In Asia, 163 volunteers aid front-line families
Eighteen months earlier, Phil Wardell*, International Mission Board affinity leader for East Asia, had asked Northwest convention volunteers to staff an affinity group meeting in 2016, the first such gathering in seven years.
The request shared potential service opportunities that included full-day programming for 450 children and youth, information technology support, medical care and security for the large conference.
A year of prayer and planning preceded the journey of 163 Northwest Baptists halfway around the globe to give their time, resources and energy to serve 400 family units on the frontline of international Gospel efforts.
A formal partnership between the Northwest Baptist Convention and the East Asia Affinity of the International Mission Board was established in 2014, opening doors to churches and individuals for connections throughout the continent of Asia.
During the 10-day conference in late July and early August, volunteers worked more than 10 hours per day, the majority giving their time to children. Preschoolers and grade school children were treated to a morning of Vacation Bible School, with a choice of afternoon offerings that included puppetry, choir, swimming, missions activities and more.
Volunteers ranged in age from 13 to a sprinkling of those in their 70s.
“This trip was above and beyond anything I could ever imagine,” said Carla Goss, who traveled with a team from New Hope Baptist Church in Creswell, Ore., and led children’s craft time. “The connections made with the missionaries and their children will forever be impressed on my heart.”
Goss said she was “humbled by their appreciation and gratitude for everything they receive.”
“I came wanting to encourage those who have given up their comfort to follow the Lord’s calling on their lives, and instead have been extremely blessed myself. I also connected with many volunteers from the Northwest as well and have experienced their overflowing love for the Lord and the lost.”
Many of the infants had never spent measurable time apart from their parents, so tender care was needed in the long hours during which volunteers ministered. A schedule of feeding, naps and playtime was recorded for parents, and countless hours were spent walking babies in carriers around long hotel hallways.
“If you could have heard the comments from our missionaries, you would be so grateful,” said Randy Adams, the Northwest convention’s executive director. “One parent told me that his 4-year-old had not made much progress in learning to speak, following surgery for a cleft palate, but during these days his speech improved greatly because of all the interaction with so many English speakers.
“Others were so thankful for the Scripture stories and Bible songs their kids were learning and repeating,” Adams said. “The gratitude from our missionaries was expressed daily and with deep sentiment.
“When you consider that 163 of us traveled to Asia to minister to hundreds of missionaries and their children, I don’t think our minds could have conceived of a better or more consequential mission trip,” Adams added. “The days were long and our volunteers gave everything of themselves, all of their energy, all of their love and then gave some more. I know that we will never fully understand what this retreat meant to our field personnel, but the children were given a gift more profound that we will possibly understand this side of heaven.”
Adams noted that few Southern Baptists have ever gotten “up close” to so many international missionary families. Northwest Baptists were privileged to experience some of the results of giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Offering for international missions. “We demonstrated what cooperation looks like to our NWBC and the greater SBC family,” Adams said.
Teenagers studied the book of James during the conference from Centrifuge curriculum for young people. Two off-campus outings made for special bonds among participants, many of whom were making college plans in the U.S. that would take them far from their parents in the near future. And, among other activities, the teens learned the finer points of dodgeball.
A technology center was created for field personnel to drop off their laptop computers during the conference, where Northwest team members updated, debugged and prepared them for the months ahead when such services can be hard to find. A pediatrician and four nurses, meanwhile, provided daily care for illness and aches as well as annual physicals.
“We arrived to work with people we did not know,” said John Lawless, who joined the team from First Baptist Church of Longview, Wash., and served alongside his wife Rita in a preschool class. “We leave with people we will never forget.”
Jude Harper*, East Asia affinity operations director, said, “I cannot say enough how important the volunteers from 32 churches within the NWBC were.... We are so grateful for your support, and this meeting could not have happened without your sacrificial giving and time spent working the meeting. Thank you, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with you as we work together for the spread of the Gospel in East Asia and throughout the world.”