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WEEK OF PRAYER: Students coming back changed

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme “Every Church. Every Nation.” The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.

EAST ASIA (BP) — Pastor Keith said when he looks across his church and identifies the highest-impact individuals, the ones who are highly evangelistic disciple-makers, they have some unifying factors. One of them is that they’ve spent time in East Asia.

“They come back, and their perspective on their life and on the world is completely changed,” noted Keith, who serves as lead pastor of Resonate Church, a Washington State-based church with campuses in Idaho and Oregon. “They see lostness where they had just seen regularity, and they see themselves as missionaries more than when they left.”

Over the past three years, more than 80 students have participated in Resonate’s partnership with International Mission Board workers in the East Asia region. Students travel there to serve for 10 weeks in the summer or two weeks on Christmas break.

“We put them into a college campus and by being in that context, their lives are radically changed,” Keith said. “To be able to say ‘I’m here for a specific reason for a short time’ develops that courage muscle. As they try stuff there, the receptivity of college students begins to create an optimism that gets carried home with them. It builds a courageous spirit, and that permeates their identity.”

It also makes a lasting impact on the East Asian students they meet while they’re there. “We’ve seen 13 college students decide to make a decision for Christ,” Keith said. “There are four house churches that have been started in the past year or so.”

All this started in 2014 when Keith and his wife Paige went on a trip to the East Asia region and saw the opportunities there to reach the area through its university students. Keith and Paige came back and told the stories, and eight Resonate members decided they wanted to relocate their lives to the region.

Keith wanted to make a habit of sending students there to get their feet wet in missions. It appeared to be a double blessing as it bolstered students’ hearts to come back and think missionally at home, while supporting the work of their partners on the field.

“One of the things I most wanted to do with this was have every student see they are empowered to start something for the Kingdom,” Keith said. “Going to East Asia not only opens their eyes to the lostness, it shows them that they can do something about it.”

It’s created a pathway of direct development for missionaries, Keith said. “If you want to accelerate your disciple making, put them in a context overseas. People start to see their world as a place where they were sent as a missionary.”

Pray for:

— IMB workers and their field partners in the East Asia region to impact lostness by reaching and mobilizing Asian university students.

— God to raise up more workers through strategic partnerships. Also pray God would prompt churches to be generous in supporting missionaries overseas.

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