FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Students and faculty kicked off International Church Planting week with a touchdown of a night at the Skene festival, where nearly 150 people camped out to pray for missions and to remember those serving on the mission field.
“Our tents here tonight are a small symbol of our willingness to go and to be a light to the world,” Fish School of Evangelism and Missions Dean Keith Eitel said when he addressed the campers just before sunset, Sept. 9. “People ask me, ‘How do I know if I am called to missions?’ I usually answer them with a question. ‘How do you know you’re not? The Word says go’.”
Assistant professor of missions Mike Morris and his wife Grace pitched their tent at the festival, which was focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. Grace said as former IMB missionaries themselves, she and her husband have a heart for missions.
“I enjoy telling them about how God took care of us on the mission field and blessed us immensely,” Grace said.
Skene coordinators and volunteers geared the evening toward people of all ages, making the east lawn a picture of a relaxed, family-type gathering. Mothers rocked sleeping babies, dogs lay at the feet of people in camping chairs, children scrounged through the bushes in an African animal safari and men passed a football back and forth.
Art Savage, associate director of the World Missions Center (WMC) said students and faculty prayed for specific prayer requests from African missionaries just beginning their service terms.
“Some of those missionaries are very apprehensive. This is where the rubber meets the road for them,” Savage said. “Living in Africa is about to get real for them. They can sit in Africa knowing that we are praying here tonight for them.”
Throughout the week, missionaries spoke with students and reported on their efforts on the field. The week also included an informational night about programs such as 2+2, a pizza night, and a One Magnificent Obsession night focused on the South African and South Sudan people.
IMB missionary Bradley Hoisington* spoke before the chapel message Sept. 13 and told students he hoped they would consider the possibility that God may be calling them to serve and to go.
Hoisington, who serves with his wife and children in Mozambique, told students and faculty the story of a college student who went to Mozambique and shared the Gospel with a group of seemingly uninterested fishermen.
One of those African fishermen, Hoisington said, caught up to the student later and said he wanted to follow Jesus. He became the first believer on the island among a previously unreached people group, similar to the 6,700 groups that the International Mission Board says remain unreached today.
Reiterating that so many have yet to be introduced to Jesus caused Hoisington to pause to gather his emotions.
“It breaks my heart that two thousand years after our Lord said, ‘Follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men,’ that there are still millions of people all around the world who have not ever had the chance once to hear the invitation of Christ,” Hoisington said.
With the burden of the lost visibly on his heart, Hoisington implored the crowd to be willing to listen and to go if God leads them.
“So I want to challenge you, my brothers and sisters in Christ,” Hoisington said, “that you would seriously consider this week that God may be calling you to follow Him… so that one person like this fisherman who has never heard, could hear for the first time the invitation of Christ: ‘Follow me’.”
Jason Traywick*, also an IMB missionary, thought his chances to share the Gospel had been derailed when he broke his back and both legs in a train accident just six days after he and his wife began their first career term in the field. Yet, God did not end their witnessing opportunities. Instead, He relocated them.
“Less than 24 hours later, my roommate in the hospital in the capital city of Peru came to know Jesus,” Traywick told students and faculty before the chapel sermon Sept. 14. “I realized then that He was up to eternal things.”
The experience that weakened Traywick’s body strengthened his resolve to tell people about Jesus.
I decided I’m not going to waste my life,” he said. “I’m going to go to these dark places, and even if I have to crawl there on my hands and knees, I’ll go and proclaim His name.”
When Keith Eitel spoke in chapel Sept. 15, he told students, faculty and guests the kingdom of God needs people who will hold nothing back when it comes to spreading the good news.
“A blank check, signed by you, with no definitions of the fine print, with no filling in of the amount,” Eitel said. “You just make it payable to God and you sign your name and you hand it over. Folks, what is really a poor business practice of handing someone else a signed blank check, is the only way to seek hard after the kingdom of God.”
As an echo to what each activity and event during International Church Planting week has worked toward, Traywick begged his audience to bolster the mission of Matthew 28:19, 20.
“From my fellow missionaries, we have been working with a skeleton crew for decades,” Traywick said. “We are tired. Please send reinforcements.”
*names changes for security