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Liberty students help missionaries reach major US cities for Christ

August 29, 2014 : By Alex Kocman/Liberty University News Service

Liberty University students on a service trip to Portland.
Students with Liberty University’s Center for Ministry Training (CMT) take to the streets in Portland, Ore., during one of this summer’s Generation SEND internships.

While many students spent their summers vacationing, 22 Liberty University students immersed themselves in the front lines of outreach ministry to New York City and Portland, Ore.

Led by the Center for Ministry Training (CMT), two teams of 10 students and one student leader were sent out as part of the CMT’s Mobilize Me program. Leaving June 23 and arriving back Aug. 1, the six-week “Generation SEND” internships train students of all majors to be active disciple-makers beyond Liberty, sharing the Gospel and building friendships through everyday conversations.

“There are about 260 million people here in North America that do not know Jesus, according to our estimates,” said James Hobson, a campus mobilizer working with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) at Liberty. “Throughout the Bible, we see a clear pattern of God calling and sending His followers. And God wants to send these students as well.”

Few hearing the word “missions” would immediately conjure up images of booming American metropolises. But for Hobson, the two go hand-in-hand.

“In 2008 — for the first time in history — more than half of the world’s population lived in cities,” Hobson said. “We believe that if this is where people are going, then it is the place where the Gospel needs to go as well.”

In Brooklyn, students helped with vacation Bible schools, outreach-minded cookouts, evangelism, and meeting the needs of urban churches such as Graffiti 2 Community Ministries. Outside of these duties, Hobson says, students were to live as New Yorkers for six weeks, forming friendships and frequenting local businesses.

Meanwhile, students on the Portland team assisted with research on the city’s spiritual climate, urban culture, and demographics, while also helping churches with smaller, community-based outreach events. Addressing the city’s strong homelessness problem, the team targeted Portland’s Pearl district and downtown area for relationship building.

Both the Portland and New York City trips fell under the umbrella of Generation SEND, CMT’s internship program coordinated with NAMB to help reach the U.S. through urban churches. In Generation SEND, students receive one-on-one mentoring and special training to prepare them for service on the summer trips and beyond.

“God allows us to be part of his grand redemptive story to reconcile His people to Himself,” said Ashley Artavia, who served on the Portland team. “Generation SEND invites student missionaries to learn what it really looks like to live life on mission in a urban context.”

The CMT hopes to prepare students to make disciples in any career path. Each year, its sends over 200 students out on exposure trips during the school year and several more on its summer trips.

As a psychology student, Bonita Linton, who went on the New York trip, said the experience was very practical for her even though she doesn’t plan to go into vocational ministry.

“After experiencing a ministry exposure trip and working with NAMB, I can say most of the things you do and learn are everyday things we should all be incorporating in our lives.”

Linton also noted how the support system of the CMT helped her in this direction, giving her a launching point to develop an evangelistic lifestyle.

“The CMT has a community that is incomparable. This office challenges people to be like Christ, beyond the duration of the trip — forever,” Linton said. “I have grown from my interactions with the office workers and the people that partner with this office. Simply interacting with the CMT is a life-changing experience.”

Liberty University students on a service trip to Brooklyn.
Students from a variety of majors joined the CMT’s Brooklyn team to serve urban churches and missionaries this summer.

Students on the CMT’s New York trip were stepping into a setting where roughly 6 percent of city residents consider themselves evangelical Christians.

“God is bringing the nations to New York City,” said Hannah Dixon, a public relations student who served on the team. “It is such an ample opportunity to live missionally among different people groups. God used my summer in NYC to teach me how to live missionally not only in NYC, but also my hometown, here at school, and wherever I may find myself.”

In Portland, the teams entered what NAMB worker Clay Holcomb described as a hub for postmodernism, sex trafficking, and sexual sin.

“We have identified the locations where churches are needed. We need the people,” Holcomb noted. “The spiritual darkness is strong here.”

“(But) God is always brighter,” added Zachary Koon, a 22-year-old biblical studies student.

Koon recalled a three-and-a-half hour-long conversation he had with a homeless man outside a fast food restaurant, resulting in that man’s salvation and decision to be baptized in front of dozens of homeless people in the middle of the city, just two days later.

In summer 2015, the Generation SEND internship will accept 33 more students through Mobilize Me to serve in Portland, Brooklyn, and Boston. Students interested in CMT exposure trips and Mobilize Me internships can email mobilizeme@liberty.edu.

The Center for Ministry Training actively recruits and trains students to make disciples wherever they are, regardless of their occupation, to impact the world for Jesus Christ. In addition, the CMT works closely with ministry students from undergraduate religion programs and Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. Its purpose is to train students to engage the world effectively with the Gospel message.