|ASHEBORO, N.C. (BP) -- The Holy Spirit's presence so overwhelmed Hannah Davidson that she left the meeting and went to pray. On this night, she knew God was calling her to devote her life to full-time international missions.
"I felt God was saying, 'You are a missionary. You have to go. You have to do this,'" said the freshman at North Carolina State University.
Davidson thought she had her life figured out. But that changed when she heard Tom Billings, executive director of Union Baptist Association in Houston, Texas, speak about giving God control.
"I had it all planned out," she said. "I wanted to become a teacher, get married and have kids. But Tom said that control is an illusion, and God is the only one in control. That really opened me up. I felt like Tom was talking right to me."
Davidson heard from Billings during a July 9-13 retreat at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro, N.C. She joined four other high school and college students for a week of missions leadership training and hands-on missions. The week marked the culmination of year one for students in the inaugural Next Generation Missional Journey (NGMJ) class.
Sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's (BSC) Office of Great Commission Partnerships, the training initiative is part of a three-year effort to help raise up passionate missions leaders. In addition to the summer retreat at Caraway, students read assigned texts and attend three one-day training sessions throughout the year. They learn from pastors, missionaries and missions strategists.
Michael Sowers, BSC senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships, started the initiative out of a burden to help train students to be strategic missions leaders. He said he hopes they will have a renewed burden for the lost and a strong biblical missiology that will allow them to help lead their churches to engage people groups that have never heard the Gospel.
"These students can lead the way," Sowers said. "If they are willing to do the hard work, others will see that they can do it, too.
"Instead of focusing on the masses, we need to model this after Jesus and focus on a few and really pour into their lives and their missiology," Sowers said. "We can enhance what a small group can do by investing in them and coming alongside them as they go and serve where God calls them."
As year one of the training is focused on underserved and unreached areas of North Carolina, the students spent two days in training at Caraway and three days serving in North Carolina. They worked alongside BSC Asian, Hispanic and African-American church planting consultants to identify people groups, survey people about needs in their community and share the Gospel throughout Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
These three cities are included in the Triad metro area, one of the state's top eight metro areas. About 75 percent of North Carolina's population lives in one of the eight metro areas.
During the week, students met people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, such as Sikhs and Muslims. They had an opportunity to share their faith, one day in an Asian market, another day in a mosque.
"I had never even seen a mosque before," Davidson said. "We were able to witness just by asking different questions."
NGMJ students are learning how to develop strategies to reach different ethnic groups with the Gospel and how those strategies will vary depending on people and context. Continued...