ELGIN, Ill.– Clyde Elder has been organizing and participating in youth mission trips for 28 years.
“They are a great way to give youth an opportunity to be the leaders,” said Elder, director of missions, St. Joseph Baptist Association.
While taking advantage of the partnership between the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and northern Illinois, last summer the young St. Joseph mission team worked with Fox Valley Baptist Association in Aurora, Ill. Plans are underway for the group to do more of the same this year.
“We do Vacation Bible Schools, block parties and prayer walking and we are excited to go back this summer to see how God has been working,” Elder said.
Richard Sanders, pastor of Larkin Avenue Baptist Church in Elgin, is also excited about the return of the mission team. As a bi-vocational pastor of a church congregation of just over 50, Sanders is grateful for the help the team gave last year and the help he anticipates they will offer again this year.
“I really appreciate the fact that they are here to work,” he said. “They are pumped up about it and when they arrive they make it really plain that they are here to help spread the Gospel in this area.”
That kind of evangelistic passion is a dream come true for Sanders. In fact, right before the St. Joseph mission team was scheduled to come last summer, the church voted not to have a Vacation Bible School because of the lack of workers.
“Then Clyde volunteered his team to do the whole thing,” Sanders said. “They also threw a block party for us. It was such an outpouring and an encouragement to me as a pastor. I would even go as far as to say that the biggest gift they bring by coming here, at least to me, is the gift of encouragement.”
Not only does a mission trip like this aid those being served, it can also be a huge milestone in the individual lives of the people who volunteer to come. Besides teaching and initiating relationships, youth and adult leaders also share personal testimony and take time to focus on what they need to work on in their personal walk with Christ.
“We are preparing them for a life of service,” Elder said. “And when they see how they can serve like that there, our hope and prayer is that they will feel the urgency to serve that way at home.”
For more information about the needs and opportunities to serve in northern Illinois visit http://www.mobaptist.org/northern_illinois or contact MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Rick Hedger at 1-800-736-6227 ext. 621. n
KAYLA RINKER/contributing writer