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Union ‘GO teams’ aid missions as ‘extra boots on the ground’

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Even though he was on a different continent, Neal Rager was in a familiar setting during his mission trip to Tanzania during January.

Rager, coordinator of student leadership development at Union University, and his “GO team” worked with college students at the University of Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania team was just one of seven GO team mission trips sponsored by Union in January.

“We were just extra boots on the ground for the missionaries -– extra eyes and arms and ears they didn’t have before,” Rager said. “We went out and knocked on doors of dorm rooms, met kids around the cafeteria and just talked to them about faith.”

In addition to the Tanzania team, Union sent groups to northern Africa, Central Asia, Thailand, Botswana and Seattle, Wash.

Suzanne Mosley, Union’s director of student outreach, said the students had great experiences “and saw God do some incredible things that they’re not accustomed to.”

The Tanzania team worked with six missionaries from the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board who are assigned to the Tanzania university of 15,000 students.

One of those six missionaries, Laura Lee Moore, is a journeyman in Tanzania for two years. She graduated from Union in 2004. Another Union graduate, Bethany Davis, also is a journeyman there, though she isn’t assigned to the university.

“They were really receptive,” Rager said of the students at the university. “College is a time when you’re receptive to new ideas anyway. Even people who were staunchly Muslim would want to talk to you about religious issues.”

For Megan Fuller, a 2004 Union graduate and member of the Tanzania team, the experience prompted her to think about her daily conversations with others.

“How many of my conversations here turn around to what the Lord has done for me and what the Lord can do for someone else?” Fuller asked. “It doesn’t happen as often as it should. Here I am in one of the easiest places to be a Christian and my conversation doesn’t turn around to that like it should.”

Fuller said the trip helped her realize that “I don’t have to go to the other side of the world to tell somebody else about the Lord.”

Because the Tanzania trip was all about “day-to-day missionary work,” Rager said it had a significant impact on his team. Four of the team members left Africa feeling calls to do missions work.

“They understand … it doesn’t require perfection and sainthood to do this kind of thing,” Rager said. “It made God’s global purpose real, and I guess that’s the point of a GO trip.”

Graham Mayfield, missions manager for Global Youth Ministry based in Jackson, Tenn., and a 2003 Union graduate, led a team to a central Asia country that, for security reasons, cannot be identified. The team held a camp for children of IMB workers from several countries.

Mayfield said the Bible study during the camp centered on the second half of the Book of Acts and the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys.

“We used that as a way to encourage them that even though their parents are the ones called to the mission field, they can still have an impact and do awesome things for the Kingdom,” Mayfield said.

The kids were grateful for the Union team’s efforts, especially since many of them don’t have congregations where they can fellowship and worship as a group.

“Kids were thanking us,” Mayfield said. “One kid came up and said the speakers really had a big impact on her life. One girl e-mailed me and said thanks for coming.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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