Archives For mission trips

Mission Illinois Offering Devotion Day 4

MIO-box-smallLily Ohl grew up thinking Chicago is a scary place. But the 17-year-old from Sherman found during ChicaGO Week that many people were open to hearing the Gospel. Each summer, teens travel to the city and assist church planters in reaching their communities. They learn firsthand how new churches are started and get practice sharing Christ. “It’s a big city, but people are willing to listen and you can really change a life,” said Ohl.

Showing students the value of planting new churches is just one way IBSA is leading efforts to reach America’s third largest city, where less than 10% of people are affiliated with an evangelical church.

Pray for the salvation of Chicago, and IBSA’s Chicagoland church planting team: Tim Bailey, Dennis Conner, Jorge Melendez, and John Yi.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at

Watch Lily Ohl’s story, “Students on mission in Chicago.”

coffee cup with a world map

I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t always understood why being on mission both personally and as a church is so vital. I used to skip the “missions” chapel services in seminary because I wrongly believed that missions and being a pastor were two separate callings. I just wanted to be a pastor. Sadly, the first church I pastored wasn’t very mission-minded because I wasn’t.

However, I am now convinced that one of the vital roles of pastors and church leaders is to lead the church to fully embrace God’s call to be involved in their local community and beyond. My heart now understands that the church should be a strong community of mobilized missionaries. It is now my desire to lead the church through preaching, mission trips, and other creative ways so that missions becomes part of our church’s DNA.

I believe that one of the first ways to lead your church to be on mission is to be a leader who is on mission. I am convinced that when the leader of a church is passionate about the mission of God and living a missional life, that focus and zeal will naturally overflow into the hearts of those in the pew.

When a leader is passionate about the mission of God, that zeal will overflow to people in the pews.

All throughout Scripture we clearly hear God’s call to missional living. We see a clear gospel focus when Christ sends out the 12 disciples in Luke 9 and again when he sends out the 70 in Luke 10. We hear God’s heart when we read the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. In our head, we can know that God wants us to live this life with passion for the gospel, but it is so hard to keep the main thing the main thing.

When being on mission becomes part of the leader’s DNA, the church hears about it through his preaching, sees it through his life, and feels it through his tears for people who are lost without Christ.

Though my mind is now thoroughly convinced of the importance of leading my church to be on mission, I must continually remind my heart about God’s mission. Here are some of the practices that help my heart to be missions-minded:

Personally participating in at least one mission trip a year. These times are good for my walk with God. I need to see God move in ways I cannot explain. Often these trips become spiritual revivals for my heart. I try to alternate between going overseas and going somewhere in the U.S. each year.

Reading missions books and biographies of missionaries. Some of the books that make me cry are “10 Who Changed the World” by Daniel Akin, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, and “Seven Men” by Eric Metaxas.

Attending missions training sponsored by IBSA, and conferences sponsored by the North American Mission Board. Some of the conferences that have recently helped my missions heart are NAMB’s Send Conference, the Midwest Leadership Summit hosted by IBSA, an IMB Missionary Commissioning service, and the IBSA and SBC Annual Meetings.

I’m not always looking for new programs or new ideas at these conferences, though I often come home with an idea for how we can do missions differently or better at Immanuel.

Talking with missionaries. I love hearing their heart, their struggles, and their successes. You can connect with church planting missionaries on a vision tour hosted by NAMB or IBSA, and the International Mission Board is always happy to send a missionary on furlough to preach at your church.

Most missionaries also send out regular e-mail prayer newsletters. While these messages remind me to pray for the missionary, they also encourage me as I read about some creative things others are doing all across the world for King Jesus.

Spending time with other believers who are on fire for Jesus and who are getting it done sharing the gospel. Often, these lunches and the time I spend with these kinds of believers greatly challenges me.

What a joy it can be when a church understands that God has commissioned them to be the light in a dark world. What a joy it can be when church members leave to plant churches, surrender to ministry, lead their co-worker to Christ, and go to the nations.

The steps you take to fuel your missions heart are steps toward God’s heart, enabling your entire church to be on mission! Keep chasing him, my friends.

– Sammy Simmons is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton.


An mission team member teaches girls at a missions center in South Asia last March.

The best kind of advertising is free advertising, I’m pretty sure I heard in my college “Introduction to Public Relations” class. When it comes to missions, I think my professor knew what he was talking about.

Have you ever talked to someone who just got back from a mission trip? It’s like the old joke (that has been given new life with modern phenomena like veganism and CrossFit):

How do you know someone just got back from a mission trip (or is a vegan, or does CrossFit)?

MIO-box-smallDon’t worry, they’ll tell you about it.

And isn’t that a good thing? To share missions stories and try to help the people who weren’t there understand why you felt compelled to go—and probably go back? Even better, talking about a mission trip gives you an opportunity to challenge them to go.

Mark Emerson recently described a mission volunteer as a “living brochure.” The woman he was talking about, Lindsay McDonald, is a pastor’s wife from Casey, Ill., who went to South Asia in March with a small team from Illinois. The group shared the gospel in villages  where more than 90% of the population is Muslim.

Watch the Mission Illinois Offering video, Mobilizing Volunteers Worldwide, to learn more about Lindsay McDonald’s South Asia trip

They also visited community centers where women are learning job skills and Bible stories.

When the team got back to Illinois, they started telling their stories. The group is contagious, Emerson said, but in the best possible way. And people are catching what they have.

When the team got back to Illinois, they started telling their stories. The group is contagious, but in the best possible way.

I went to Haiti with an IBSA GO Team in 2013. When I got back to Illinois, it was all I talked about for a few weeks. My husband was on the team too, so we talked about it at home. I wrote about it in the Illinois Baptist. We shared with our community group and local church about the trip.

Haiti was constantly on our lips and on our hearts.

Before you get too impressed, I should confess that a weekend spent binge-watching Downton Abbey has had the same effect on me. Without meaning to, I start using the cadence and accent of early 1900s Britain. That’s what an immersive experience does: We adopt the passion and language of the experience that has captivated us.

We become living brochures. And in the best cases, what we’re advertising is the call to sacrifice time, money, energy, comfort, even safety, for the sake of taking the gospel to a place and a people deeply in need of it.

Free advertising, for a really great product.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer September 11-18.

– Meredith Flynn is an editorial contributor to the Illinois Baptist

COMMENTARY | Mark Emerson

Mark_Emerson_July30We’ve barely finished summer and it’s already time to plan spring and summer mission trips for next year. But before you get out a map and some darts, consider these questions:

• Has God brought to our attention a need, area, or people group?

• Have we identified our Acts 1:8 mission fields? What, if anything, are we doing locally, in our state, North America, and the world?

• How can we develop a long-term partnership with a missionary, church plant, or people group? What can we do in Illinois?

• Does our church understand the purpose of missions involvement?

As short-term missions increase in popularity, a plethora of reasons is being offered regarding why we are going on mission trips. Don’t get lost in a side purpose; the reason we participate in short-term missions is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With that as our purpose, we now know who should join us (those currently sharing the gospel), we know how to prepare our team (teach them to share the gospel), and we know what we will be doing when we get there (sharing the gospel).

Of course, many teams use creative means to earn the right to share the gospel, but do not lose sight of your ultimate purpose. Mission trips not centered on that purpose are nothing more than spiritual tourism.

Long-haul missions
Leaders who take the approach of engaging a different area each year may find that their efforts are as temporary as their trip. Mission leaders who are willing to invest in a long-term strategy through partnering with a full-time missionary will find their effectiveness continues beyond the tenure of their trip.

As Southern Baptists, we are part of one of the largest evangelical mission forces on the planet. There are plenty of places to discover partnerships. Effective mission trips await those churches that are willing to stop organizing projects and start developing mission partnerships.

More than 24,000 members of IBSA churches participated in missions last year. IBSA helps many churches connect with missionaries and develop mission strategies each year. Contact the Church Resources Team at (217) 391-3138 to learn more.

Mark Emerson is associate executive director for IBSA’s Church Resources Team.

Coming home

Meredith Flynn —  August 26, 2013
Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

Re-entering my everyday life American life after a week in Haiti, I was reminded of

something Mark Emerson said: “We’re pretty good at going away on mission. We may not do as well with coming home.”

Emerson, who leads IBSA’s missions team, said we need a how-to about coming back from a short-term mission trip. Because the emotions run so high during a week in Haiti or inner city Chicago or Bulgaria or East St. Louis, it’s inevitably an adjustment to come back to our normal houses, routines and lives.

It’s not just mission trip participants that are prone to a letdown. Any spiritual mountaintop experience is wonderful when you’re in the middle of it, but it’s hard to come back down to earth. On our last night in Haiti, our team leader Bob Elmore talked about how to come home well. He and others who had been on previous international mission trips cautioned us newbies about the challenges we might run into, and how to counteract a bumpy re-entry. Their counsel focused mostly on how we should interact with people who weren’t on the trip.

One volunteer laughingly told the team about a message she’d received from her parents, gently reminding her that they were going on family vacation the day after she returned to the States and that they would like her to be in a better frame of mind than last year – when she got back, walked into the house, and promptly burst into tears.

The lesson is that others who weren’t on your particular mountaintop may not full grasp the emotional connections you formed with a place and a people in just a week or two. We ought to be patient, speak well, and remember God gives us unique experiences so that we can magnify how great and creative He is.

When we come down from the mountaintop, we also have to be responsible in the stories we tell. It’s tempting to focus on the spider you saw, or how hot it was, or how delicious soda is when it’s made with cane sugar. Say those things – details help people remember and pray – but say them quickly. Get them out of the way so you can talk more about how God worked to transform you and your team, and how He’s at work in parts of the world you rarely or never thought about before.

Make Him the main character in your stories – after all, He’s the one who took you to the mountaintop.