Frank Haight, retired community news editor for The Examiner, writes this weekly column. You can leave him a message at 816-350-6363.
Kevin Williamson has a passionate heart when it comes to missions, especially at his church – The Blue Springs Church of the Nazarene.
In February of next year, Kevin is leading a mission team on an eight-day trip to El Salvador, where the group will help construct two classrooms at the Nazarene church in Santa Telca, a suburb of San Salvador.
This mission trip, as well as two earlier ones to South America, might never have materialized had Kevin, president of the church’s mission program, not felt compelled to increase the congregation’s understanding of the importance of becoming a mission-minded church.
His mission: To get church members to expand their scope by becoming actively involved in overseas mission projects.
However, one large stumbling block loomed. Blue Springs Church of the Nazarene had never been involved in such an undertaking; neither had Kevin.
Feeling his inadequacy to lead mission journeys of this magnitude, Kevin pondered how such an overseas endeavor might come to fruition.
Perhaps his church could hook up with another area church, he thought.
Or better still, maybe the Lord would direct a person to the church who knew the ins and outs of planning and leading overseas mission trips.
But none of these things materialized.
“No one else ever came along to do these things,” he recalled.
Three or four years passed and Kevin’s dream of a missions trip abroad was still a dream, that is, until Kevin’s first wife, Beverly, died of cancer in 2001.
While making burial plans, the funeral director asked Kevin what he wanted to do with memorial money donations.
“I hadn’t even thought about that,” he recalled. “It just wasn’t on my radar.”
But at that instant, Kevin felt God leading him to put all memorial gifts in a special fund for mission projects at Blue Springs Church of the Nazarene.
Believing “it was of God,” Kevin stepped out in faith. He decided not to wait for someone else to lead the mission endeavors. He was going to do it.
“If it’s me, I’ll find a way to do it,” he thought.
Three years later – July 2004 – the church’s first ever foreign mission trip became a reality, thanks to some $8,000 given in Beverly Williamson’s memory.
With the 15-member mission team paying its own expenses for the 10-day trip, the memorial money was used to purchase lumber to build a small church in a tiny Aguarana village in northern Peru.
With the assistance of Larry Garmin, a well-known Nazarene missionary, and some skilled nationals, the 20-by-40-foot church was built and dedicated before the Blue Springs team returned home.
“The nationals had a lot of good skills and were really the brains. We were just helping hands – stapling screen wire, painting boards and things like that,” he recalled. “Everyone was doing something.”
Despite the language barrier, there was a real connection between the Missourians and the Aguarana villagers, Kevin says, noting the villagers “knew the Lord and you could see the joy on their faces.”
While construction was the focus of the Peruvian trip, showing the “Jesus” film was the heart of the 2007 mission trip to Candelaria, a tiny Guatemalan town.
To show the soul-winning “Jesus” film, the church and the 15-member-team raised money to purchase a complete set of projection equipment, including a projector, screen and generator.
During the nine-day trip, the Blue Springs team joined hands with an established local church in its efforts to plant three new churches in the surrounding area.
By showing the “Jesus” film,” Kevin says, “you get converts, you follow up and disciple those converts and then you try to plant a church in each of the communities.”
The film was shown outside at night. During the day, the Blue Springs team led vacation Bible schools, repaired public buildings and offered dental hygiene and medical clinics.
Team members also went door to door with an Evangecube, which Kevin says is a neat way to tell the story of Jesus using pictures.
With no out-of-the-country mission trip planned last year, a team of men from the church when on a short mission trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa, on a summer flood relief project.
“It was hard, dirty, nasty work,” Kevin says of shoveling mud and garbage from flood-damaged homes, painting basements that had been previously cleaned out and doing other odd chores to the glory of God.
“We felt good about helping people with their physical problems and we also felt good being an encouragement to them spiritually.”
Plans are under way for the church’s third foreign mission trip next year to El Salvador – Feb. 5-12. A Nazarene church in Santa Telca is hosting the team.
Like the Guatemalan trip, the Missourians will do vacation Bible schools and medical and dental hygiene clinics. They also will show the “Jesus” film with the same projection equipment used in Guatemala.
Their biggest endeavor, though, is constructing several classrooms at the host church for a cost of $10,000.
“The project cost is our biggest challenge,” Kevin says, explaining the congregation is directly sponsoring the mission project. A special offering and fundraisers are planned to meet the challenge.
“We are open to all donations,” he says with a chuckle.
Kevin hopes those who weren’t able to go to Guatemala for whatever reason, will say: “Well, I am just going to do it this time.”
“We are sure open to donations,” Kevin says with a chuckle.