Small Steps of Obedience Leading to Life on Mission
Whitney Jones is a South Carolina native now serving full-time in Africa with the International Mission Board. We were able to sit down with Whitney and hear how the Lord used her time as an intern at the South Carolina Baptist Convention and as a Journeyman with the IMB to call her to the mission field full-time.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself. What led to the call to missions for you?
A. I grew up in a Christian family that loved the Lord. They made sure I was part of a church community. First Baptist Charleston formed the foundation of my understanding of the Gospel in terms of a personal relationship with Jesus. From there, I went on to Charleston Southern University. After changing my major to student ministry, the Lord was drawing my heart towards youth who felt like they didn’t have a place – those who were searching for meaning and purpose.
I was a junior at CSU when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I moved home for my last semester at school to help my family as best as I could. Her diagnosis changed what I thought my life would look like. I aspired to move to Seattle to work with runaway youth, but because of my mom, I stayed close to home. I worked a job locally while she was fighting cancer. Staying home just felt like the right thing to do.
In 2016, I was attending the Church at Cane Bay during a sermon series about the commands of Christ. I was convicted about both the freedom and the opportunity I had to go and do missions cross-culturally. The only trip at the time was one to Nairobi, Kenya. Growing up, I had no desire to go to Africa, but with this opportunity available to me, I felt the Lord calling me to be obedient. Four months later, my mom passed away. After we settled everything with the funeral, I told my dad that I still felt like I needed to go on this trip to Kenya. He said that I should absolutely go.
Q. What was your first experience in Africa like?
A. It was incredible. One day in the city the primary missionaries, my now teammates, and I were driving through a primarily Muslim neighborhood in Nairobi, and we stopped to greet some friends. The man extended his hand to shake mine and offered me a seat, which is just uncommon in the culture. I sat on the street corner observing the people that walked by as the missionary and the man talked about the Gospel so clearly. That image is engraved in my mind from my time in Africa.
Q. When did you know you wanted to go back?
A. After about two or three weeks living back at home, I told my dad I felt called to be a Journeyman with the IMB which meant living in Nairobi for two years. My dad said, “What took you so long?” He’d known from the time he dropped me off at the airport to leave that it wouldn’t be long before I went back.
Q. Tell us about your SCBC internship. How did it prepare you for the mission field?
A. While I was attending CSU an opportunity to work with the South Carolina Baptist Convention came up. The job was to work alongside Melanie Ratcliffe with an emphasis in women’s and pastor’s wives ministry. This was huge for me and opened my eyes wider to all the opportunities there were to serve the Lord. It helped to broaden my horizon, but the most import takeaway I have from my time as an intern with the SCBC was the importance of mentorship, discipleship, and faithful obedience. It gave me opportunities to sit under incredible teaching and training for discipleship and evangelism and helped me to better understanding of how important relationships are to our Christian walk.
Q. Did your SCBC internship confirm your calling to the mission field? If so, how?
A. My internship at the SCBC provided ample opportunities for me to be reminded that Southern Baptist are still praying, still giving, still sending, and still going for the sake of the advancement of the Gospel and we do all of those things – Praying, giving, going, and sending – in cooperation with one another.
Q. Tell us about your experience as a Journeyman. What did you do there?
A. I went back to Nairobi in September of 2018. My role often changed there. I came to work alongside missionaries and working in various lower income communities in Nairobi. But over time it evolved into working with a business called Kilele. It is a canvas and leather bag business with the heart of reaching and making an impact in Kenya and around the world. We hire Kenyans who have a heart for the Gospel and to see their city and nation impacted in an eternal way. The Lord was using the business to open doors and make bridges and opportunities for Gospel advance in Nairobi and around the world as we seek to walk in obedience as believers and conduct business in a God honoring manner.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who feels the Lord may be leading them to become a missionary?
A. Pray. I’d encourage them to first say yes to something small. That might just look like one short-term trip. Say yes to something small first and then continue to say yes until it becomes clear and obvious that the Lord says no. All along the way, there were opportunities where I could’ve said no and stopped, but it was clear the Lord wasn’t saying no.
Q. What did you learn about God during your time as a Journeyman?
A. The biggest thing was being reminded of his steadfast nature and character. Every aspect of his character is perfect. He’s not just sort of good or sort of faithful – he is completely faithful and completely good. We can depend on him, not just for what He’s done for us, but also because of his character.
Q. Just for fun, have you read any books that have been particularly helpful in spurring you on towards missions?
A. Definitely “The Insanity of God,” by Nik Ripken. It made my call clear to me. The Ripken’s story is closely connected to Nairobi, so as I drive through the city I am reminded of and thanking the Lord for the seeds he was planting through that book and the foundation laid before I even stepped foot there.
Q. How can we support you as you go?
A. The number one thing is prayer. Remember not just me, but the missionaries that come from South Carolina. As Southern Baptists, we are representatives of one another and in cooperation with one another. Remember us and pray for us. That’s the best and biggest way. If you have the opportunity to know a missionary, just to reach out and letting them know you’re thinking of them is huge. It’s a reminder that they aren’t alone and that those back home hold the rope in prayer for us. I’m also thankful for South Carolinians for giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. Those are the ways that SC Baptist missionaries can focus on doing missions full-time without the worry of rent or groceries. Southern Baptists know how to care for our missionaries.
To learn more about how you can be involved in missions through the South Carolina Baptist Convention, visit https://www.scbaptist.org/missions/.