April 7, 2022

A Mission Trip in Their Own Backyard

In the U.S., Tennessee church members reach out to residents in southern Georgia.

Rachel Beaver, Southern Tidings

Members from the Standifer Gap Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States, went on a mission trip in late 2021 to southern Georgia, in partnership with the Georgia-Cumberland Conference’s Leads Program. 

The Leads program helps churches to connect with those who have requested Bible studies or Adventist literature through various media ministry channels. This trip was important for reaching an area of Georgia that does not have much of an Adventist presence but still has many people who are hungry for the Lord. Participants also visited the local Seventh-day Adventist churches to facilitate Bible work training.

Starting in May of 2021, the Standifer Gap church was assigned more than 120 contacts from as far back as 2016 to early 2021. Looking to organize the program, Standifer Gap church leaders hired Bible work coordinator Noah Banks to help train the church members. David Sitler, Standifer Gap pastor, and Banks began to formulate creative ideas for how to reach these contacts and their communities. One of these ideas developed into the mission trip. After getting the trip organized, the dates were set for November 17 to 21, 2021. Four college students, two local Bible workers, and two conference Bible workers, along with Banks and Sitler, went to southern Georgia to work in God’s mission field.

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Bob Pragnell, Standifer Gap Seventh-day Adventist Church member, prepares Voice of Prophecy starter kits for visitation packets for use by the Douglas and Waycross Adventist churches. These three churches are partnering to reach Bible study interests curated through the Georgia-Cumberland Conference’s Leads Program. [Photo: David Sitler]

“Standifer Gap partnered with Douglas and Waycross churches to help provide assistance virtually with individual and group Bible studies, but follow-up was difficult online, so mission trips were needed,” Lavinia Collins, conference Leads Program coordinator, said. “We had assumed that since the population was lower in these areas that there wouldn’t be as many leads, but hundreds responded. Chattanooga has the opposite problem; we have many soldiers who want to do Bible work, but there aren’t as many leads. Douglas and Waycross are both smaller churches as well, so they don’t have the resources or the workers needed to connect with all those leads,” she added. This opened an opportunity for Standifer Gap members to do mission work outside their immediate community, even during COVID-restricted travel.

When the team arrived, they began scouting the areas of Jesup, Alma, Baxley, and Hazlehurst. They were concerned with how these people would respond to strangers from Chattanooga knocking on their door, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. Over the course of five days, the group visited between 90 and 100 people. All of them were friendly and welcoming, and the studies were well received. The team also did Bible work training for members of the Waycross Adventist church. Many local members assisted with the door-to-door visits and seemed eager to learn.

The Standifer Gap team has already planned additional trips with an even greater list of connections. Currently, there aren’t any plans to plant a church in these areas, so Leads Program leaders want to make sure that these individuals aren’t forgotten.

“We don’t fully understand where this will lead,” Collins said, “but we are responding to their spiritual needs. We want to keep them warm until more sustainable plans are put in place.”

The original version of this story was posted by Southern Tidings.