By Jacob Brooks
PHOENIX—In the week leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention, Phoenix welcomed over 200 college students in training to spread the gospel to influential cities in North America. GenSend, a collegiate program created by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), held an orientation event to teach mission-centered students how to evangelize in their communities. Throughout the summer, these students will serve on a six-week mission trip to one of NAMB’s 32 Send Cities where they will share God’s Word with the help of their fellow students and city coaches.
As the orientation event began on Wednesday afternoon, students from across North America gathered in the Arizona heat to meet their city teams. Steve Turner, NAMB’s director of next generation mobilization, shared the purpose and future plans for NAMB’s collegiate ministry, along with stories of life change from previous GenSend students who became missionaries at home and abroad. Later that night, many students gathered into groups to share their stories and discuss the gospel before the start of a long week.
Wilmer Perez, one of the GenSend students who attended the orientation, said, “I learned about GenSend through my local Baptist Campus Ministry. Originally, I was thinking about serving locally, but I decided that I would register for GenSend and see where God wanted me to go. I’m glad that I got to attend this event because it’s taught me different ways to evangelize at home and in different cities,” said Perez. “I always thought there was one correct way of spreading the gospel, but this event has taught me that my hobbies and passions can also glorify God. Over the summer, I want to form relationships and share the gospel with people that have the same hobbies as me. I’m not sure if I’ll be planting the seed of the gospel in people’s hearts or harvesting other people’s work, but I hope that God uses my passions to reach people for His glory.”
For the rest of the week, the students broke into their city groups to work on neighborhood service projects throughout the city. They also learned to identify diverse situations and people groups that require different ministry approaches. Neighborhood Ministries, a local ministry that works heavily with refugees and immigrants, coached the students on some of the many ways to love and share the gospel with people that have different backgrounds or beliefs
On Sunday, the students gathered with the congregation of North Phoenix Baptist Church to hear a message from David Platt, president of International Mission Board, from the book of Esther about the responsibility to act in the circumstances in which God places us. After a powerful sermon, the students were shuttled to the Harvest America crusade, a final opportunity for the students to gather together before they left for their respective cities.
Ryan Melson, returning for his second year as the New Orleans city coach, discussed his GenSend experience by stating, “Orientation was fantastic and helped me gauge our students’ personalities, so I can better coach them over the summer. My favorite thing about GenSend is watching students grow and mature in their faith. As a coach, I also want the students to fall in love with the people and city of New Orleans, so they can hopefully invest their lives to advance the gospel here. It’s always amazing to watch them grow from wide-eyed tourists into people that live in and love the city.”
Over the next six weeks, these students will use the lessons and experiences from their GenSend orientation to reach their cities and grow in their faith. The summer ministry is not only an opportunity to reach people with the gospel, it’s also a chance to train the next generation of missionaries. Whether these students are planting the seeds of the gospel for the first time or harvesting the work of other missionaries, this experience will teach them to glorify God in unique ways that will influence their future mission work and personal lives.
To learn more about student ministry opportunities visit namb.net, click “Send Me” and then click “student opportunities.”
Jacob Brooks writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published June 28, 2017