Night market vendors were just beginning to set up their kiosks as the mission team prayerwalked the community around a mosque in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Some 70 Madagascar church leaders completed their training as part of Southwestern Seminary’s five-year initiative to teach discipleship, doctrine and evangelism. The Southwestern mission teams and national leaders also evangelized together, recording 99 professions of faith.
The team’s leader, Keith Eitel, walked roughly a block behind his wife and a translator as they handed out Thai-language gospel tracts. One man, after receiving a tract, became puzzled.
As they later learned, the man was from Nepal and had only come to Chiang Mai for business; he, therefore, could not read Thai. When Eitel reached him, the man noticed that Eitel had the same kind of tract, so the man asked him, “Do you know what these are?”
Eitel, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, gladly explained the gospel to him, and after the man asked a few questions, Eitel asked if he wanted to respond. The man spent a few more moments examining the tracts, which contained diagrams illustrating the gospel message.
He then looked up and said, “I need to do this.”
This summer, Southwestern deployed five mission teams around the world who experienced such divine appointments. God prepared the hearts of many whom they encountered, and the teams collectively saw 128 people profess Jesus as Lord in response to the gospel message.
In addition, seeds were planted for future decisions, and local leaders in the various locations gained added equipping for reaching the world for Christ. In light of such results, Eitel often ended his reports from the trips in which he participated with the phrase, “Praise the Lord!”
Japan, May 14-June 2
The summer’s first mission team deployed to Nagoya, Japan. Though they initially thought that recent security measures would limit their opportunities for sharing the gospel, they trusted the Lord to provide appointments with the right people, and five individuals ultimately prayed to receive Christ.
One was a student whom the team met on a college campus who already called herself a Christian. After developing a friendship with her, the Southwestern students invited her to join them for dinner. She accepted the invitation and brought some of her friends as well.
“After dinner, our students were able to have deeper conversations with the Japanese friends and shared the gospel with them,” master’s-degree student Ariel Lee recounted. “The girl who thought she was a Christian heard the gospel for the first time, and she decided to surrender her life to Christ.”
Madagascar, May 26-June 12
Now in its fifth year, Southwestern’s Madagascar Embrace program began as an initiative to evangelize the unreached, unengaged Antandroy people group (UUPG) in the East African country. This year, in the city of Fort Dauphin, the mission team once again saw God’s blessings as local leaders came to learn the Word of God and share the gospel with the lost.
In daily training sessions, approximately 70 male and female national leaders came to learn discipleship, doctrine and evangelism from Southwestern teachers. In the afternoons, the Southwesterners and nationals went out together to visit friends and relatives to share the Good News. The team also devoted one weekend to evangelizing the neighborhoods around Fort Dauphin. After two weeks, the efforts had yielded 99 professions of faith.
Haiti, May 27-June 6
Over an 11-day period, a team of five students and faculty ministered in the community of Creve in northwest Haiti to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the people. The team worked alongside Water4Nations and built three gravity-driven water purification towers to provide the entire community with clean water.
Bachelor of arts student Jim Sprouse said it was important to provide access to such a vital resource, but that it also served as a platform to engage in spiritual conversations.
“On the Sunday before we left,” Sprouse said, “I shared with many of the people in the community about how Jesus provides us with living water so that we never thirst again. These water purification systems become a springboard for the gospel message.”
Canada, June 20-July 29
The summer’s next mission team, encompassing 10 students from the College at Southwestern, deployed to Vancouver Island for six weeks of hands-on experience in evangelism, missions and church planting.
Striving to foster relationships within the community, the team, among other things, volunteered in a local homeless shelter for meal service. The effort opened the door for gospel conversations with people who frequented the shelter as well as its staff and other volunteers.
As reflected in many of their conversations, bachelor of arts student Christian Rowland said many people are interested in the message of the gospel but their apathy and search for tolerance hinders their willingness to respond.
“People are definitely searching for the truth, but they are searching in all the wrong places,” Rowland said. “I was really reminded of the urgency of the message of the gospel and the need for more workers.”
Thailand, July 7-25
Channeling their efforts primarily through spiritual conversations on college campuses and showing the JESUS film in mountain villages, the summer’s final team of 16 students and faculty went to Chiang Mai expecting great things from God – expectations that were met and even exceeded by the trip’s end as the team members personally saw 24 people come to faith in Christ.
A quote that Eitel often employed as an encouragement to the team was, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” This quote from missionary William Carey served as the guiding principle of not just the Thailand team, but all of Southwestern’s missionaries this summer.
“We tend to go into these experiences full of ‘attempting’ but we fail to be adequate in full expectation,” Eitel said. “So let’s go expecting to be surprised; to see what God is going to do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by the communications staff of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)