When college student Trip Bumgarner decided to spend his summer as a GenSend missionary to serve alongside church planting missionaries, he did not know about the other opportunities God had in store for him.
He traveled to Utah with a team of seven and settled into a hotel across the street from a Super Target.
What started as “a quick trip to the store” became an everyday thing, and the GenSend team made it a point to visit Target daily.
“We ended up going almost every day because we would forget something, or we needed to pick up groceries,” said Trip.
On their first visit to the store, the team’s camaraderie stood out, and after a few moments at the checkout line, Connor, an employee, started asking questions.
“Where are all of you from?”
“Three of us said South Carolina, two of us said North Carolina, one said Arkansas and another one said Alabama,” Trip shared. “And Connor was like, ‘How do you all know each other? And we were all like, ‘Oh, we actually just met a few days ago.’”
Intrigued by their closeness, Connor kept asking questions. “I told him we were on a summer mission trip in Utah.”
With every visit to Target, the team kept talking to Connor. After the first week, they invited him to dinner. When the time came to meet with him, the team had reached a breaking point.
“We were—all of us—were just absolutely wiped. It was probably the most discouraging day of the entire six weeks,” Trip explained. “People had not been receptive to the gospel, and we had heard horrible things from others that morning. We felt absolutely discouraged and exhausted.”
Trip and fellow student missionary Scotty arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early. Feeling defeated, they prayed over their time with Connor—to see what the Lord would do.
While praying, Trip remembered a passage the Lord kept bringing back to the team throughout the previous week. “Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
“I just remembered it. And Scotty and I prayed, ‘Lord, we have nothing to bring to the table. Use us in whatever way you desire. Lead us through the Scripture that You desire us to share and help us love him.”
Connor arrived, and after a few moments of small talk, he shared his story.
“[Connor] said that he grew up in a Christian home . . .he had moved out here and was living with his aunt and uncle who were pretty devout Latter-day Saints. And up to that point, Connor had tried to live up to their standard.”
He also shared that the night before the GenSend team asked him to go to dinner, he had prayed for God to show him the truth and didn’t know what to do.
At dinner, Trip and Scotty went through the Scriptures with Connor. “We explained the context and went through the Old Testament leading to Christ’s coming into the world to take our place on the cross.”
They sat there for over two hours, sharing the Good News with Connor. “At the end of our time together, all of us had tears running down our faces,” Trip remembered. After Connor said the sinner’s prayer, they drove across the street to a Barnes and Noble.
“We picked out a Bible and then went to the hotel so Connor could tell everybody on the team.”
Connor and Trip’s relationship didn’t end there.
After finishing his degree, Trip felt God calling him back to Utah. He and two others from the team also returned. The faithful giving of Southern Baptists to Annie Armstrong Easter Offering supports GenSenders like Trip to change lives and impact God’s Kingdom.
He is now discipling Connor and had the blessing of baptizing him this past August. “Connor is taking on servant roles in the college ministry we just started. He’s already filled out the application to go on GenSend next summer. God has gifted Connor with a heart for others. He’s been praying because he just wants to serve.”
And while the Lord has Trip working in an engineering job full time, he is also working with others to plant a church. “We’re going through the process of that right now in an area that is about 1% Christian. The Lord is opening up so many doors in the community already. He has provided us with opportunities for us to serve. We just have to be willing to remain obedient.”
Published September 23, 2022