What began as a summer vision trip to South Asia for 12 seminary students evolved into a virtual mission trip involving 221 participants and 60 IMB workers.
Twelve seminary graduates signed up for a summer vision trip to learn how and where they can serve in South Asia. However, all IMB summer mission trips were canceled due to COVID-19.
The seminary students, and others who had signed up for summer mission trips in South Asia, expressed their desire to remain involved, visit and serve in South Asia.
Not wanting to lose an opportunity to connect Southern Baptists with needs in South Asia, regional leadership decided to host a “Virtual Mission Trip,” (VMT) on May 26-28 for those who were headed to serve in South Asia this summer.
The goal of the VMT was to recruit new IMB workers and share how Southern Baptists can join the work in South Asia. The VMT connected participants with IMB personnel so they could hear about their ministries and learn about the next steps they can take to serve overseas.
Leadership in South Asia sent invitations to the 12 seminary students and invited three professors from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gateway Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Dr. Keith McKinley tweeted an invitation to VMT. Dr. Don Dent, a Gateway Seminary professor, made the VMT part of one of his courses. As word spread, people in the process of applying to serve with the IMB were invited, as well as others who heard about the trip.
A total of 221 people registered and 60 IMB workers in South Asia participated in the VMT.
Leon Graffam* said the VMT allowed the South Asian Affinity a broader reach than would normally be possible during traditional summer mission trips. Graffam is one of the regional leaders in South Asia.
“We could never host 100+ people at one time in South Asia,” Graffam said. “We could never gather 60 of our people together in one place with these 100+ people, so the opportunity to impact a large group with so many different voices is a benefit of this VMT.”
Graffam said the need for more workers in South Asia is dire.
“To be able to point to what God is doing, promote His call to the nations and display the greatest concentration of lostness left through this platform (the VMT) is something that I pray will raise up the next generation of co-workers and leaders for ASAP,” Graffam said.
The first day of the mission trip focused on the vision of South Asia’s leadership team. Meeting online, VMT attendees had the opportunity to ask questions. Participants also listened to pre-recorded testimonies from IMB workers.
Homework was a part of each day of the VMT. On the first day, students were challenged to pray for more Christian workers at 10:02 using the PrayASAP app.
The second day of the mission trip centered around the people groups and places of South Asia. Mission trip participants heard IMB workers share in real-time about their ministries among Hindus and Muslims. The second day’s homework was to share the gospel with one person locally and look at seven IMB job positions.
One VMT participant shared the gospel with a South Asian friend. The friend wanted to hear more, so they set a date in June to read the Gospel of Luke together. Another participant shared the gospel with a coworker who is from another faith.
Twenty-eight people heard the gospel as a result of VMT participants.
On the third day, attendees listened to video testimonies about what life is like on the mission field and what steps they can take if they are interested in serving overseas. The third day also featured a breakout session where people could divide into groups: married, married with kids, singles and empty nesters. In these groups, participants heard directly from a missionary.
The mission trip concluded with an encouragement to join the IMB workers in South Asia and key next steps for doing so. The homework was to take that next step.
Sean and Jessica Cheever* attended the VMT and are in the application process to serve with the IMB.
In an exit survey, Sean wrote, “My wife and I were blown away with the virtual trip. It felt like we actually got to know you all in a personal and intimate way; like we were really there with you. … We experienced South Asia in a way we never would have before and an imprint will forever be on our hearts.”
Keith and Belinda Daniels* also expressed their thanks for the opportunity to travel virtually to South Asia. The Daniels are also planning on serving with the IMB.
“The tour reached 150+ potential field workers without you leaving your home or us leaving ours. Imagine the amount of time it would take to connect with that many potential field workers with conventional methods,” the Daniels wrote.
Adam and Catherine Kraney* also took part in the VMT.
“The most helpful was continually hearing about the dire need in South Asia and the specific brutal facts for each country,” Adam said. “We had no idea that 600 million Muslims were in South Asia.”
Adam said God used the VMT to confirm their calling to serve in South Asia.
Oscar Tortolero, the Hispanic Church Mobilization Strategist for the IMB, said several Hispanic churches, pastors and leaders took part in the VMT. One of the leaders said youth from his church are praying about opportunities to serve. Tortolero said they are considering hosting a Virtual Mission Trip in Spanish this summer or fall.
Leadership in South Asia has plans to host additional Virtual Mission Trips over the summer for churches interested in partnering with the IMB in South Asia. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can register now for the next event scheduled for June 29-30. Information about the next event is available below.
*Names changed for security