By Grace Thornton
Keith W. said when he looks across his church and identifies the highest-impact individuals, the ones who are highly evangelistic disciple-makers, they have some unifying factors. One of them is that they’ve spent time in East Asia.
“They come back, and their perspective on their life and on the world is completely changed,” remarked Keith, who serves as lead pastor of Resonate Church, a Washington state-based church with campuses in Idaho and Oregon. “They see lostness where they had just seen regularity, and they see themselves as missionaries more than when they left.”
Over the past three years, more than 80 students have participated in Resonate’s partnership with IMB workers in East Asia, traveling there to serve for 10 weeks in the summer or two weeks on Christmas break.
“We put them into a college campus and by being in that context, their lives are radically changed,” Keith said. “To be able to say ‘I’m here for a specific reason for a short time’ develops that courage muscle. As they try stuff there, the receptivity of college students begins to create an optimism that gets carried home with them. It builds a courageous spirit, and that permeates their identity.”
It also makes a lasting impact on the East Asian students they meet while they’re there. “We’ve seen 13 college students decide to make a decision for Christ,” Keith said. “There are four house churches that have been started in the past year or so.”
All this started in 2014 when Keith and his wife, Paige, went on a trip to East Asia and saw the incredible opportunities there to reach the region through its university students. Keith and Paige came back and told the stories, and eight Resonate members decided they wanted to relocate their lives to East Asia.
Keith wanted to make a habit of sending students there to get their feet wet in missions. It was a double blessing as it bolstered students’ hearts to come back and think missionally at home, while supporting the work of their partners on the field.
“One of the things I most wanted to do with this was have every student see they are empowered to start something for the kingdom,” Keith explained. “Going to East Asia not only opens their eyes to the lostness, it shows them that they can do something about it.”
It’s created a pathway of direct development for missionaries, Keith said. “If you want to accelerate your disciple making, put them in a context overseas. People start to see their world as a place where they were sent as a missionary.”
• IMB workers and their field partners in East Asia to impact lostness by reaching and mobilizing Asian university students.
• God to raise up more workers through strategic partnerships. Also pray God would prompt churches to be generous in supporting missionaries overseas.