A volunteer team from Corinth Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, N.C., recently took a short-term mission trip to Thailand as part of a long running partnership with Calvary Baptist Church in Bangkok.
Members from Corinth Baptist Church, Elizabeth City, N.C., are pictured with Calvary Baptist Church leaders in Bangkok, Thailand: from left, Aimee Beard, Lee Johnson, Tara Johnson, Tilly Antone, Jasmyn Crank, Jared Johnson, Kim Crank, Perry Dawson, Kristina Iacono, Angie Dawson, Carrie Chappell, Martin Chappell.
Lee Johnson, Corinth’s director of outreach and discipleship, said, “We go to support whatever they’re doing.”
The 10-person team aided Calvary’s refugee ministry as they visited and distributed food bags to asylum seekers, provided tutoring for school-age refugees and organized a Vacation Bible School.
Calvary’s senior pastor, Martin Chappell, is a former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary and former associate pastor at Corinth.
He and his wife, Carrie, along with their three sons, moved to Myanmar (formerly called Burma) in 1999. After two years they felt God calling them to ministry in Bangkok.
Calvary was started by IMB missionaries nearly 60 years ago.
Worship services are conducted in English, drawing a diverse congregation from around the city.
The church also hosts five non-English speaking ministries, which use the facilities for corporate worship and other activities. Chappell became senior pastor in 2001.
Shortly after Johnson began attending Corinth in 2008, he discovered that five families connected to the congregation were serving in Southeast Asia.
Johnson recalled a well-known line by Henry Blackaby from the popular Bible study, Experiencing God: “Find out where God is at work and join Him there.”
“I think we had a neon sign saying, ‘Join me in Southeast Asia,’” he said.
Johnson prayed about the potential partnership for years before a “turning point” in 2010 when the Chappells visited Corinth while on stateside assignment.
He approached Carrie about the idea of bringing short-term teams to Thailand after she spoke in one of Corinth’s worship services.
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?” she said.
Less than six months later Johnson led a team from Corinth on their first trip to Bangkok. The church has since sent five more teams to support Calvary’s ministry efforts.
“We feel like they’re out-of-town family,” said Johnson’s wife, Tara.
The partnership not only supports Calvary’s ministry, Johnson said. The cooperation has an effect on the North Carolina congregation.
“In little ways, I think they feel more connected to the foreign mission field,” said Johnson. “We are trying to help our young people view themselves as global Christians … to see a bigger world and its implications for their faith.”
The refugee ministry challenges the do-it-yourself attitude Johnson sees among American Christians, which he considers to be a sign of hubris.
“We believe if you throw enough money at a problem, we can solve it,” he said. “You go there, and you have to admit you’re up against a problem that you can’t solve.
“In that [admission] is not despair, but rest in God, letting Him work through you. And then you do what you can.”
Johnson encourages other churches in North Carolina to consider ways of partnering long-term with global churches.
“To be able to take people from here to there, year after year,” he said, “you get to see the ups and downs of their life.
“It’s really not that hard to do … if you can take your family to Disney World, you can take a mission trip.”