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To James Sellers, missions was an “every now and then kind of thing.” Last month, however, missionary Jess Jennings spoke with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine student about possibly serving in Thailand alongside a physician. Sellers is now considering this option, calling it “real empowering…something worthwhile.”  

     From Oct.17-21, Jess and his wife Wendy spoke at one church and six college campuses across Arkansas to challenge students like Sellers. Jennings said he’s grateful for a four-year partnership with the College and Young Leaders Team at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention who set up the speaking engagements. The missionary wanted to get in front of as many students as possible, to mobilize them to take the Gospel to the unreached. Students were asked to serve on a summer Nehemiah Team (NT), a group he and his wife founded in 2004. “I’ve heard people tell students, ‘Give your summer because it’s the only time in life to do missions.” Jennings tells students, “ We’d rather you give your whole life to the nations than come on a NT and that’s it.” A summer on a NT should be a beginning point to a world-mission mindset whether students stay in the states or live overseas. 

     “Arkansas students are familiar with NT,” said Corley Shumaker, assistant Baptist campus minister (BCM) at Arkansas State University. “But, to meet the founders, to see them in person–students were super excited.” The missionary couple went to their 5k race October 20, a mission fundraiser. “Students got to see in person the result of people we send mission funds to and to hear their stories,” Shumaker said. Jennings told the crowd about a Muslim woman who heard Bible stories for the first time in her heart language. She was 100.

     Metro BCM campus minister at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Adam Venters said not all of his students are from a Southern Baptist background; many had not heard the words  “1040 window.” “You can show students on a map and tell them the 1040 window is from here to here: a window of people, millions in this window who have never heard the Gospel and don’t have access,” Venters said. The Jennings made an impact. “They challenged students to be involved in God’s global mission not just the local.” 

     Walnut Street Baptist Church pastor Grey Falanga enjoys a close relationship with the Jennings because he served on the Island of Mindanao with Jess and Wendy on the very first NT in 2004.“That summer has been emblazoned on my mind for life!” said Falanga.”God confirmed so many things through that summer in regards to life, ministry, and simply hearing God’s voice.” Jennings spoke during both Sunday morning services and then the church hosted a lunch inviting students interested in NT. Fifty-sixty students came, some from as far as Memphis, said Falanga. 

    The Jennings went to Henderson State University (HSU) Oct. 17. “We invited key students that had already shown strong interest in missions,” said Jared Farley, HSU campus minister, “Jess was the final message in a three-part mission series that we had been doing at the BCM,” he said. “Because of this visit, I believe we have more students thinking/interested in missions than ever before.” Eight students are strongly considering serving on a NT this summer, he said. Their BCM goal is to send five. 

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