Every summer for the last few years, college students have participated in the GenSend missions experience, being fully immersed in one of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Cities to learn how to live “on mission” every day. But since the COVID-19 crisis is making the usual experience impossible, NAMB is launching a virtual experience for college students and leaders called GenSendNOW.
“With COVID shutting down safe travel, we really got to thinking about how GenSend is a way of thinking, not a trip,” said Steve Turner, NAMB’s senior director of next gen[eration] mobilization through Send Relief. “The coronavirus shouldn’t really slow us down. GenSend is really made for something like COVID.”
GenSendNOW launches June 1 and lasts through July. The program includes weekly, interactive webinars with mission leaders from across North America, training for how to live on mission and challenges that will help participants engage their own communities. Full access to the live video chats and training material requires participants to register for free at now.gensend.org.
“GenSend is your life on mission anywhere and everywhere, whenever you’re there to the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel,” Turner said.
George Ross, NAMB’s Send City Missionary in New Orleans, will be one of the first missionaries to appear on the weekly GenSendNOW webinar.
“We have the firsthand experience of seeing college students moving to New Orleans,” Ross said. “We have seen college students participate in GenSend, come back and become game changers in church plants.”
Ross cited Lexie Green, an ICU nurse in the city, who served in New Orleans through GenSend and has been able to share her testimony after contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.
“We want college students to be aware that even in the midst of this pandemic, the mission is advancing,” Ross said. “This is an opportunity to make students aware of that and give them an opportunity to respond to it.
“The great news is that, as believers, as Kingdom citizens, we can step in, not only with help, but with the hope of what Jesus means to us and what we believe is the hope that changes a person’s life forever.”
Turner has recently engaged in virtual meetings with collegiate leaders across the nation. Many have been discussing plans for ministry given that the typical summer and fall schedules – such as college campus orientations and “welcome weeks” that take place at the start of the semester – could be radically different.
“GenSendNOW is about helping students navigate their life on mission in their current context while preparing them for going back to school, whatever that will look like,” Turner said.
In a typical summer, GenSend students travel to various cities or regions where they learn missional principles for using their lives to make the gospel known, then return home where they continue to practice what they learned. The aim of GenSendNOW is to flip that script.
“For those who went to GenSend in the past, we’ve told them not just to use these principles in the cities they serve, but we’ve encouraged them to take them home,” Turner said. “Now, we are asking them to utilize the principles now and think about how they may use them in the city sometime in the future.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)