by Vicky Kaniaru
(On the cover: Impromptu witnessing -- TMC adjunct professor, Jim Gant (center), shares the Gospel with roadside locals in Haiti. TMC student Chris Chapman stands to Gant's right.)
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) — Truett-McConnell College staff and students joined Helen First Baptist Church (HFBC) on mission in Leogane, Haiti, during TMC's 2012 spring break.
The eight church members who comprised the team consisted of five with connections to Truett-McConnell: students Chris Chapman and Kayla Meador; alumna Kate Bushey, campus minister Keith Wade; and Jim Gant, HFBC associate pastor and TMC adjunct professor.
In addition to these human connections, both the church and school exemplify a heart for missions.
Jim Holmes -- HFBC's senior pastor and TMC adjunct professor -- said Truett-McConnell students who attend the church have brought a desire "to reach the world for Christ, and that's blessed our church because this multi-generational church setting sees the passion of this generation, and they're captivated and inspired by it."
"I don't think I've ever seen a generation more [zealous] about winning this world to Christ, and it's infectious to see these students literally give up their whole summer and raise money to be gone from family and fun for a summer to go [overseas]," said Holmes, who added that HFBC's goal since 2001 is for missions to "be the DNA in our church. It wouldn't just be a program or something that we do, but that it would permeate in the very life of who we are as a people of God ... and to partner with Truett-McConnell in that work is a great impact."
Helen FBC in Helen, Ga., has for years engaged in short-term missions projects, thus providing missions opportunities for TMC students.
Gant believes Truett-McConnell students "need to be connected with a local church because there is wisdom in the body of Christ from which students should draw and to which they can add."
"There are many Truett-McConnell students who are thinking deeply about matters of faith, and they add much to our ministry," Gant said. "We have a lot of conversations about faith, and the depth of the discussions we have is significant."
Pastor Holmes committed his life to Christ in college and said he loves "college ministry and the college setting, so it's a perfect fit."
Being on missions in other countries is why a connection with the local church is important, Chapman said, adding that Helen FBC "is a great place for people to serve in ministry."
The trip to Haiti wasn't alumna Bushey's first, and she said returning there "feels like home. ... It's a weird feeling because they're so poor and they have nothing. I had not been back since the earthquake, and I'm still not really sure why I was supposed to go, but I just love the people there."
When she heard about the trip, Bushey was unsure about finances. But she soon realized she needed to "share with the Haitian people who have been forgotten and neglected ... that there is still a God who loves."
Bushey observed little progress in Leogane since the devastating earthquake of January 2010 and added that the remaining rubble illustrates the brokenness in Haitians' lives.
"That brokenness is a huge part of the Haitians right now," Bushey said. "Everything is broken there. The biggest thing is that sometimes you have to stay broken for a while before you can really be built up again. In my life, God had to break me down a lot."
Despite the spiritual darkness of voodoo worship, "there is great light because the Christians there know that God has saved them from horrible things," Bushey said. "The Christians are hungry. They want to know more of the Word. They want to be taught."
"Maybe the love that I share with a child for one week helps him know that somebody cares. He can dream, and he can do something with his life besides beg on the street," Bushey said. "There are opportunities. They are limited, but there is still hope there."
The HFBC team partnered with Baptists 4 Haiti -- an organization connected with the Georgia Baptist Convention that continues the work started by the Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief in Haiti after the earthquake. Hosting nearly 70 kids every day in Vacation Bible School, the team also helped build a new dormitory for an orphanage shattered by the earthquake.
Gant welcomed the chance to minister in Haiti because there is a Baptist missionary in place who is able to coordinate short-term missions projects and to provide follow-up to decisions made for Christ.
Roland Norris -- Baptist 4 Haiti's on-the-ground missionary -- provided the team logistical support and ministry leadership.
TMC Campus Minister Keith Wade's goal was to learn more about Baptists 4 Haiti and discover "how to minister to the Haitians."
Believers can always hear about the need, but they have to see it and understand it in order to gain a more informed perspective, said Wade, who added that "no matter how big or small your mission team is, God will use whoever goes, no matter your strengths, no matter what gifts you have."
As for responding to the Gospel, Wade said that "Haitians don't jump into anything that they don't want to. They're going to be all in or not. They're going to let you know that even if you did share the Gospel."
Like Holmes and Gant, Wade noted the "great value in the local church" and the importance of "engaging students to be involved in missions. Whether it's done through the school or through the local church, there has to be some connection and partnership because we're all doing the same thing—it's a kingdom building mindset."
Wade hopes Truett-McConnell students will continue their desire for missions and will not forget that "missions is not just international missions. It's easier to go abroad, and it's harder to walk across the street and share. Missions is a daily lifestyle."