Mission Trip Ignites a Passion
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Springfield has embraced a long-term missions partnership with the people of India, sending annual teams to serve alongside a multiplying church in India, leading to new relationships with local Indians at work in the Springfield community.
A few years ago, Pleasant Hill Church in Springfield was invited to join a vision team trip to India, with the purpose of working alongside missionaries in the field and praying about possible partnerships. In the time since, Pleasant Hill Church members have developed a deep love for the country and a passion to reach its people.
Pastor Adam Hensley says God has fostered this fundamental love for the people of India through his church’s commitment to partnership. “The mission trips are not something we want to mark off of our ‘bucket list;’ it’s about coming home and continuing to build relationships, praying for people, learning their names, hearing their testimonies, and returning each year. Social media has helped strengthen long distance relationships. We are investing where God has called us to invest,” he says.
In 2012, Pleasant Hill Church members, including Timmy and Margaret Ann Barr, prayed about becoming involved in international missions. The opportunity for a vision trip through the South Carolina Baptist Convention solidified the call to India, and the church quickly formed a relationship with a missionary family serving in Delhi. In February 2016, the Barrs will participate in the fourth trip the church has taken there.
“God confirmed this partnership before it even started. We prayed separately about where He was leading our church to serve, and then a church visitor shared international news with us that related to our passion,” Timmy said. “Our church has a strong Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), extending into missions education for our children, and a copy of the WMU Missions Mosaic publication featured India.”
Each of the mission trips to India has lasted about 10 days and included no more than 10 people. The team size has proved perfect for the assigned projects, including a Vacation Bible School, street evangelism, and showing the Jesus film. The India church is growing fast – it has planted three new churches – so some mission volunteers are focusing on leadership skills that empower church growth.
An essential element of this partnership has been Pleasant Hill Church’s commitment to annually return to serve. Before the team returned from their last trip, Margaret Ann Barr asked one of the national pastors if other mission teams were helping his church. He told her, “Others have come, but your team was the only one to return.”
God is working also within Pleasant Hill Church as a result of the mission partnership. Church members play an active role in the mission trips, even when they cannot travel, by coming to the church to pray while the team is in India and by writing notes for the team members to read each day while they are away. Pleasant Hill Church has always been active in local missions and has partnered with churches in other states for several years. Most recently, it has partnered with a struggling church in Atlanta by helping with construction needs, local outreach, and evangelism.
“What we’ve done in India has helped to grow our love for everyone in general, and people in our church are more conscious of Indians living in our community. Being on mission in India is helping us do what we’re supposed to do here at home,” Margaret Ann says. “There is a convenience store that I had never gone into, but when I found out Indians were running it, Timmy and I decided to stop by one day. We made an effort to meet and talk to the couple and shared that we had traveled to their country,” Margaret Ann says.
What started with a conversation and a hot dog, over time, has turned into a growing relationship that has included sharing meals in each other’s homes and frequent calls and texts. Timmy stops by the store almost every day to speak to members of the family, and Margaret Ann has shared her embroidery talents by making a shirt for the family’s little girl.
“It’s been fun getting to know them and sharing so many things with them. We’ve fallen in love with them. Sometimes, they are emotional with us; they have cried and said that we are their only family here,” she said.
Also, the Barrs are planning the next steps of their relationship with the family, which includes sharing the gospel. It has been difficult gathering together outside of the store, and conversations are rarely private with customers coming and going. They have had a few opportunities to share their faith, and the Indian family knows the Barrs go to church and believe in Jesus.
“If I hadn’t gone to India, I don’t know if I would have this desire to get to know them like we have. It is eye opening to go and see the lostness in India and then realize we have people from that culture living here. If we can go to India, why can’t we do something here as well?” Margaret Ann says.
Timmy has invited other church members to meet the Indian couple’s new friends at the convenience store. “We’ve told our church about them, and church members will go in and buy something and say they go to church with us. It’s great to see them going in and communicating with this family, too.”
Pastor Hensley says he is serving in a ‘dream church.’
“I don’t have to push for missions to happen or for people to get involved; God’s already put that in their hearts. We are like-minded, have unity and vision, and we’re all going in the same direction. It is great having people you trust leading ministries because God’s called them to do it,” he says.
“God has always blessed obedience to His word. We are literally watching our church experience God’s blessing because we are doing what He has called us to do. We aren’t just trying to grow our church; we’re trying to reach the kingdom. God is blessing us at home when we are on mission elsewhere,” Hensley says.