Since the first team went to Kenya in 1997, LifeWay's 100 mission trips have included 1,329 volunteers, 116,496 professions of faith and 256 church plants.
On the trip to Ecuador in June, the LifeWay team worked with an International Mission Board missionary to share the Gospel and train local believers at First Baptist Church of Latacunga, according to David Jamieson, an employee in LifeWay's business technologies unit who served as the trip coordinator.
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 Jesus in schools, on university campuses and in neighborhoods, meeting people where they worked, in shops and in parks.
Ecuador was the first international mission trip for Clark Wright of LifeWay's human resources department, and through a translator he 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 missionary in Kenya before coming 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."
"We want to support missions and the IMB with our products, but having a firsthand experience on the field is valuable," Livingstone said. "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 -- 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."
Ernie McAninch, a former Southern Baptist missionary who has traveled to 36 countries, has been LifeWay's volunteer missions coordinator since 2005. McAninch said LifeWay has seven trips planned for 2012.
When Thom Rainer became president of LifeWay in 2006, one of the first things he wanted to do was hear from employees why they love working at LifeWay.
"The working environment, the benefits, the specific resource they worked on -- these were all mentioned, but mission trips came up consistently," Rainer said. "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."
Erin E. Freshwater writes for LifeWay Christian Resources.
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