NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The volunteer missions program at Lifeway Christian Resources, which flies the banner “Every People, Every Land,” recently celebrated a milestone of 100 Lifeway mission trips around the globe. The Ecuador team, consisting of 16 Lifeway employees, retirees, friends and family members marked Lifeway’s 100th mission trip when they traveled to the South American country in June.
Since the first team went to Kenya in 1997, Lifeway’s 100 mission trips have included 1,329 volunteers, witnessed 116,496 professions of faith and started 256 churches.
Ernie McAninch has been Lifeway’s volunteer mission coordinator since 2005. McAninch has been to 36 different countries, including Armenia, Cuba, Venezuela, Kenya and China, and several locations in the United States and has an upcoming trip to Thailand later this year with his home church. McAninch and his wife, Lee Ann, used to serve as International Mission Board missionaries in El Salvador and El Paso and as Lifeway missionaries in Ecuador.
In Ecuador, a country that lies along the equator at altitudes of more than 8,000 feet above sea level, the recent Lifeway team worked with International Mission Board missionary Johnny Maust and the First Baptist Church of Latacunga and its pastor, Felix Torres.
David Jamieson, an employee in Lifeway’s business technologies unit, served as trip coordinator for the Ecuador trip. This was Jamieson’s sixth trip; previous trips include Uganda, Trinidad, Rwanda, and a 2009 trip to Ecuador. He said the basic purpose of this trip was one-on-one evangelism as the team worked in partnership with the local church.
The group went not only to share the Gospel, but also to disciple and train, Jamieson said. The team led church training on leadership, taught Share Jesus Without Fear, worshiped with the church and gave testimonies. With translators, they set out in small groups to share the news of Jesus Christ in schools, on university campuses and neighborhoods, meeting people where they worked, in the shops and in parks.
For Clark Wright of Lifeway’s human resources department, Ecuador was his first international mission trip. Wright recounted when he and his translator shared the Gospel with a street vendor named Maria.
“She accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and she asked me why I had to go back to the U.S.,” Wright said. “I asked her why she would ask such a question. Maria answered that it was because we wouldn’t see each other again.
“I shared with her that because of her decision, we would see each other again in heaven,” he said. “With tears in her eyes, we prayed for her decision and the hope that only Christ can bring. That was pretty impactful!”
Mike Livingstone, an employee with Lifeway’s leadership and adult publishing area, was on the first Lifeway mission trip to Kenya in 1997 and was a career missionary in Kenya before he came to Lifeway. He has been back to Kenya 17 times since that first Lifeway trip, he said. The 1997 team started five churches and a school to train leaders in Busia, a border town between Kenya and Uganda.
“Everyone on that first team was just amazed at the people’s openness to the Gospel, the readiness of people to hear and respond to the Gospel and the dedication of the Kenyan believers,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone added that for Lifeway’s employees to have missions opportunities “opens your eyes to see what other parts of the world are like,” he said. “We want to support missions and the IMB with our products, but having a firsthand experience on the field is valuable.
“I think most people who go on these trips come back with a burden not only for the people there, but also for the state of American Christianity,” he said. “Burdened by the pettiness and the insignificance of things that we pursue in our lives and in our culture. Believers in Kenya, though they have ‘nothing,’ are so much more joyful.”
McAninch said Lifeway has seven trips planned for 2012.
When Thom S. Rainer became president of Lifeway in 2006, “One of the first things I wanted to do was hear from Lifeway employees reasons they love working at Lifeway,” he said. “The working environment, the benefits, the specific resource they worked on – these were all mentioned, but mission trips came up consistently. This showed me early on that there is an Acts 1:8 ethos at Lifeway. Our folks are passionate about what they do here, but they are also committed to sharing the Gospel of Christ globally.
“I’m appreciative of the commitment we have at Lifeway to go carry the message of Jesus around the world,” Rainer said. “Should the Lord tarry, I look forward to hearing wonderful reports from trip No. 200 and beyond.”
by Erin E. Freshwater
PHOTO BY KENT HARVILLE.
PHOTO BY JIM CARTER.