It was 2006 when Tom and Cindi Melvin followed God’s call to southern Africa. For eight years, they enjoyed fruitful ministry there until, in 2014, a cancer diagnosis for Tom suddenly compelled them to leave their home and seek medical treatment in Baltimore.
For months, it was an absolute whirlwind of emotions and struggles for them as they began to walk through medical treatment. The Melvins planned on returning to Africa, but their plans changed when Tom’s medical situation worsened.
While in Baltimore, however, as they walked in and out of the hospital each day, they noticed Africans and other immigrants all around them. And God began to open their eyes to the possibility of ministry in the U.S. Months later, contrary to all their previous hopes and plans, they decided to retire from being missionaries with the IMB. But, graciously, God didn’t retire them from ministry.
Still at Work for the Sake of the Gospel
Several months after retiring from the IMB, the Melvins began working with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV), mobilizing churches to partner and connect with local mission opportunities. Even though they were unable to go overseas, they fully believed they could work among the nations right where they were.
As they shared this message with churches, one North Carolina congregation—Beaver Island Baptist Church—heard it loud and clear. They wanted to get involved, and the Melvins connected them to an opportunity with a predominately African immigrant church in Virginia. The church wanted to host a vacation Bible school (VBS), but they were new to that kind of outreach. So a team that was very experienced in that sort of ministry from the North Carolina church jumped in to work with them. A partnership began to form through which they would be able to minister among internationals.
Opportunities and Walls
The two churches worked together on a week of evening VBS, but they wanted a daytime ministry opportunity, as well. They thought about offering another VBS at a local apartment complex. And though everyone liked the idea, settling on the details was more difficult than they thought. They kept running into walls.
At a loss, they asked for help from the SBCV, who suggested they partner with a Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) pastor, Greg LeMaster. Greg was the associate pastor of Graceland Baptist in Powhatan, VA and had a connection with an apartment complex filled with internationals.
He had been working within that complex for years and ministering among its people. So, it just made sense. The partners began to gather each day, offering a daytime VBS to the kids at Nottingham Green apartment complex, and an evening VBS at the church. Tom and Cindi were incredibly excited about the partnership and opportunity—all of those people working together for the cause of Christ. They believed that God brought all of those relationships—those he created over time—together for the same purpose.
The week of VBS ministry among internationals also uniquely affected the Beaver Island team. They became very energized and had an experience that opened their eyes to the possibility for more.
Still Work to Do
At the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting in Phoenix, SBC President, Frank Page, echoed a familiar rallying cry among Southern Baptists. “We can do more together than we can do alone.” Tom and Cindi Melvin experienced the reality of this statement both as missionaries in Africa and now as they mobilize U.S. churches.
The week of VBS ministry uniquely affected them. It encouraged them to keep pursuing partnerships for the sake of the gospel. Although they are retired from full-time IMB mission work, they see there is still much to do.
“It felt very refreshing to us,” Cindi said. “The work is not done…definitely not.”
Tom and Cindi Melvin currently serve with the SBCV as State Mobilization Associates. They followed God to Africa with their two boys to serve as church planters with the IMB, and stayed for 10 wonderful years. They continue to mobilize SBC churches to be on mission in Virginia and around the world.
Emily Hall works at the IMB office in Richmond, Virginia. She enjoys reading and writing good stories about what Jesus Christ and His Church are up to nowadays. Find more of her work at emilyanne.pressfolios.com.