Students take Super Summer spirit on mission
CHALCHUAPA, El Salvador – Super Summer has gone global. But instead of emphasizing evangelism training and discipleship to high school students at Hannibal-LaGrange College or Southwest Baptist University, they’re getting on-the-job training in world missions.
Matt Kearns, student ministry director for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), led a 10-member team of high school students on a mission trip to El Salvador July 28-Aug. 7. The MBC has a partnership with the Central American nation, and this is just one of many trips Missouri Baptists will take there this year.
What makes this trip different is that it was designed with a dual purpose: not only was it an opportunity to spread the Gospel and help existing churches disciple believers, it was a hands-on training event for a new generation of servants for the Lord.
“We intended for it to be an entry-level experience,” said Kearns. “This is a training event as much as it is a harvest event. We want to see them come back and apply the things that they’ve learned about missions in their lives, even as they go back to school.”
Kearns and others, including Brad Russell, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Marble Hill, trained the 10 students during Super Summer and prepared them over several months for their first taste of international missions.
Once in El Salvador, the team spoke at a large rally coordinated by five local churches. Then the students broke into two teams. One helped lead a Vacation Bible School complete with drama, activities and crafts; the other hosted a sports clinic that began with basketball but inevitably ended up playing soccer. All the while, both teams were constantly witnessing to the El Salvadorans.
“The students had continual opportunities to share the Gospel to high school and college-aged students, as well as curious older people,” Kearns said.
Emily Foreman, MBC student ministry associate, said she enjoyed watching the students grow and mature as they partnered with churches from Chalchuapa, El Coco and Ayutica. For many of them, it was not only their first trip outside the United States, but also their first time on an airplane.
“They definitely grew over the course of the week,” she said. “At first they were overwhelmed by all these kids, and they couldn’t speak Spanish. But over the next couple of days the Lord began to pierce their hearts with love and compassion. Joy was shining through them as they began to interact with the kids and share with them. It was fun to watch them grow and see their worldview shift.”
“They got an eyeful on so many different levels,” Kearns said. “They responded really well. The chance to connect relationally means so much. They got to see that God works in spite of trivial things like poverty or a language barrier. There’s more to evangelism than confrontational presentations of the Gospel and handing out tracts. Those have their place, but this was about really learning to love people, even if you can’t talk to them. That’s a very valuable lesson. ”
As they began their journey home, each student wrote out a plan about how they were going to apply what they learned, demonstrate their faith through their daily walk and who they’re going to share Jesus with.
They do not know how many people accepted Christ during their trip, but it was not about numbers. It was about learning to be obedient.
“The Gospel doesn’t need our help,” Kearns said. “As long as we walk with the Lord, life change will happen to those around us. We won’t know from a trip like this what seeds have been sown, but there was plenty of planting and watering.”
This isn’t the end of the planting and the watering, nor is it the end the on-the-job missions training for students. The plans for Super Summer Global are big. Trips back to El Salvador are on the schedule for next summer as is a trip to London, England.
“Hopefully we can grow from 10 students to 15, to 20 to 30 to 50,” Kearns said. “We’d love to be mobilizing hundreds of Missouri students to go on entry level missions experiences. I believe we can make that a reality.”