Before SendMeNow summer missionaries go into the field, they spend several weeks preparing their hearts to serve the Lord in whatever capacity they can.
One of the most vital times of preparation these students have is the Launch Retreat and Commissioning Service that happens every year in April.
“It was really great meeting who you’re going to be on the ground and sharing the Gospel with,” said Davey Arrowood, a student at the University of North Georgia who will be doing disaster relief around Houston, Texas. “I was really surprised at how fluid the schedule was. Throughout the weekend, we prayed a lot.
“When you get to pray with others you’ve never met with before in your life, but you know they share the same love of Christ you do … it was great to learn more about these people and be a part of their life.”
Among the crowd of 144 students who converged on Stockbridge were Morgan Allen, Anna Bennett and Arrowood, who huddled together around their families for a special time of focused prayer and encouragement.
For each and every one of these students, getting to have loved ones come along beside them in this time can be an incredible experience.
“I believe that the greatest preparation for all of these opportunities this summer is prayer, so to see my friends’ parents there and to see parents who have come a long way, grandparents who have come a long way, to see people who care to be there … you’re being bathed in prayer,” Bennett beamed. “Feeling like we had that many people behind us and encouraging us was really uplifting and exciting.”
For Arrowood, the time of prayer was simply calming.
“You know where you’re going, but you really don’t know,” Arrowood stated. “It was really comforting to have my family there and to see them pray over me. Its one thing to pray with students and campus ministers, but to see your family pray over you, that’s something special. That was the best part of the weekend for me.”
The express purpose of Launch Retreat is to give students an opportunity to meet their team and the campus ministers or staff members who will be leading their trips.
That meeting gives them an opportunity to train more specifically for their projects while also receiving encouragement and instruction from the trip leaders.
According to Bennett, whose team is largely comprised of students who have done SendMeNow in the past, most of these students know just how close they will come to be as a group over the summer.
Knowing ahead of time what kind of relationships they will build with one another did something quite amazing in that first weekend.
“When you know that you’re going to be close with people in a few months, you can be really vulnerable right away. It was cool to see relationships come together so quickly,” Bennett acknowledged.
Allen, a graduating senior from the University of North Georgia, had a similar experience.
“The most meaningful part of the weekend for me was getting to meet my team. This is when we get to meet the people we’re going with,” Allen explained. Allen said that her team really focused on “getting to know each other and … learning how to pray for one another.”
At the direction of campus minister Franklin Scott from the BCM at the University of Georgia, Allen and the rest of her team will be praying through the book of Jonah between now and when they leave for Africa.
“That’s what we’ll be going through with the people in Africa,” Allen noted. “Franklin has given us things to do to prepare for our trip and … giving us things to pray about for each other. To know what we’re getting in to … it might not go the way we planned, but we can prepare as much as we can and pray. We’re going to share the Gospel with someone and we need to be spiritually prepared.”
Allen and the rest of her team will only have a limited time in Africa.
In her mind, the value of their ministry will be in supporting the groundwork of those who are already on site and who will stay in Africa after she has come home.
“There are already missionaries working, and so they’re already setting up things we can continue off of when we get there. We forget that there are already people there,” Allen emphasized.
Along with the spiritual training that the students go through, they also go through sessions preparing them for real-world situations they will face in the mission field.
Whether they are discussing how to work with children safely, avoid dangerous situations, or interact with an unfamiliar culture, SendMeNow students know that they are prepared to tackle any number of unique challenges they will likely face.
“They talked about just being generally aware of your surroundings so you can travel safely. They showed us videos of people getting pick-pocketed without even knowing,” Bennett said.
“General, practical training like that was very interesting to me. It’s useful in everyday life, much less overseas,” Bennett added. “It was super beneficial and provided us with practical skills.”
Even in the midst of the practical training, the Gospel was at the heart of everything the students talked about.
“It really made me value the Gospel more,” Arrowood said. “To truly understand the Gospel, that makes you excited to share it. Not just the ends of the earth, but to your next door neighbor.”
Bennett, a SendMeNow veteran and student from the University of Georgia, will be working with a difficult people group in Europe, hoping to share the Gospel with people who have not heard much about the hope and the message of Jesus Christ.
“My group, especially, got a lot of information about where we’re going, so it was nice knowing more about the people group we’ll be working with. I felt like I was given a lot of direction how to use the next month to prepare myself,” Bennett said. “I’m a checklist-oriented person, so it helped me grasp what I need to.”
Every student who took part in the Launch Retreat talked about just how much prayer was involved. Whether they were being prayed over by their parents or spending time in prayer with one another, every step of the process was met with prayer.
“You’re praying, but you forget also that other people are in this with you. They’re praying for you as you prepare and as you’re in this,” Allen said. “Not just your parents, but parents of other students and campus ministers of other students. That really gives you perspective. You forget that more goes into it than just us.”
From a crowd of hundreds in the middle of Georgia on a Saturday afternoon in April, countless lives will be changed for the Gospel of Christ in the state, all over the nation, and around the world.
And it all started with a group of students who stood up to say they would go.
“Getting to see all the different teams … realizing how much is going to happen this summer and how much glory God is going to get this summer was really exciting,” Bennett concluded. “It was really powerful.”
This story is the second in a series that will follow Morgan Allen, Davey Arrowood and Anna Bennett through the SendMeNow process, culminating in their return from mission service across the world at the end of the summer. The first story ran on Feb. 7.