Brittany Thompson Ferris was a 19-year-old college sophomore when a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary visited her church, First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas. As the missionary shared about the lostness in Salt Lake City, Ferris was captivated by the city as a mission field.
“The Holy Spirit spoke straight to my heart about Salt Lake City,” she said of one of the cities where NAMB is prioritizing church planting. “I didn’t know what it would look like, but I did know that I was supposed to do something there.”
In the spring of 2013, she participated in a short-term mission trip to the city, and her enthusiasm grew. Ferris asked God to reveal what she was supposed to do there. He answered through Romans 15:20-21, she said. “My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation, but, as it is written: Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand,” Ferris noted.
“When I read that scripture I knew God was telling me that, just as Paul was called to carry the gospel to those who had never heard before, He was calling me to do the same,” she said. “I knew my mission was to spread the gospel where it has not been spread, and I knew Salt Lake City was where He was calling me to do that.”
Brittany Thompson Ferris and Garrett Ferris
Not long after, Ferris learned of an opportunity through NAMB to serve as a Generation Send (GenSend) mobilizer for summer student missionaries to the city. Ferris spent the next semester recruiting and training a team of nine students from Midwestern State University in Witchita Falls, Texas, and other surrounding schools to spend the summer of 2014 in Salt Lake City.
It was an experience that changed her life.
She spent 10 weeks with church planters in Salt Lake City learning to live out the gospel in every aspect of her life. She rode public transportation just to meet people and build relationships. She had conversations with total strangers. Ferris learned that being a Christ follower was more than attending church, reading her Bible and praying – it was being an everyday missionary. It was being ready and willing to interact with the people that God put into her path each day.
“Everywhere I went, I saw how desperately people longed to be loved and a part of community,” Ferris said. “I saw that the very essence of church planting and living a life on mission is reaching out to the people around you and loving them.”
After her summer GenSend experience, Ferris decided to plant her life in Salt Lake City. She transferred to the University of Utah for the 2014 fall semester to begin a role as a church planting team intern. Her fiancé Garrett would join her after their wedding in early 2015. For Ferris it seemed as if God had put all the pieces into place.
That is, until a completely unexpected turn of events threatened to derail her calling. Ferris’ father died of a heart attack at age 42, and she moved back home for a time to be with her family.
“In some ways,” Ferris said, “Dad’s death has given me a deeper understanding of the gospel. I’ve always known that death for a believer means eternal life in heaven, but when it moved from just being words and head knowledge to my Dad being in heaven – well, it somehow strengthened my understanding and desire to spread the gospel.”
“It’s personal,” Ferris said. “I don’t understand why all this happened or why my Dad died so young, but I do know that God is sovereign.”
Ferris and her new husband are now working in Salt Lake City as church planting interns with the Ekklesia church planting team led by Justin and Amber Bindel.
“We’re seeing people come to know who the real Jesus is, and it’s amazing!” Ferris said. “Every day I pass people that need to be loved and told about God’s plan to save them. God is at work here in Salt Lake City, and we’re so glad to be joining Him in His mission!”
Learn more about GenSend at sendnetwork.com/gensend. Looking for your next missional opportunity? Visit sendme.namb.net.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathy Chapman Sharp is a writer and church communications consultant living in Nashville, Tenn.)