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MAYO (FBW)—Eight members of Airline Baptist Church in Mayo returned recently from a five-day mission trip to Montrouis, Haiti. It was the first international mission trip by a team from the 105-year-old church.
The trip was the culmination of 18 months of preparation that included sending mission volunteers 90 miles east to Jacksonville and 350 miles south to Miami. The church also hosted block parties in Mayo neighborhoods.
“This was a three-step process. First we went close to home, then a little further, and then far away,” said Chip Parker, pastor of Airline Baptist since 2006, who had never served as a volunteer in international missions.
Church members worked two days with Words to Works Ministry in downtown Jacksonville and in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood during the Crossover event preceding 2011’s Florida Baptist State Convention.
“The block party in Miami was really a bridge to international missions,” Parker said. “We were gearing up for Haiti.”
Also with an eye to international missions, the church called Chad Bryant as associate pastor for youth and outreach in July 2012. Bryant, a graduate of University of Georgia and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., began volunteering for church mission trips when he was in the eighth grade in Lawrenceville, Ga. His first trip was to Belize, and since then he has taken the Gospel to India, and to several countries in
Europe and Asia. He served as a journeyman with the International Mission Board in East Asia 2001-2003.
The trip to Haiti with Airline Baptist was Bryant’s seventeenth mission adventure, he said.
“Someday, I’m hoping to make it to the Southern Hemisphere,” he told Florida Baptist Witness.
“Chad was an intentional hire. God brought him here to Mayo to take the last step to international missions with us,” Parker said. “We may have done it anyway, but it would not have gone as well without Chad. There was certainly a level of trust and comfort in knowing this was not his first time around.”
Eight volunteers—termed “Airliners” by their pastor—travelled to Haiti Jan. 3. The team, including Parker and Bryant, also included four ladies, a teenager, a new deacon and a college student. They ministered in the New Evangelical Missionary Baptist Church in Montrouis, Haiti, a small town south of St. Mark on the nation’s southern Caribbean coast.
The terrain of the church’s neighborhood was markedly different from Mayo. The church was “100 yards straight up a rocky hill,” Parker said. The Floridians conducted Vacation Bible School in the one room of the cement block building with a tin roof and dirt floor. Rough-hewn wooded benches served both as pews and as desks for 250 children.
While the younger children studied Bible lessons, the older ones played outside, then they switched, Parker said.
“The terrain was so rough that, even if there was space, it was almost too inhospitable to do anything in,” he said.
“We made the best of the situation we had,” Bryant added.
Team members visited nearby homes in the afternoons before leading revival services at night. During one of their first home visits two girls wanted to become Christians, but had reservations.
“They told us, ‘We want to accept Christ but we don’t want to give up wearing pants.’ We found out that Christian Haitian women are expected to wear dresses,” Bryant said.
The volunteers bought dresses for the girls, and the church welcomed them with open arms to the evening services.
“It was cool to see the church be the church, to be like Jesus who meets us where we are,” Parker said.
Five professions of faith were among the decisions made during the revival meetings.
Airline Baptist’s mission team told the congregation Jan. 13 about its experiences in Haiti. According to its ministers, the report seemed to whet the church’s appetite for more work overseas.
Parker said he hopes to “bring up our translator from Haiti” to learn more about strengthening the church’s partnership with Haiti, and to eventually travel to Africa to meet Kenyan and Ugandan pastors whom the church supports.
“Haiti was just our first step in our involvement in international missions,” he said. “There will be more.”
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