NEW ORLEANS – When Isaac Woodward moved from North Georgia to New Orleans as his dad took a teaching role at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the 11-year-old wasn’t thrilled.
“North Georgia was so beautiful, with mountains. I loved it,” Woodward said. “Then we moved to what I saw as this wet, stinky ‘bowl’ place. And I was not having it at all.”
So Isaac prayed what any good Baptist kid would: “Lord, send me anywhere.” And he longed for God to call him somewhere other than New Orleans.
But the next decade would reveal God’s sense of humor and His ability to turn hearts.
Woodward fell in love with New Orleans and is making plans to start a new church in the city later this year. His experience as a student missionary, a GenSend participant and a North American Mission Board (NAMB) Journeyman played an important role in that transformation.
The Journeyman program is a two-year experience designed to help recent college graduates explore a life on mission. NAMB’s first class of Journeyman missionaries are completing their two-year assignments over the next few months. Several from that first class, like Woodward, plan on remaining in the field and serving as church planting missionaries or church planting team members.
Woodward served in a variety of roles as a Journeyman, but he mostly helped coordinate and cast a vision for volunteer missions teams serving in the city.
“I’m a more sanctified and prepared leader than I was two years ago,” Woodward said, adding there are still plenty of challenges and barriers to the Gospel, “But I’m also more convinced that the Lord who created the universe is able to do something miraculous in the city and change people’s hearts.”
Woodward first recognized God was calling him to plant a church as a GenSend team leader prior to his sophomore year at Mississippi College. That summer, Woodward led a team of college students to engage the city in church planting activities.
George Ross, NAMB’s regional director in the South, has been his supervisor while Woodward serves as a Journeyman. Ross believes the two-year experience in New Orleans played a critical role in Woodward’s church planting journey.
“The GenSend and Journeyman programs have given him a greater love for the city,” Ross said. “They really helped him see the city in a different way. They gave him a love for a city that he had lived in. Through that journey, Isaac has developed a compelling vision for reaching this community.”
Woodward’s attention is now turning specifically to the Michoud community of New Orleans, where he plans to start a church later this year. A diverse community of 9,000 people, Michoud has one small evangelical church in it.
“We’re praying that the Lord will draw people together who are divided in so many ways,” Woodward said. “We’re praying what Jesus prayed in John 17, that there would be a supernatural oneness between people in Michoud that would result in people believing in Jesus.”
A warm heart for the Steel City
David Domalski started his Journeyman experience with a clear desire to be in urban ministry. His college church, Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., had adopted Pittsburgh and wanted to plant churches in the city. Domalski wanted to be a part of that vision.
In the summer of 2019, he served on a GenSend team in the city, where he engaged college students at the University of Pittsburgh with the Gospel. By the time he completed his six weeks in the city, he knew God wanted him to return.
“Ultimately, it was the need that God used to attract me to this city,” Domalski said. “I remember standing overlooking the city as a GenSend missionary three years ago. I was looking at downtown and all the cars going back and forth. I knew God was up to something. I wanted to be a part of it.”
After his senior year at the University of South Carolina, Domalski returned to the Steel City as part of NAMB’s initial class of Journeyman participants. He became involved in several different ministry activities, from serving at the city’s Send Relief ministry center to coordinating mission teams.
Domalski says Journeyman was a great learning experience for him as he prepared to be a part of church planting in Pittsburgh. For example, he says, he grew in his understanding of what it was like to be in vocational ministry, such as learning to have a healthy balance in the work of ministry.
Domalski also points to an experience where he was passing out backpacks of food to people in need. He had thought of the activity as primarily a means to engage people in evangelism. But when one backpack went to a committed follower of Jesus, he was forced to think about the value of serving those in need.
“It’s really important to share the Gospel,” Domalski said. “God uses compassion ministry to do that. My view of the Kingdom of God expanded a little bit that day, though. There are people in God’s Kingdom who need to be cared for, like the least of these. They may be followers of Jesus already, but God calls us to care for them.”
As Domalski’s Journeyman experience comes to a close, he will transition to a collegiate ministry coordinator role with Steel City Church, a Send Network church plant in Pittsburgh. He asks Southern Baptists to pray for the college students he’ll be engaging.
“Also, pray for more laborers,” Domalski added. “We need more people to invest and spend time here. That’s what it takes here – time.”
For more information about the Journeyman program, visit namb.net/go/journeyman.
Published February 10, 2022