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By Jim Burton
PORTLAND, Ore.—Perhaps this is only
supposed to happen in movies. But with a little help from Google and one click
of a mouse, Sarah Reese Hunt found her life’s direction and eventually her husband.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB)
can’t guarantee the same result for every college student. But NAMB can
guarantee that checking out Generation Send (GenSend) can be life changing for
college students and the cities they serve as summer missionaries.
The Louisville, Ky., native thought she
had her life figured out. After high school mission trips to the Philippines
and Guatemala, she became further engaged in city reaching back home during her
senior year in high school in a Louisville community called Portland. The area
is rough, Hunt said, but through a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, she was
able to minister by tutoring inner-city kids and doing Bible studies with the
“I had been overseas,” Hunt said, “but
25 minutes down the road from me people were broken.”
The tutoring pointed her toward
education as a college major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. During a
church-planting emphasis week there, her plans began to change. She never saw
herself in a “traditional” church ministry role.
“If I am the cornerstone of the church
and the church is the vessel that I want to accomplish My purpose with,” Hunt
said paraphrasing the words of Jesus, “it would not make sense for you not to
be a part of that.”
That’s when she Googled.
Hunt applied for a GenSend appointment
through NAMB, which assigned her to Portland. GenSend is the student portion of
NAMB’s Farm System, assisting churches in the discovery, development and
deployment of everyday missionaries.
“I came to Portland (in summer 2013),
and the Lord woke me up to the need for healthy bodies of believers to exist
within America,” Hunt said. “Coming from the South, it’s hard to fathom that
within America there are places where healthy [church] bodies don’t exist.
“When you see the darkness and the
idolatry and the lostness, the gospel is not planted like it needs to be
planted,” she added.
Her assignment sounded relatively
simple: go, live and learn how to do life in Portland. The formula NAMB gave the
team she joined was also simple. Identify the city, invest in relationships,
invite people into your biblical community and increase through sustainable
The objective was not so much to start
a church in one summer as it was for the students to learn how to be a biblical
community and to discover the foundations of church planting.
Hunt said the city has a strong liberal
socio-political bent. She often runs up against religious pluralism, which
espouses multiple pathways to know God. Consequently, she doesn’t find
hostility toward the gospel. Mostly, it’s apathy.
“Oh, you’re a Christian,” people will
say to Hunt. “Good for you.”
That response represents what she calls
a facade of tolerance.
“I had never been exposed to that where
I was looking into the face of a real person who believes that [pluralism],” Hunt
said. “Going overseas did not prepare me for the culture shock I’d find within
our own country.”
Spending the summer in Portland hooked Hunt
on urban church planting, and she wanted other students to have the same
experience. She became a NAMB GenSend Mobilizer. Her assignment was to recruit
10 students from her university to go back to Portland, one of 32 Send North
Hunt returned to Portland for the
summer of 2014 with a team. Three other teams also went to Portland. With 42
students on the ground, two teams focused on two areas of urban Portland: Saint
Johns and The Pearl District. Neither is impoverished as some envision inner
cities to be. Hunt worked in the Pearl District, an area she describes as “super
wealthy” with many young urban professionals. The student’s work was
foundational for church planters who would eventually be coming to those areas.
“The Lord has convicted me that being
part of church is what we’re called to do,” Hunt said. But like most
Millennials, she believes that church can’t be the way it’s always been.
One of those differences is how Millennials
view the Church. They see the Church as the body of Christ forming authentic
“The body of Christ is a very biblical
term,” Hunt said. “My devotion needs to be to His [Jesus’] bride, the Church.
Church planting is how we bring the bride to places where She’s not.”
Denver is similar to Portland in many
respects. But there is one major difference. Jonathan Hunt is there co-planting
with a lead church planter through Send North America: Denver. Hunt met Hunt
during NAMB’s Send North America Conference in 2013. He was a Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary student in Louisville and attended Highview Baptist
Church, as did Hunt’s family. But they didn’t know each other then. The couple
became engaged in the summer of 2014 and married last year.
Hunt changed her major at Liberty to
women’s ministry and hopes to focus on developing girls and women as disciples.
In a church planting context that can mean any number of development ministry
avenues for women.
“Everyone needs the gospel,” Hunt said.
“The white, middle-class suburban church-going little girl needs the gospel
just as much as the little girl on the streets of Pacux, Guatemala, who is
“The gospel is the foremost need.”
The goal for the 2015 Annie
Armstrong Easter Offering® is $60 million. To learn more about the
Week of Prayer, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and how your church can be
mobilized to push back lostness in North America, visit www.anniearmstrong.com. To read about the other 2015 featured missionaries,
Burton writes for the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 2/27/2015 8:50:56 AM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2015 North American Mission Board, SBC