Moved by Compassion: A Heart for World Missions
A weekend retreat brings a Free Will Baptist Bible College freshman face-to-face with the neighborhood challenge of international missions.
Global Means Home, Too
by Jacob Culwell
Friday, October 9, 2009, was a day of great anticipation on the campus of Free Will Baptist Bible College. It was the first day of the three-day Global Missions Fellowship (GMF) retreat. Since the weekend followed the college’s annual Missions Conference, our spirits were soaring as we waited for the bell that marked the end of classes and the start of the highly anticipated weekend.
Some went, I am sure, because they feel a calling to missions. I just wanted to be with friends and learn more about missions. I knew very little about missions beyond the fact that my church always took up love offerings for visiting missionaries.
Encounter the Unexpected
But something unexpected happened. The retreat focused on international missions turned into a personal revival—a revival focused on helping those here at home find Christ. For the first time, it really hit me that global missions refers not only to the 10/40 window but also my county, my neighborhood, my street—even next door. Global means home, too!
The weekend began like most other retreats. People piled into vehicles, asked for directions, took wrong turns, drove 135 miles east of Nashville, and eventually arrived—tired and hungry—at Fall Creek Christian Campground. We soon discovered—with many groans—that our food had not arrived.
Like most college students, we found creative ways to entertain ourselves while we waited, from climbing rafters to playing the signs game or the winking game or musical chairs. After the food finally appeared, we enjoyed a filling supper of chili and cornbread (not Mom’s home cooking but quite welcome on a cold night). Then everyone headed to the chapel. We worshiped the Lord in song before cross-cultural specialists Clint and Lynette Morgan shared their testimonies describing how the Lord opened and closed doors to get them where they are today.
God at Work
On Saturday morning, Rachel Dennis, a FWBBC enrollment counselor who now teaches English in Laos, gave her testimony. After describing her gift for traveling and meeting total strangers, she confessed her struggle to reach those closest to her, those in her own neighborhood. She reminded us that we shouldn’t hide behind our strengths. After the service, we headed to Fall Creek Falls for an enjoyable hike, and several people showed off their rock climbing skills.
Heath and Joni Hubbard gave their testimonies when we returned, providing more practical suggestions for sharing the gospel where we are. Heath is director of recruitment at FWBBC, while Joni serves as student missions coordinator with Free Will Baptist International Missions.
After another filling dinner (and a failed attempt at building a campfire), we gathered in the dining hall where, instead of sitting and listening to others speakers give testimonies, it was our turn. Testimonies reveal a lot about people: their past, their desires, their hopes and plans, but most of all, what God has done in their lives. We were awed by what we heard.
There is no way anyone could hear what I did that night and remain unmoved. It hit me deep in my heart in places I had never been touched before. I will always remember the lessons I learned that night. As we talked, someone recalled what Rachel Dennis said earlier—Home. As the importance of the topic hit each person in the group, I noticed a change. A sharp alertness and stillness filled the room.
People expressed their belief that we have lost focus on the importance of home. It is sometimes easier to go across the world, learn a new language and culture, meet people we don’t know, and share the gospel. At home, where we are comfortable, it is sometimes more difficult to share our faith, our Savior. We are afraid to share because we don’t want to experience the pain of rejection.
One student hit the nail on the head when he said we need revival—not necessarily a tent revival with a fiery preacher but a revival within ourselves reflected in our actions. Only then can we effectively tell others what God means to us and share His love with friends and neighbors. As the conversation continued, a clear “picture” of this revival began to emerge.
An important part of spreading God’s Word on a mission field is the necessity of building relationships, creating opportunities to witness, to introduce people to the God who is watching, loving, and waiting patiently to accept them. Kindness is one of the simplest ways to start and build relationships with others.
How many times have we gone about our day caring only about our own needs? As students, perhaps we ignored a person with an armful of books because we were in a hurry. Perhaps we prayed only for ourselves rather than others we know are stressed by grades, money, or something else?
Before revival can start, we must surrender our will to God. This includes changing both outside actions and inside thoughts. We can help those around us by showing compassion, by not simply going through life thinking the only thing that matters is our own wellbeing. We must be nice to people and tell them we are thinking or praying for them. The simple words, “I am praying for you,” can lift someone’s spirit. To know someone is thinking of us and praying for us is the best feeling in the world!
Command, Not Suggestion
As the night slowly came to a close, someone remarked that it is not just “a good idea” to be kind to others. It is also a command. The Bible says the two most important things in life are to love God and to love our neighbors. While it is important to care about international missions, it is also for people here at home. We dare not ignore the lost and needy in our own neighborhoods.
GMF weekend will always stay with me. I want God to start a fire in my heart. I never want to forget the three big truths I learned: Love God, love man, and global means home, too. Help me start the revival!
About the Writer: Jacob Culwell is a freshman Business student at Free Will Baptist Bible College. He is a member of First Free Will Baptist Church in Springfield, Tennessee. Read more about Free Will Baptist Bible College at www.fwbbc.edu.