This young woman from Franklin, Tenn., cares — passionately — about the needs of the world, especially among people who’ve never heard about Jesus.
Her definition of “whatever” applies to following God: “When God started telling me he had a purpose for my life, a special purpose why I was here on this earth that he wanted me to fulfill, I was open to serve wherever and do whatever.”
That’s why she spent two years (1994-96) trekking up and down the mountains of Albania — or flying over them in helicopters — to deliver the gospel to some of the most remote villages in Europe. These places had been cut off from the outside world for generations by geography and communist isolationism.
Through the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, Barger participated as an International Service Corps worker in Project AERO (Albanian Evangelical Rural Outreach). The project was a joint effort by Southern Baptists, Campus Crusade for Christ, Helimission and Albanian Christians to evangelize and show the “Jesus” film in more than 800 Albanian villages. The initial intensive effort led to evangelism, Bible studies and church planting.
After reaching a village by air, Land Rover or foot, “we would go from house to house and visit people,” Barger recounts. “They needed to know we cared about each and every family. God gave me a love for the people, something I didn’t have at the beginning. But I knew God had that deep love. I said, ‘Lord, I’m waiting for you to give it to me,’ and he did. He totally gave that to me.”
Once, they encountered Muslim missionaries spreading their faith. The Muslim workers wouldn’t speak to them. Later some villagers said, “We cannot believe the difference we saw in the (Muslims) who tried to share God, and you. We see this love in you that we didn’t see in them.”
Barger first became interested in missions while attending Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. She participated in spring-break mission trips and spent a summer among the Navajo Indians. After she contacted the International Mission Board about ministries worldwide, “my heart just wept for all the need, especially the unreached peoples.” The Albania assignment calling for an evangelist/discipleship trainer caught her eye.
“It’s not an easy place, but that’s who I am,” she explains. “I grew up on a farm, and I’m used to hard work. When I was in college, I took a hiking and backpacking class just for the fun of it, just to see if I could make it for six days and do 40 miles of hiking and sleeping out in the wilderness.
“I see how God used that to prepare me for hiking through the mountains of Albania. When I saw the job request that involved backpacking in the mountains, I thought, ‘I can do that.'”

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  • Erich Bridges