IWC assists local church plants
By Nick Smirniotopoulos (Summer 2013 Volunteer)
Several months ago, this IWC trip to Oaxaca, Mexico looked like it wasn't going to happen. But God had other plans.
"There weren't a whole lot of participants and the trip was looking like it was going to be cancelled," said Collin Cooke, youth pastor in Chelsea, Tenn. "We went ahead and planned to do something else."
While Cooke had already signed up for another trip,
Taylor, IWC trip coordinator, was busy mobilizing students to
join the trip, making it a reality.
"The key was having four student pastors saying yes," Taylor said. "They were the catalysts for this project. It takes building relationships day by day and sharing your passion for reaching the world."
Once the IWC trip became solidified, Cooke found out his other mission plans were no longer available, providing the opportunity to join the team of 29 students and a handful of team leaders and adults.
Reaping the Harvest
While Cooke originally thought he would be most comfortable in either the construction or sports teams, God placed him in the only other available option: English classes. However, Cooke came to appreciate this role even more.
"It was definitely God ordained," he said. "ESL teams was where I was supposed to be. I've learned a lot of Spanish so I could take time to sit with kids and teach them English."
Sandra Swafford, co-team leader with Cooke, felt that teaching English really helped to "make real connections with the kids."
Cooke and Swafford's classes took place in Cuilapam, a village where a local church, Lluvias de Gracia, has been working to plant a church since March.
Currently, the church has a foundation and a temporary tent covering. What made more of an impact on the success of the camp, however, was the months of work Lluvias de Gracia had spent at the site prior to IWC volunteers coming.
Their labor resulted in the biggest turnout of any other IWC site: more than 80 children showed up to learn English, sing songs and hear Bible stories.
"The trip far surpassed my expectancies," Cooke said. "We worked more, we had way more children and we got to spend more time with the people planting church."
Working alongside Lluvias de Gracia was one of the biggest blessings for Cooke, and they had a profound impact on Swafford as well.
"The servanthood of the people here makes me feel super selfish," Swafford said. "I see how thankful they are to see someone new. I want the same attitude they have."
While Swafford feels her main mission is with the children she teaches back in Tennessee, her long summer break allows her to take more summer mission trips in the future.
Working and ministering in a Spanish-speaking country has inspired Cooke to continue the same work back in Tennessee. He, along with others from the IWC trip, plan to reach out to the thousands of Hispanics that live in their community, attempting to plant a church just like Lluvias de Gracia has done.
Planting the Seed
At another IWC site volunteers were laying the foundation for the future of potential work for Lluvias de Gracia there. There weren't as many children at this site -- less than half compared to Cuilapam -- but God still moved there.
The site coordinator from the village was very strict, so they weren't able to share as openly as some of the other sites.
However, on the last day of camps for the week, she left the site for a while, which gave them the opportunity to share the salvation message.
While the site coordinator originally seemed resistant about even hosting the IWC group, she requested them to come back the following week with the other IWC team.
Lluvias de Gracia members are looking forward to the opportunities there in discipling those children and in reaching out to their parents.
For Taylor, these mission trips are all about revealing "the mighty works of God" to students, as the team saw at the site where numerous children professed Christ as their Lord and Savior.
"These students need to be given that opportunity," Taylor said. "If we don't step up and say 'let's go,' they don't get to see that."