BOLIVAR (SBU) – When projects coordinated through Southwest Baptist University’s Center for Global Connections were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local ministry opportunities became a larger focus for staff and students.
“It’s not a matter of where we’re going to minister,” said Diana Gallamore, director of the Center for Global Connections and travel stewardship. “It’s a matter of where God is leading us.”
Because of the comprehensive training process students must complete before going on mission, CGC teams form months in advance. For example, the CGC was recruiting for January 2021 trips when the pandemic disruption began in March.
With spring and summer trips canceled this year and no international teams serving in January, students continue to minister and serve in new ways, including two new local ministries: SBU Glocal and the SBU Outdoor Ministry Club.
The only team with a domestic mission in January has learned to be flexible. Planning to minister to international students in Maryland, the team’s plans changed when they learned those students will not be able to travel to the U.S.
“The ministry location has changed, but not the mission purpose,” Gallamore said. “This mission will be especially impactful because it is ministering to our own students.”
The team’s new name, “SBU Glocal,” represents the blending of a local service project with the University’s SBU Global strategic initiative.
The team is working with Dr. Kelly Malone, a professor of Christian Ministry and director of global education, to provide support to international students on the Bolivar campus throughout the semester and during breaks. Students will return to campus during the week they planned to serve in Maryland, to instead host events for international students, who often are not able to go home in between semesters.
“I always believe that God’s plan is better,” said Julie DuVall, instructor of University Studies, who is co-leading the team with her husband, Dr. Bill DuVall, associate professor of psychology. “Sometimes He reveals it to us at the beginning of our planning, and sometimes He provides it to us in the midst. The pandemic created the perfect opportunity for us to be truly on board with God’s plan for our own internationals and third-culture students right here, right now. Although it was disappointing to not be able to go back to Maryland and work with the international ministry my husband and I were privileged to help begin during our work with the North American Mission Board, it was so exciting to be a part of something new right here that can help to reshape SBU’s community for generations to come.”
The team’s new mission aligns well with the University’s strategic plan for SBU Global, an initiative to increase enrollment and cultural diversity through increased enrollment of international students and third-culture kids (those who are U.S. citizens but have grown up in other countries).
“A crucial component of the SBU Global initiative is having a support system in place for these students while they are here,” Dr. Malone said. “To have some of our own students volunteer to help truly is an answer to prayer.”
An ongoing program the team is developing in conjunction with SBU Global is “Friendship Families,” pairing international and third-culture kids with local families to make connections in the community.
“When our team heard the news of a new focus for our trip, they lamented for a moment and jumped right on board planning out this new adventure God is leading us on,” Julie DuVall said. “There is synergy and joy.”
The SBU Outdoor Ministry Club is using outdoor events to share the Gospel throughout the region. After a team planning to share their testimonies with others while hiking was not able to travel to Colorado this summer, the team began a similar local ministry. The team’s focus is ministering to others in Missouri and neighboring states through multiple outdoor events during the semester.
“One of the goals of the SBU Center for Global Connections is to develop and equip the next generation of missionaries for the ‘work of service’ as mentioned in Ephesians 4:12,” said Kelly Rehm, CGC assistant director. “It’s important to provide ministry options for students to make this a rhythm of their lives. Many missionaries first participated in a short-term mission before considering ministry as a career.”
Gallamore said both these teams could become regular ministries, joining seven other ongoing local ministries.
“We are able to continue all of our local missions efforts,” Gallamore said, “but like everything else, we have had to make some adjustments due to the pandemic.”
• Polk County House of Hope: This team currently cannot serve directly at the local domestic abuse shelter but is serving the local ministry in other ways. They assist with serving a meal and childcare during weekly meetings and are assembling activities and care packages for residents. Additionally, the team is planning to assist with volunteer labor for the renovation of two buildings House of Hope recently purchased from SBU.
• Leviticus 19:32: During a normal semester, students on this team are ministering to residents of a local long-term care facility. While they are unable to visit the nursing homes, they are creating activities and sending supplies, complete with a demonstration video. Students also are sending care packages and letters of encouragement to residents.
• Exodus Ministry: Exodus Ministry helps women transition from prison back into society. While Exodus Ministry currently has no residents, students are helping raise financial support for the ministry and completing other service projects.
• Disaster Relief: In addition to working with Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief as they are called out and able to serve, students also provide some disaster relief assistance locally.
• Community Outreach Ministries: Recruitment is under way for a team to assist Community Outreach Ministries beginning in the spring with its mission to eliminate poverty and hunger in Polk County. Team members will assist with the food pantry, resale store and recycling areas.
• Polk County: The Polk County mission is a Good News Club with Child Evangelism Fellowship. Students conduct an afterschool children’s program in Bolivar and provide activities that include a Bible study, crafts, recreation and snacks. Several children have come to know the Lord through this ministry.
• Catalyst: Members of this team continue to provide missional support and leadership on campus. They also are helping with an increased number of missional education and cultural awareness events.
Gallamore said some of the international trips planned for January have been pushed back to summer. Additionally, team members not able to serve as originally planned have been encouraged to join another mission that is able to continue.
“Our students have shown great resilience in their ability to be flexible and their willingness to serve however and wherever God leads,” Gallamore said. “It is exciting to see how God continues to work in the lives of our students and those they serve.”