DUNCANVILLE—Greg Bowman, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Duncanville, just wanted to get his youth group safely to camp in Glorieta, N.M., last year. Three hours after the group’s departure, their journey was thwarted in Chillicothe by engine trouble—a delay that later provided a connection for a mission trip this summer.
Troy Strickland at First Baptist Church in Chillicothe rescued the group and brought them back to his church. While there, Strickland shared his heart for that town and the needs of his church. When Bowman and the group loaded the new bus, they became convinced this was not a chance meeting but a divine appointment from God.
“It was like one of those things like in Romans where it says, ‘God uses all things for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose,’” Bowman said. “It was one of those things where we were stranded and hot, but we made some new friends, and it opened the door for ministry.”
Bowman stayed in contact with First Baptist in Chillicothe and soon made plans to partner with them for the youth mission trip this summer. The youth group prepared an evangelistic musical—Godspell—and made plans to lead Vacation Bible School. In July, they headed west with 28 people to serve Chillicothe and the surrounding area.
“We didn’t know a year ago, but Troy told us that if we weren’t coming, they wouldn’t be able to have VBS this year,” Bowman said. “We didn’t know, and Troy didn’t even know that there was going to be such a great need for VBS this year. But God knew. It was a teachable moment for our youth group—that God knows our needs before we voice them.”
Teachable moments continued throughout the week as God gave unexpected opportunities for ministry.
One day, the group was scheduled to hold Vacation Bible School at a church in nearby Eldorado, Okla., where they performed Godspell. However, there were no children at the location that day.
A member at First Baptist in Chillicothe suggested performing Godspell at Victory Field, a maximum-security youth facility for boys.
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Bowman attempted to schedule a performance, but chances seemed grim since students’ parents were not present to sign proper release forms for entry to the facility.
To his surprise, Victory Field management allowed the students to come to the facility and perform even though they didn’t have the standard parental release forms.
“God didn’t just open the door,” said Esther Craven, a mission trip member. “He jumped thorough all of the hoops for us. There is no way we would have been able to do that because we would have (needed) background checks and so much more. It was just beautiful how everything worked out the way it was suppose to. There were just obvious circumstances that God was working.”
The group also could see God at work in the lives of the boys at Victory Field as they presented the drama, Bowman added. At another venue– the state hospital in Vernon where both male and female resident were present–at one point in the musical the students were acting out the story of the adulterous women. The woman was about to be stoned, but Jesus stepped in and showed her compassion and forgiveness.
“You could hear the breath go out of them at that time,” Bowman said. “At that moment, it felt like some of them were catching this—the grace of Jesus. Maybe they will see the grace of Jesus and not feel condemnation. That was a great moment where you could see some of them understand the message.”
The group kept a busy schedule, performing Godspell at night and holding Vacation Bible School for 35 children, painting the church foyer and visiting shut-ins in the city during the day.
“They were an amazing group of kids,” Strickland said. “From the minute that they got here, I was just awestruck. There was such maturity and such a heart for service. You could just see their passion for the Lord.”
Strickland insisted their enthusiasm was a boost for his congregation. It had “been a while since they have seen youth that were devoted to something.”
Throughout the trip, the mission team was able to meet some of the students in Chillicothe and encourage them to be bold in their relationship with Christ.
The relationships that were started turned into a love for the people and a desire for them to know Christ. Bowman used the experience to encourage the students to strive to love this way once they return home.
“I’ve heard several say that they have grown to love the people here in this community,” Bowman said. “I hope that they will have the same heart for our hometown of Duncanville.
“We talked about how when you are away for a week that it is easy to get excited. They really poured themselves into it. We need to pour ourselves into the same intensity in Christ wherever he leads.”
Both churches are making plans to continue the partnership started this year. The youth at First Baptist in Chillicothe plan to participate in Disciple Now and possibly camp next year with First Baptist in Duncanville.
“Some of the kids have been to Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Kentucky (on mission trips)—all these different places to do ministry,” Bowman said.
“But three hours down the road is probably where we have had one of the most impactful mission trips we have ever had. We need to go to these far away places, but there are also these churches in Texas that need encouragement and sister churches to come and serve alongside of them.”