In Prov. 29:18, Scripture teaches that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It might be added that without a vision trip, a small Guatemalan seminary would still be struggling to share its biblical vision with its unchurched countrymen.
Last October, Greg Bentley went on a vision trip with Eric Rentz, pastor of Ludowici First Church, and others led by Gary Eudy of “E3 Volunteers.” The group traveled to the Central American nation and Bentley was looking to explore how his two Associations could partner with the local Baptists. The group, which toured much of the country, stopped one night at the seminary in Guatemala City before continuing on the next day.
It didn’t take long to see the need, said Bentley, who serves as director of missions for both Altamaha and New Sunbury Associations.
“The conditions of the buildings were pretty bad. I think the only thing holding it all together were the termites,” Rentz remarked.
And that is how the southeast Georgia churches became involved in international missions, and how they used that knowledge to see the needs around them once they returned home.
In some ways it began three years earlier before Bentley accepted the joint missionary role for two distinct Associations. Jim Elliott was serving in the dual capacity at the time, and times were hard. Giving was down and finances were a growing concern.
After much prayer and soul searching, New Sunbury Association voted to sell its Hinesville building to a Hispanic congregation and invest the proceeds with the Georgia Baptist Foundation. The funds were then earmarked for missions and ministry. The Guatemala project, and a special offering that raised $25,000, were the fruit of that decision.
A win-win situation
It was a win-win situation that allowed both the Hispanic congregation and New Sunbury reach more unchurched for the Kingdom.
“We have a total of 42 churches – 19 in New Sunbury and 23 in Altamaha – and many of them are dedicated to construction work. They had better be, we seem to be having a regular stream of hurricanes coming through these days,” he says again with a chuckle.
After his tour, Bentley organized a team of 11 volunteers. From Aug. 24 until Sept. 1 the team built eight dormitory rooms with masonry block walls and sheet metal roofs.
Now he is planning a vision tour of his own, enlisting Georgia Baptist pastors interested in taking an international trip that is foreign and yet not too far away. The trip, still in the planning stages, is tentatively set for the end of January.
Bentley, whose office is in Jesup, is pleased with the commitment of his volunteers and their ongoing work in the U.S. as well. The two Associations have sent construction teams of 52 members to Shelby, NC, and 27 members to Cherokee, NC.
Committed to missions
“We are committed to doing an international mission trip every other year, but a domestic trip every year,” he explains.
While trips at home are important, Bentley believes for some groups an international trip may be the best first exposure.
“It’s like priming the pump. While I believe the teaching of Acts 1:8, sometimes you need to get people out of their home environment to open their eyes to their own community. Once they experience missions on the international field, they return home with fresh new eyes, a new vision, for the needs all around them.
“I don’t think we can remain in our own churches or Associations and think we are doing Kingdom work. We need to do all of the Great Commission, not just part of it,” he adds.
For more information on Bentley’s upcoming vision tour, contact him by phone at (912) 429-0826 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.