By Caroline Anderson —
What began as a summer vision trip to South Asia for 12 seminary students evolved into a virtual mission trip involving 221 participants and 60 workers affiliated with the International Mission Board (IMB).
Twelve seminary graduates signed up for a summer vision trip to learn how and where they can serve in South Asia. However, all IMB summer mission trips were canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
But those who had signed up for the trips wanted to stay involved. Not wanting to lose an opportunity to connect Southern Baptists with needs in South Asia, regional leadership decided to host a “Virtual Mission Trip” (VMT) May 26-28 for those who has planned to serve in South Asia this summer.
The goal of the VMT was to recruit new IMB workers and share how Southern Baptists can join the work in South Asia. The VMT connected participants with IMB personnel so they could hear about their ministries and learn about the next steps they can take to serve overseas.
Leadership in South Asia sent invitations to the 12 seminary students and invited three professors from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), Gateway Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
SBTS professor Keith McKinley tweeted an invitation to the virtual mission trip. Don Dent, a Gateway Seminary professor, made the trip part of one of his courses. As word spread, participation grew to include people in the process of applying to serve with the IMB as well as others who simply heard about the event.
By the start date, 221 participants and 60 IMB workers in South Asia had registered for the event.
It was such a success that IMB leadership in South Asia has plans to host additional Virtual Mission Trips over the summer for churches interested in partnering with the IMB in South Asia. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can register now for the next event scheduled for June 29-30.
Leon Graffam*, one of the regional leaders in South Asia, said the event allowed the South Asian Affinity a broader reach than would normally be possible during traditional summer mission trips.
“We could never host 100-plus people at one time in South Asia,” Graffam said. “We could never gather 60 of our people together in one place with these 100-plus people, so the opportunity to impact a large group with so many different voices is a benefit.”
Graffam said the need for more workers in South Asia is dire.
“To be able to point to what God is doing, promote His call to the nations and display the greatest concentration of lostness left through this platform (the Virtual Mission Trip) is something that I pray will raise up the next generation of co-workers and leaders ASAP,” Graffam said.
The first day of the mission trip focused on the vision of South Asia’s leadership team. Participants listened to pre-recorded testimonies from IMB workers and had opportunities to ask questions.
Homework was a part of each day of the “trip.” On the first day, students were challenged to pray for more Christian workers at 10:02 using the PrayASAP app.
The second day of the mission trip centered around the people groups and places of South Asia. Participants heard IMB workers share in real-time about their ministries among Hindus and Muslims. The second day’s homework was to share the Gospel with one person locally and to look at and consider IMB job positions.
One participant shared the Gospel with a South Asian friend. The friend wanted to hear more, so they set a date in June to read the Gospel of Luke together. Another participant shared the Gospel with a coworker who is from another faith. Twenty-eight people heard the Gospel as a result of Virtual Mission Trip participants.
On the third day, attendees listened to video testimonies about what life is like on the mission field and what steps they can take if they are interested in serving overseas. The third day also featured a breakout session where people could divide into groups: married, married with kids, singles and empty nesters. In these groups, participants heard directly from a missionary.
The mission trip concluded with an encouragement to join IMB workers in South Asia and key next steps for doing so. The homework was to take that next step.
Sean and Jessica Cheever* attended the Virtual Mission Trip and are in the application process to serve with the IMB.
In an exit survey, Sean wrote, “My wife and I were blown away with the virtual trip. It felt like we actually got to know you all in a personal and intimate way; like we were really there with you. … We experienced South Asia in a way we never would have before and an imprint will forever be on our hearts.”
Keith and Belinda Daniels* also expressed their thanks for the opportunity to travel virtually to South Asia. The Danielses are also planning on serving with the IMB.
“The tour reached 150-plus potential field workers without you leaving your home or us leaving ours. Imagine the amount of time it would take to connect with that many potential field workers with conventional methods,” they wrote.
Adam and Catherine Kraney* said God used the event to confirm their calling to serve in South Asia.
“The most helpful was continually hearing about the dire need in South Asia and the specific brutal facts for each country,” Adam said. “We had no idea that 600 million Muslims were in South Asia.”
Oscar Tortolero, the Hispanic church mobilization strategist for the IMB, said several Hispanic churches, pastors and leaders took part in the Virtual Mission Trip. One of the leaders said youth from his church are praying about opportunities to serve. Tortolero said they are considering hosting a Virtual Mission Trip in Spanish this summer or fall.– Baptist Press