When most people hear the word “missionary” they immediately think of traveling to a faraway country to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. While this is accurate, it’s just as true that you and I are missionaries for Jesus, even if we never leave our own country, state, city, or neighborhood! God has called each of us to share the hope of salvation with all people, especially those we already have relationships with and are connected to in our lives.
Since last September, the young adults in SEND North America, the 10-month discipleship training experience, have been learning what it means to be disciples who make disciples. Their training has taken us to many cities in the Midwest to learn and serve, but a constant focus throughout has been our own “backyard.” SEND’s home base is Kendallville, Indiana, and each Thursday throughout SEND training, Sarah, Quinn, and Ze have experienced a local mission excursion. From serving the homeless at The Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne, to raking leaves and building relationships in Kendallville, to worshiping and praying with seniors at Sacred Heart Assisted Living in Avilla, the SEND team has been learning how God uses us, in our own communities, to be His missionary.
As we are now in the final weeks of this team’s discipleship training, we challenged Sarah, Quinn, and Ze to take what they’ve been learning themselves one step further — for their final domestic mission excursion weekend, their challenge was to not just experience a mission excursion but to plan one in their local community! The SEND team hosted Ignite 72, an evening event where teens and youth in northeast Indiana came to learn about mission outreach to their friends. This was an inspirational evening at St. John Lutheran Church in Kendallville, as our SEND young adults led games, served a meal, worshiped, and gave a message to more than 30 teens about igniting the passion for sharing the gospel with friends and classmates. This event gave our SEND team the opportunity to experience leading mission training for others, and it was largely impactful for the teens and youth that attended.
It is a huge blessing and learning experience for our young adults to travel to many ministry sites throughout the U.S. and internationally while in SEND, but it is also invaluable to learn how to serve our great God right in our own circles of relationships, in our own neighborhoods and families. This is one of the most important lessons of all — we are ALL missionaries for Jesus Christ, and sharing the gospel is closer than we think! This past month, I’ve been so grateful to watch how God is transforming the lives of these young adults to not just be disciples, but to be disciple-makers for the rest of their lives, beginning with their own friends, families, and neighbors.
Mackenzie (Kenzie) RItchie
Leader, S.E.N.D. North America
Learn about our “backyard” missions in northeast Indiana, the “Open Day” on June 14, applying for the 2016/2017 team, Nehemiah House and more.
Last month, our young adult team from SEND North America, the 10-month discipleship training experience, spent a weekend in Chicago, Illinois, for a powerful mission excursion. Coming from the rural community of Kendallville, Indiana, the home location for SEND, our young adult team experienced a very different culture — urban culture! Urban ministry truly came to life for us as we shared the story of Jesus with children in a homeless shelter, prayed for men on the streets who struggle with survival prostitution, worshiped in a gospel church on Palm Sunday, and ate Korean, Puerto Rican, and Lebanese foods! The sheer number of people, ethnicities, restaurants, businesses, colleges, and neighborhoods in a city this size is eye-opening…and a little overwhelming! During our weekend, the 10,000,000+ people who live in the greater Chicagoland area became more than a number. They became a sea of real people, each with a name and a story, and each one a child of God.
As we traveled throughout the city and experienced life in neighborhood after neighborhood, one question stayed in the back on my mind — how can one person make a difference? In our smaller towns and neighborhoods, it’s easier to see the ways that God uses individuals to impact the Kingdom. Yet, in a city like Chicago, it’s not difficult to get overwhelmed by the amount of Kingdom work to do and the size of our mission field! This proved to be a great lesson for us in understanding our unique part in the Kingdom and how God can, and does, use each of us. Jesus used 12 ordinary men to change not only a town or city, but the world. The first disciples may, too, have felt overwhelmed by the mission challenge at times, yet they did not waver in their commitment to sharing the gospel. Why? Because they knew the message of Jesus Christ changes lives, including theirs, and it’s a message too important to keep to oneself!
This truth still rings true as disciples today, and it became obvious as we served in various areas of Chicago that God is using His people in many ways, some that we had never even considered. We were honored to serve alongside ministries that reach out to men who are struggling with survival prostitution, homeless shelters who share the good news, and churches that feed people spiritually and literally. God is using each individual person in these ministries to make a difference for the Kingdom. We were honored to learn about each ministry in this urban setting and be part of it.
This weekend excursion was a special one, as we had two new young adults, Jessica and Duane, join our current SEND team, Quinn, Ze, and Sarah. These two young adults are considering joining a future SEND team, and I know they would appreciate your prayers for discernment.
I thank God for another impactful month of SEND training; God is so good. From teachers who share extraordinary insights to trips like this one in Chicago, it is evident that God is alive and well and doing an amazing work in the lives of this SEND team and those we meet. With Easter just behind us, I am reminded that there is no greater love than that of our God, who gave up His Son for you and me, that we might live with the hope of eternal life. I am thankful for our SEND team, who is seizing the opportunity to share this hope with others, and for all those who serve God diligently. Our SEND family thanks you for your love and prayer — your support for this ministry changes lives.
Check out what kept us busy in February 2016!