A Trip That Is Not A Vacation
By Tim Rogers, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC
We are at the time of the year when many families plan to take a vacation some place on the globe. Many take vacations only to return from a time of rest and relaxation completely exhausted. Some return exhausted because of the stress experienced due to mishaps or disagreements among the very ones the vacation intended to help—family members. However, many times families will spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to try and build the perfect memory and to relax and rest from the daily grind of living life. Some churches plan short-term mission trips that are more of a vacation than a mission trip. I determined long ago that vacation time with my family was just that—a vacation—and yet we would live our lives missionally. However, I also determined that we would not call our family vacation a short-term mission trip; and we would not raise funds by asking friend, family, and church members to supplement our vacation.
I have tried to take a short-term mission trip every year since 1990. It was in 1988 that I received salvation and less than two years later I embarked on a short-term mission trip with the Raleigh Baptist Association to Brazil. This experience was embraced with negatives and positives. A couple of negatives come to mind whenever I am planning for a short-term trip. I experienced firsthand how just one negative and selfish person can inject a team with bitterness and discouragement. I also found the political situation of the Southern Baptist Convention has the ability to invade an entire associational mission directive. The positives of that trip were played out in the salvation of souls as well as with the bonding between those who held different theological perspectives but served the same Lord Jesus as the Lord Jesus.
I followed up that trip with a trip to Romania the following year; and I had a wonderful time there. Dr. Phil Roberts, who at that time was the professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, took about twenty students on a mission trip to a city on the Black Sea. We entered Oradea, Romania and it was then that I found out how missionaries actually serve. On the Brazil trip we were told to remain flexible. There was a plan in place but it could change at any time; however, on the Romania trip we were told to get ready to be used by God. There was no plan in place because we didn’t know what God wanted us to do. The only plans we had concerned getting into the country of Romania and traveling to our destination. We were dividing into two groups. One group would travel to the eastern part of the country in a rental van, and the other group would travel by train. Little did I realize it was going to take an overnight trip to get us to the eastern part of the country. What made it more interesting was that we had no hotel arrangements and were depending on the hospitality of the churches we were visiting on the way. All, in all, I left that trip with a more positive understanding of missions than the trip to Brazil. It certainly helped me better understand how our missionaries depend on God for their places to sleep. Jesus said that the “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Matt. 8:19-21, HCS). Thus our missionaries depend on our Lord for a place to lay their heads at night. Don’t misunderstand, I know that I depend on God for a place to lay my head, but I have never traveled to another country without plans of where I will be sleeping. The missionaries do this all of the time.
After 1991 I experienced a famine in leading mission trips each year. I focused on my own world trying to grow a church and do what God was calling me to do. I was convicted that I needed to lead my people in taking short-term trips but I just could not find the funds. I pacified that conviction by increasing our Cooperative Program giving along with Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. This helped but it did not relieve the burden I was experiencing. God increased the strength of this conviction, and in 2002 I led the church I was pastoring to take a trip to Honduras through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina partnership.
That first trip to Honduras was a wonderful success as we saw people that had never been out of the state go to an international mission field witnessing and sharing their faith. What a growing experience it was for me as a pastor and for our church members. Every year I went back to Honduras as we established a relationship with the church we shared in ministry outreach. From 2002 to 2006 we went back to Honduras and as my daughter grew she began thinking about when she was going to go.
Life sometimes seems to take turns you don’t expect; and it seems that we can get so caught up in ourselves that we need time to wallow in our own self-pity. Well, that’s what I did from 2006 until 2009. God would lead me to organize a team and I would try but ultimately fail because I would not pursue it in the way He wanted me. In the summer of 2010 I made up my mind that I was not going to allow this to happen any longer. God’s conviction was on me more than I could bear.
God’s conviction was so overwhelming that I surrendered and I was determined to organize a trip if it hair-lipped the Devil. I found a former professor who is now President of a seminary in San Salvador, Dr. Gerald Cowen. Along with his trusted friend Jerry Davenport—a rancher in Texas and a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—Dr. Cowen leads a trip to Mexico every year. I advertised this trip in the church in which I currently serve and we had the total of one person respond. If I was looking for large numbers I had the perfect excuse to cancel this trip. However, I knew that God can do mighty works through one person. We went despite the numbers, and I cemented the desire in my heart to be on a short-term mission trip every summer. Also on this trip I cemented a new friendship with a number of others. Jerry Davenport and I felt like we had known each other all our lives—a great friendship developed. Last summer, my daughter, Rebekah, begged to go with me but it just did not work out for her. She would have been the only female and at 13 years old it would have been difficult to say the least for her to minister.
This year, as I began praying and planning, Rebekah came and asked me when she was going to go on a mission trip with me. After some time of prayer I sensed the Lord releasing me to bring her with me. So on Friday, July 15, 2011 at 11:30 am, Rebekah, myself and two other members of Ebenezer Baptist Church will board a plane at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport bound for San Pedro Sula, Honduras. When we arrive we will meet up with Jerry Davenport, who will translate for us during the week, and with church members of Iglesia Bautista Tabernáculo. We look forward to being in Honduras for a week.
While preparing for this trip my mind takes me forward to seeing God work through our team members. I especially look forward to seeing Rebekah grow in the Lord. She is extremely happy to be going with us. She certainly has a desire to be used by God. Our ministry will consist of handing out tracts of our testimonies that we had translated into Spanish. Rebekah pushed me not to put my words on her testimony as I tried to help her. Dads are bad about doing things like that. She desired to use her words and not words that I felt “sounded” better. I look forward to being in the classrooms of the local schools sharing with the students about Jesus. I look forward to seeing Rebekah’s face light up as she sees someone praying to receive Jesus.
As we finish our preparations for this trip, I ask that you pray for us in the following areas. First, pray that God will work through us during the week. Second, pray for our safety as we will be traveling and doing much of our own driving. Also, the church is across the street from the soccer field that experienced gang violence. Third, pray for my wife, Gail, for she will be left behind and sometimes Satan uses that to cause unnecessary worry. Fourth, pray for our team as we bond on the field. Fifth, pray for the church that we will serve as we strive to minister and make a positive impact on that community. Sixth, pray that we will give glory to God through our work. Thank you.