GOD’S GLOBAL WORK IN ARKANSAS: ISM CONFERENCE
“With almost 6,500 international college students in the state of Arkansas, outreach to these students is one of the least expensive mission trips you’ll ever take,” said Bruce Venable, College + Young Leaders Team Leader at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC). “They’re here,” he said at the Summit Church in Conway, February 16. “All it requires of us is a little bit of obedience.”
Venable spoke at the International Student Ministry (ISM) Conference. “Arkansas Baptist Christ-followers who reach out to international students have been like an island for many years, often without knowing others in Arkansas who were engaging these students in friendship at other universities,” said Teresa “Bit” Stephens, ABSC ISM Consultant. “This conference was to gather as many as possible so they could meet each other and get a glimpse of what God is doing globally in Arkansas.”
The conference drew 80 people from across the state: collegiate ministry leaders, Christian international students, international student outreach church leaders and volunteers. The ISM Conference offered general sessions such as God’s Global Mission and the Importance of the Local Church and Cross-Cultural Evangelism among Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims; breakout sessions; student and ISM testimonies; and a Q & A panel and discussion. It closed with small-group intercessory prayer led by ABSC Missions Team Leader Bob Harper. The one-day event was sponsored by the Dixie Jackson state offering, the ABSC College + Young Leaders Team and the ABSC Missions Team.
ABSC International Church Strategist Jamie Naramore asked the panel how they got involved in student ministry. Larry Turner, Walnut Street Baptist Church Missions Coordinator and Church Administrator, said he went across the world to have real-life mission experiences when God asked him, “Why are you going overseas in other parts of the world but not in your own community?” God showed him another kind of mission field: Arkansas State University students. “I’m sending them to you,” God told him.
In the Developing Leaders breakout session, former IMB Southeast Asia missionaries Kevin and Colette Black answered another question: “How can we get people out of the pews and into the international community?” The couple said they use the ‘never swim alone strategy’ meaning they ask church members to come with them to visit the international markets, temples, pagodas or mosques. “If you take believers in a place where lost people are, they can’t help but be broken for those people,” said Kevin, who now serves as Global Engage Pastor for Summit Church in North Little Rock.
Another speaker called himself, “a foreigner in my hometown.” Pranay Borde grew up in India, a Southern Baptist missionary kid who was one of 12 Christians in a school of 7,000. He said he’s “scared, terrified and excited” because God called him to pastor the newly planted Oasis Hindi Church in Little Rock. He reminded the crowd about the importance of prayer when reaching Hindus. “Be absolutely relentless in prayer,” he said. “Fast, pray, and plead before the throne of grace before you ever point them to it.”
An Arkansas State University student asked to remain anonymous as he spoke about his Hindu background and conversion to Christ December 10, 2017. “I’ve traveled to over 20 countries,” he said. “Eventually, I found my peace in Jonesboro and in Christ. The wonderful community in Jonesboro is a Gospel community and the love of Jonesboro has showed me Christ and changed my life to be a Christian.” Students from Nigeria, South Africa, and Japan also shared their testimonies. Stephens said she hoped hearing these success stories “encouraged and motivated those at the ISM Conference to press on and enlist other Arkansas Baptists to join us in this Great Commission work in Arkansas.”
Four other panel members who spoke at the conference included Scott Ward, Missions Pastor, Grand Avenue Baptist, Fort Smith; Hunter Bonham, with C3 International at Cross Church School of Ministry, Fayetteville; Ellen Harrison, Arkansas Tech University Co-director International Friendship Outreach, Russellville; and Veronikha Salazar, Henderson State University Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement. Greg Sykes, Pastor at First Baptist Church Russellville, preached the final message.