Summer missions, reimagined

It seems like every day brings new revelations of another part of society affected by the coronavirus. Ministry has changed, the coming school year is in flux and countless businesses have been interrupted. One group many might not have considered is the community of missionaries serving all over the world. Missionaries on the field have faced considerable challenges, according to Terry Sharp

of the International Mission Board.

“During this crisis, the IMB has encountered unforeseen costs,” said IMB President Dr. Paul Chitwood, “We’ve evacuated and relocated some missionaries from certain places around the globe for a host of reasons related to the pandemic.”

Not everyone is giving time and thought to our IMB missionaries, but one Arkansas church, First Baptist Church in Rogers, is taking action to support international missions in this unusual time in our nation’s history. The church normally sends out about 10 teams of missionaries each summer.

“Since we’re not able to do that this year, we decided that we would shift our focus, recognizing that the Great Commission doesn’t stop,” said Wade Tomlinson, Pastor of Missions at FBC Rogers.

In discussing how to continue involvement in international missions, Tomlinson and the other leaders of FBC Rogers, including Senior Pastor Dr. Wes George, realized that they couldn’t send people abroad this year as they usually do, but there’s still a lot they can do from home.

“We still have a part to play in God’s plan for the nations,” Tomlinson said, “We decided to bring our missionaries to us.”

The church’s Summer Missions Week has typically been a time to send out missions teams every year, but for 2020 they decided to engage with missionaries through a virtual missions week. Each day from June 28 to July 1, the church hosted a Zoom webinar with different international missionaries, bringing awareness to church members about the work being done overseas and hopefully igniting a passion for missions along the way. Missionaries involved included Dr. Paul Chitwood of the IMB, Steve Trammell with Amazon Outreach, Libby Swenson with Love Justice International, and several missionaries on the field in Asia and South America.

In addition to the Zoom calls, Summer Missions Week is serving as the launch of the church’s initiatives for prayer and giving. On the prayer side, the church has designated a different unreached people group for each day of the summer to be the subject of focused daily prayer by church members.

On the giving side, FBC Rogers set a big goal.

“Normally, with all our summer mission trips we would spend tens of thousands of dollars to send people,” Tomlinson said. “We thought, what if we gave that directly to our missionaries? So that’s what we’re doing, we’re setting a goal of $100,000 to raise this summer.”

Pastor Wes George came up with that substantial goal. Money raised for international missions this summer will be given to the International Mission Board. On August 16, the church will hold a special celebration service, which will either be outdoors or virtual to respect social distancing. FBC Rogers has a lot to celebrate. This summer marks 10 years in their new campus and they recently retired the church’s debt, which is a big and important step for the church’s future. At this service, they hope to also celebrate meeting or exceeding their summer missions giving goal.

“Southern Baptists’ generous gifts ensure the gospel message will be shared without interruption, said Paul Chitwood, “One hundred percent of these gifts will be used to support your missionaries overseas.”

Between social distancing, self-isolation and COVID-19 numbers on the rise, it can be easy to feel disconnected from your community, or to focus only on your own health and safety. FBC Rogers and their emphasis on international missions this summer serves as a reminder that we need each other now more than ever, and challenging times such as these are exactly when we should be working together.

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