Wednesday, 05 September 2012 20:39

The Mission of Mission Life

Written by  Hamilton G. Richardson
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Talking about ministering to the needy and supporting mission trips to far-off places is easy--most Christians do it—but it’s actually following through that’s the tough part.

 


Most churches do the same thing; talk a lot about reaching out to the community. But do they actually do it? Do feet ever really touch the ground for the needy, let alone actually leave the pew?

For two churches in Prattville and Millbrook, AL, talking about missions wasn’t good enough—they had to act. And act they did as over 40 believers from His Way Community Church and Fountain of Grace Church (C&MA) got together to make an impact on the Tri-County area, which included the state’s capital, Montgomery.

Rick McLain is highly involved in his church, Fountain of Grace, in Prattville, and it could be said that Rick was God’s Man in this missions endeavor and he put his experience into the project.

“Having previously been a part-time youth pastor and taking teens to mission camps for several years,” explained Rick, “I envisioned a family-friendly mission camp where parents and their children would serve and worship together in a way that would be more than a once-a-year experience to a place too far away to follow up throughout the year. My hope was that through serving Jesus together, families would be strengthened.”
Rick envisioned a mission project that would impact the neighborhoods where the participants actually lived.

“I hoped participants would be more aware of the urgent needs within a few blocks of their homes and see how God has uniquely prepared them to meet those needs, and then stay on-mission meeting those needs after the week of camp ended,” Rick said. “I also hoped that God would impact our community through the ministries performed by the ‘Mission- Lifers’ by saving many and creating opportunities for continued discipleship and ministry.”

Rick almost went on a mission trip, but because of a change in plans, was able to pitch the Mission Life concept to his church leadership.

“When I originally went to my pastors Tony Butler and Phil Leistner with the concept of Mission Life, I hoped for 30 participants from Fountain of Grace Church and thought 40 would be amazing,” he said. “I didn’t know what it would cost us to host a camp like this, but I told my pastors that I thought we should charge $30 per person with a maximum of $90 for a family of four or more. We would trust God to make that work for the food, supplies for ministry sites, and what no camp could be complete without – the camp t-shirt.”

Rick not only saw many from his church sign up, but most of the membership of His Way Community Church, who Rick was partnering with, signed up as well. Six others from area churches showed up also.

“What happened was absolutely all of God and for His glory,” said Rick about the outcome of Mission Life.
Rick got the assistance of all three His Way Community Church Elder/Pastors as well as a large number of volunteers and leaders from both churches to get the program off the ground.

“We ended up with the three teams,” said Rick. “We named them PCY (Paint/Construction/Yardwork), SC1 (Social Creative), and SC2 (Social Creative). We came together on Sunday, July 8, and formed our teams, got to know our fellow team mates, then prepared for ministry that would be done Monday through Friday.“

Matt Turner, an Elder/Pastor from His Way Community Church, was chosen to preach the Word every evening after the Mission Life teams had returned from ministering to the community.

“I expected the gospel to go forth in our community and for our people to catch the vision that God’s plan to reach the world is through the local church,” Matt said. “I personally believe that lives were touched by the gospel, believers were challenged to step up and follow Christ locally and continually, and both churches were blessed. As a result, the exposure to the local needs worked as a catalyst to inspire God’s people to step up.”

And Rick agreed: “There was a great impact on the churches involved as they did not recognize denominational walls or man-made names that week. We truly operated and served our community together as the Body of Christ, not as His Way or as Fountain of Grace,” he said. “Both churches are talking about partnering in on-going ministry efforts and doing Mission Life Camp together again next year. Both churches also want to serve each other.”
Fountain of Grace Pastor Tony Butler saw the clear impact Mission Life had on everyone involved.

“For years our church has done short term mission trips to Peru. However, this year that door closed. With that closed door God opened another to reach out right here at home this summer,” Pastor Tony said. “Mission Life was six days devoted to our own personal growth through devotions and challenging messages on missions and Christian discipleship. It was five days of various ministry outreaches from evangelism, construction projects, and showing love to needy people in the name of Christ. Some Mission Lifers gave up their vacation time to be part of it. Entire families worked together in ministry alongside others they didn’t know very well. However, by the end of the week deep relationships were formed.”

Matt Turner summed up the missions event with a quote by John Piper: “’Missions exist because worship doesn’t,’” said Matt. “In other words, the reason why we are to be on mission is to make His name known.”

One of the attendees to Mission Life, Susie Gardner, shared her thoughts about the event, which she initially didn’t even want to attend.
“Going into it, Mission Life was just something else I had to do, didn’t want to do, but needed to be obedient to what the Father desired of me,” said Gardner. “Honestly, I didn’t have great expectations. I went into it clueless really, but I was asking the Lord to do a work in me, to change my heart about not wanting to attend, and being open to whatever happened.”

But Susie quickly changed her mind as she experienced what serving can do.

“Mission life has become a way of life,” she said. “I pray it will continue in my life. It is being ‘Jesus with skin on,’ living out his passion to meet the needs of those around us, sharing His truth, and allowing Him to love on people through you. It is emptying yourself, being filled, and following where He leads. I changed. For that solid week, I was filled, used, humbled, and really became a vessel He was able to use. My eyes were opened and my heart broken by the great needs at my own backdoor. In His strength, His life is continuing to be my life. It is such a joy to love on those He loves so greatly.”

Mission Life changed people—people in churches, people in communities and people in neighborhoods. It also fired up a group of believers who needed to be fired up—wanted to be fired up--for Jesus and to obey his command to spread the Gospel.

Rick, Matt and many others who were touched by their experience with Mission Life plan on doing the missions week again next year and trying to boost as much awareness in the surrounding communities as possible in order to be, as Susie Gardner so eloquently said, Jesus with skin on.

Hamilton G. Richardson is a freelance writer living in the Prattville area with his wife and kids. He has worked as a professional and freelance writer for several years, as well as working in television, radio, print media and for the web. Hamilton was born in Sydney, Australia but spent most of his life in San Diego, CA before moving to Alabama.
 

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