GoStudents is a strategy of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) that helps churches equip students with the task of sharing Jesus with unreached, unengaged people. In its brief history, GoStudents has been successful sending young people around the world, and this year, the number of project locations increased to five with six groups serving in these locations.
With the leadership of trusted and experienced youth pastors and pastors, GoStudents participants traveled to East Asia (July 9-21 and 14-28), Portland, Ore. (July 11-17), Portugal (June 18-27), Seattle (July 12-18) and Seville, Spain (June 24-July 2). There were 118 participants representing 46 churches on the 2016 GoStudents projects.
“Students are getting to share their faith in a way they’ve never done before,” said Brian Baldwin, BGCO student evangelism and missions specialist. “They also are giving a boost to church planters on the ground. I feel like that (the leadership teams) helped communicate why they were doing what they were doing and how that furthered what was happening in these different locations.”
Whether they were doing service projects, camps, language lessons or connecting with people on the streets and subways, GoStudents participants were sharing the Gospel and making a difference in supporting church plants and established ministries.
GoStudents is made possible because of faithful gifts of Oklahoma Baptists and the Cooperative Program, as well as through the support of the “My5 Offering” that is observed during the summer weeks at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center. Baldwin said of every $5 collected during the My5 Offering, $3 goes to help reduce the cost of GoStudents trips, and $2 goes to help OneLife, a ministry serving orphans in Africa. This summer, the My5 Offering collected more than $110,000.
GoStudents participants attended a two-day training retreat, prior to their trips, allowing them meet the hosts of their respective locations. They also experience team-building, project specific instruction and training in ministry evangelism tools.
Here are reports from the different locations with the names of the project leaders.
East Asia—Group One Leaders: Ray Anderson and Jeff DeGiacomo, Oklahoma City, Quail Springs; Group Two Leaders: Rusty Gunn and Scott Bryan, Sand Springs, Church That Matters
Group One hosted an English camp with approximately 80 students attending. The team consisted of 30 people from Oklahoma, with 15 coming from California.
“The (80 students) had many opportunities to learn who Jesus is, opportunities to get a Bible and opportunities to be connected to a local believer who can answer questions,” said Ray Anderson who is the minister of missions and evangelism at Oklahoma City, Quail Springs. “Additionally, many interpreters had the chance to learn about Jesus to see how people’s lives have been changed, and to hear their personal stories. These interpreters were touched.”
Anderson shared about two interpreters who frequently heard testimonies of the members of the group. Both were cold and distant at first when they heard the Gospel shared, but they became more open near the end of the trip. One interpreter became “very attached” to the team and showed an openness to search and learn more about the Gospel.
“Our team was used by God, and they received a greater vision for the nations, a greater understanding of God’s greatness, a deeper appreciation of His love for all peoples,” said Anderson. “The team grew, and some lives were forever impacted.”
Group Two also worked with English training. They visited schools and performed skits which led to many conversations about the Gospel. Rusty Gunn, pastor of Sand Springs, Church That Matters, said they encountered many people who had no worldview about God and showed much interest in Jesus.
Portland, Ore.—Leaders: Matt Mosely, Oklahoma City, Eagle Heights and Isaac Queen, Oklahoma City, Graceway
The Portland team had many encounters of sharing the Gospel. They also made a great impact supporting three church planters, including Adrian and Janae Jordan. Adrian is the son of Anthony Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer.
Team members were involved in park ministry, asking neighborhood people to play kickball or four-square. The team members were a part of the church planters surpassing an ongoing goal, reaching 2,500 gospel convsersations. A statistic was shared that from those 2,500-plus conversations, 84 percent of the people said they wanted to know God personally.
“We had several conversations while we were in Portland,” said Matt Mosely, youth pastor of Oklahoma City, Eagle Heights. “Some were receptive to listen, others were not, but seeds were definitely planted. We were very glad to be able to have these encounters, as well as helping Adrian and Janae establish a presence in their neighborhood by ministering and loving the people.”
Portugal—Leader: Jamie Phares, Blanchard, Open Door
The team of 14 served in a poor apartment complex in Vila Real, outside of Porto. The students did various sports activities with the kids living in the complex. They also did evening block parties, connecting with many of the adults, and served at an orphanage. Seven people made professions of faith.
Seattle, Wash.—Leaders: Garrett Biliske, Oklahoma City, Southern Hills; Josh McKee, Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place, Chris Gulley, Oklahoma City, Northwest
Three different teams made trips to Seattle. One group, led by Josh McKee, youth pastor at Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place, worked with homeless, helping them with physical needs, and with victims of sex trafficking. They also helped a local church, connecting with many people who had spiritual needs.
Another team, led by Garrett Biliske of Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, had great interaction with people in Seattle. One involved a young lady named Jessi, who they met on the bus. After the initial meeting with Jessi, they had two other bus encounters with her.
On their third visit with her, the team invited Jessi to have dinner with them. When they got off the bus, Jessi realized she left her bike on the front of the bus. With many attempts to locate the bus to get her bike, they were unsuccessful. The team decided to pull some money together to buy her a new bike. Jessi was teary-eyed, but graciously accepted the money. She also expressed how “refreshing” it was to be around the team.
“For the glory of God, we were able to buy (Jessi) a new bike,” Biliske said. “It was really awesome to see God move in that way.”
The third team, led by Chris Gulley of Oklahoma City, Northwest, worked with local churches, served homeless through a food pantry and had many gospel conversations with business owners. They also had the opportunity to lead a young man to Christ on the plane back to Oklahoma.
Seville, Spain—Leaders: Alex Villagrana, Duncan, New Hope and Aaron Myers, Lawton, First
The team of 17 worked in Seville with International Missions Board missionary Rusty Ford. They spent time at a school teaching English to kids and showing them the love of Christ. Rusty and his wife would talk with the parents every day as they dropped off and picked up their kids. Several gospel conversations resulted. The team also did park ministry in the evenings, engaging people in conversation and with various activities.
In 2017, GoStudents will be returning to all the locations while also returning to Madrid, Spain and adding two more destinations. Teams will be going to Edmonton, Canada and to Latvia next summer. For more information on how students, college students and adults can get involved in GoStudents 2017, visit www.gostudents.org.