Three students from the Baptist Student Union served on summer missions in the summer of 2022. These three students share their experiences from serving in the mission field in different parts of the United States.
Michael Steward, a sophomore at Jones College, served on missions through the Baptist Student Union this past summer. Steward went to Columbus, Ohio, to serve through Nehemiah Teams for two months. Frank Porter, the Baptist Student Union director, saw a need there and thought that Steward would be a good fit to the team.
Steward described Ohio as very communal in the neighborhood that he served in. There are thousands of Somali people in Columbus. The Somali ethnic group is native to the Horn of Africa region.
“My job while I was there was to serve my supervisor and to help in the ministry God has given her,” Steward said. “Also the team that I was working with had assigned roles, such as the team punctuality guru, team leader, team encourager and team financial accountant, and I was the team financial accountant.”
Steward’s favorite part of serving was being fully immersed in their community. He got to experience their music, food and fun through their active sports. Steward said there were many memorable parts for him, since this was his first mission.
“One experience I would like to share is the last day we tutored. My team and the people we tutored cooked enough food for a potluck,” Steward said. “After the potluck, we had fun and games. Then we settled down and the parents of the children we tutored bought me and my team gifts to take back home.”
Steward said that he made many lifelong friends while serving in Ohio. While being away from home, family and friends was difficult for Steward, he said the Lord helped guide him while he was away serving.
“Spiritually, I had to rely on the Lord for help and peace knowing that He is in control,” Steward said. Steward said that he looks forward to serving again on missions.
Tanner Watts, a sophomore, traveled to Salcha, Alaska, through the Jones BSU to serve from June 4 to August 1.
“I actually wanted to go to New York, but my director thought it was better to go to Alaska,” Watts said. “I was just obedient wherever God called me.”
Watts said Alaska is nothing like Mississippi.
“There are gorgeous mountains, and the air doesn’t hold much water, so it feels like you are able to breathe much better,” Watts said. “There are massive mountains unlike the ones in Tennessee. The roads sit between them, and most of the land is a rolling hill away from the mountains. The mosquitoes are also bigger than ours.”
Watts was a Counselor at Camp Baldwin where he taught kids about Jesus and led devotional teachings in their cabins every night.
This was Watts’ first time serving missions, and he said it was often difficult being away from home for such an extended period of time.
“For some people, it was very challenging, and for some it came naturally,” Watts said. “For me, it was all about humbling myself and having a pure intent towards God and letting myself be vulnerable to God.”
Watts made lifelong relationships with all of the other missionaries, the Salcha Church and the leaders. Watts said that he is definitely planning on doing missions again and serving wherever God puts him.
Bonner Welch, a sophomore, went to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he also served at Camp Baldwin. He served from the beginning of June to the end of July. Welch’s main role while there was also camp counselor.
“I was in charge of a small group of high schoolers every week. We would do everything at the camp from cleaning bathrooms to setting up games,” Welch said. “The team I was on also served the local church there with VBS, local ministries and Sunday school.”
Welch said he chose to go to Alaska because he knew that it would get him the farthest away from home without going out of the country, and he knew that’s where God wanted him to be. This was his second mission trip.
Coincidentally, Welch’s first mission trip was the year before at the same place. Welch said serving in Alaska away from home, friends and family was spiritually one of the most difficult things that he has ever done.
“Working with so many different people, kids and situations can be very taxing,” Welch said. “Even more than that, there were so many things about myself I had to put totally aside, because there were a lot of self-serving things that I had within me that directly conflicted with the integrity of the team and kids.”
Welch’s favorite parts about serving was his own personal growth, the work he did there, and how much he grew with God. Welch also enjoyed getting to work hands-on with many varied projects, such as wood splitting and ditch digging. The most memorable part of Welch’s experience was the relationships that he built with the kids.
“I will never forget the love we all shared in working and being together. The relationships that were built there, not only my first year up there, but this year as well, have made a lasting impact on me,” Welch said. “The friends I made are like family to me.”
Welch said he certainly plans on going on another mission trip in the future. The only question is where will God send him.
The Baptist Student Union is a place where Jones students can fellowship with other students through monthly events. There are also small groups that meet during the week that students can join. Students that are interested in serving summer missions can contact Porter for more information. The BSU, open to all students, is located at 701 S. Court Street in Ellisville.
by Olivia Norwood