In the summer of 2016, college students from Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, La., traveled to Chicago and Calgary to learn to live on mission. That experience not only changed the lives of the students, it also impacted the church.
Photo courtesy of Temple Baptist Church
A GenSend team from Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, La., served in Chicago for the summer.
Temple Baptist consistently encourages its students to live on mission and to passionately pursue the Lord’s will for their lives. And because of that, many of the church’s students participate in the North American Mission Board’s GenSend initiative – a collegiate opportunity where students learn how to lead missional lives in specific contexts through mercy ministry and church planting.
“Initially, I felt a pull towards the city of Calgary when I first heard about it at Temple, but I rejected the Lord’s call,” said GenSend participant Jackie Widder. “I decided to serve in Turkey for the summer, but when the government closed the country’s borders, I realized I had been making my own plans instead of listening to God.”
After months of prayer, and receiving encouragement and mentorship from her college pastor, Widder said she felt “a peace about going to Calgary and decided to listen to God.”
Temple Baptist college student Mitchell McCallon said, “Living on mission is a big emphasis at Temple.”
“It is consistently preached from the pulpit, and it is lived out in our leaders’ lives,” he said. “Pastor Casey, our college minister, played a huge role in motivating me to go on GenSend. He is constantly encouraging us not to waste our summers.”
Both the Chicago and Calgary groups were impacted by the needs they recognized in the cities.
“Chicago needs more pastors and more church planters,” McCallon said. “But most of all, it needs faithful followers of Christ to go into the city and do life with the people who live there, which begins with the church.”
Widder noted, “One thing I noticed about Calgary is the people are lonely and searching for purpose.”
“They are longing for community, even if they don’t realize it,” she said. “Also, the city does not have enough churches for the 1.3 million people who live there. Most of the church plants are new and in need of volunteers. If more churches were planted, then the people of Calgary would receive the community they desire, but, for now, there are not nearly enough churches to adequately serve the city.”
At the end of the summer, each group’s leader gave an overview of their summer to the congregation.
“We presented videos of the GenSenders work to the congregation,” said senior pastor Reggie Bridges. “The videos explain where the students went, what they did and how the congregation’s support to the [Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions] enabled them to do it. The videos physically showed our kids living on mission.”
Because of the stories shared by their student missionaries, Temple could put faces to their Annie Armstrong offering giving. Seeing the needs of each city through the eyes of the students provided an excellent reminder of the importance of the yearly offering and its support of missionaries throughout North America.
“One thing Temple Baptist does extraordinarily well is caring and providing for college students,” McCallon said. “I can’t say enough about how much support we as a college ministry receive from the general congregation. I think this is reflected in the amount given to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Simply put, Temple loves supporting its college students in their walks with God, and they are always enthusiastic when individual students express a call to ministry or missions.”
GenSend’s purpose is being fulfilled in churches such as Temple Baptist. The students are learning how to live on mission, while simultaneously motivating their home church to see the needs of the cities they are stationed in and meeting them through the Annie Armstrong offering.
“This is not a Temple story, it’s a kingdom story,” pastor Bridges said. “We’re just excited to be a part of it.”
Everything given to the North American Mission Board (NAMB) through the Annie Armstrong offering goes directly to missionaries in the field. The offering accounts for 50 percent of NAMB’s annual resources.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alexandra Toy writes for the North American Mission Board.)