by Matt Jaderston
“Our desire is that every one of our congregations will be an outpost of the Kingdom in post-Christian America with every member viewing himself or herself as a missionary on a mission.”
This stated mission from the EPC confronts the heart of one the problematic ways many Christians in the US think about missions. We are called as a church not only to fund and support missionaries, but to recognize that we are to join the redemptive work that God is doing here in Wichita and around the world. As Pastor Stan likes to say, God is calling us to preach the gospel to the ends of earth AND to the end of the street. My hope for us is that we would begin to adopt the mindset of the EPC statement of mission and recognize that every congregant is a missionary on mission. This understanding would transform the way we see our city and the way we see global mission.
Charles Van Engen writes, “In missionary churches the effectiveness of the leaders is not measured by what they do or do not accomplish, but by how the people of God are equipped, enabled, organized, and inspired to participate in God’s mission in the world.”1 As I reflect on how we are equipping and inspiring students to participate in God’s mission, our current senior class especially encourages me. They have inspired me by their incredible passion to serve the city and see the Gospel go to the ends of the earth.
Every summer we take a weekend in Kansas City to invest in our senior class and give them a weekend to bond and equip them to thrive in their senior year. But there was something different about this year’s trip. Prior to the trip, seniors Cooper Degner and Sidney Rucker took it upon themselves to connect our youth group with a local mission opportunity.
Eastminster is partnering with the Oaks Baptist Fellowship, a local church made up mostly of Congolese refugees, to help families new to Wichita assimilate to American culture, learn English, find jobs and enjoy becoming part of the community. Our seniors have been serving this church by providing child care on Sunday afternoons during their church service, and investing in relationships with children and youth. I had the opportunity to sit down with Cooper and Sidney and ask them a few questions.
How did you get connected to The Oaks Baptist Fellowship?
Cooper: This past summer, I had the opportunity to serve on the missions trip to Nicaragua. During this trip, I saw how much my peers and I grew by serving together in community, which ignited my desire for my youth group to become more missions based. After a close conversation with Sidney, I realized we had similar aspirations, so we decided to schedule a meeting with leaders in our church to find opportunities to serve as a youth group. Oaks Baptist was one of the possibilities, and we immediately fell in love with this opportunity and the idea of serving cross culturally. Since then, we have been serving in child care at the Sunday services, and it has been such a blessing being able to serve alongside my peers.
Sidney: The high school association with the Oaks started with Cooper and me wanting to know how we could serve. Serving is such a vital part what the Christian faith should look like and so many times we leave it out. I think God put a burden on both Cooper’s and my hearts to go and serve. So we went to Pastor Goolsby looking for ways we can serve outside of our church. All of the things that he mentioned sounded wonderful, but one stuck out in particular - that being the Oaks Baptist Fellowship.
How do you see God at work in the service project?
Cooper: A few weeks ago, Sidney and I had the idea of throwing a Christmas party for the Oaks Baptist community. We contacted a few members of RIOT (Refugee & Immigrant Outreach Team) and they loved the idea. We learned a few days later that someone had approached a member of RIOT and wanted to cover the costs of a Christmas party if they had one. This person had not heard of our idea, and I truly believe God was bringing us together through that. It was awesome to see God working.
Sidney: God is at work in every second of us being there, both in our lives and the Congolese peoples’. I know I was nervous when it was my first time going because it would be a cross-cultural experience. But God answered my prayers and the first time I went I was blown away by their faithfulness to God. Although I didn’t know a single word of the Swahili praises they were singing, I could feel the Spirit washing over every person in that room.
How has God shaped you through serving this church?
Cooper: God has definitely challenged me through serving at the Oaks, as it was definitely a little out of my comfort zone at first, but he has continually provided for me when I have needed it. He has blessed me with the relationships I have formed with these kids and the joy it has brought me from serving them. I really enjoyed being able to experience God’s love in a different culture in Nicaragua, and I’m so glad God presented me with the opportunity to experience that again.
Sidney: One of the challenges would definitely be the language barrier; sometimes the kids don’t quite know how to express their feelings. I can’t even imagine trying to do that in another language. However, with this challenge it has taught me the important of patience. Although we are the ones serving, I feel more like I am the one being served. These people have taught me more in a couple of months than I could ever teach anybody in a lifetime. God has shown me time and time again that he will provide.
We all GO!
Although I am these students’ youth pastor, most of the time I feel like they are the ones teaching me how to be more like Jesus. Our students recognized that the incredible work we do on short-term mission trips is the same work God is calling us to in our own city. When the Gospel has changed us, we hear God’s call to live as missionaries in a world that desperately needs Jesus. My hope and prayer is that you would consider joining our students as they join God’s work here in Wichita.
If you’re interested in The Oaks Baptist Fellowship or other missions opportunities at Eastminster, contact Marcia Davis at 634.0337, ext. 2013, or email@example.com.