Students serve community through Mission Jax
Jul 30, 2014
By NICOLE KALIL
Florida Baptist Witness

ST. JOHNS COUNTY (FBW)—Students in northern St. Johns County are discovering that they didn’t have to go to a Third World country to do missions work.

 
Instead, in early June they took part in Mission Jax, something church sponsors billed as a local mission trip to benefit the people in the area where they live. 
 
Students from five churches and the surrounding community participated in projects in the greater Jacksonville area. Courtesy photo/Fruit Cove Baptist Church
What began seven years ago with about 20 students has this year blossomed to 210 students from five churches, including Lake Asbury Baptist Church, Fruit Cove Baptist Church and Switzerland Community Church, as well as students from the surrounding community, making this the largest Mission Jax gathering to date.
 
Mission Jax is promoted and treated as an actual mission trip in order for the students to experience what it would be like if they were serving in an underdeveloped area, but without the logistical issues involved with sending students overseas. 
 
The result was a week of service in the greater Jacksonville area that impacted the students as well as the community. Participants got the chance to develop a servant’s heart and serve others by doing everything from working on church grounds and helping elderly residents with yard work and home projects to working in downtown Jacksonville and going as far south as Hastings.
 
Projects included everything from helping the City Rescue Mission plant a prayer garden to working with the Second Harvest Food Bank and serving lunch to people who were themselves volunteers with a local charity.
 
One of the goals of Mission Jax is to help others without being a burden. To this end, Mission Jax buys all materials and supplies needed for the job, and students bring their own tools. 
 
The week’s activities were structured around Acts 1:8, so the students divided work into their very own Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and ends of the Earth.
 
The St. Johns County School District has definitely taken notice of the value of the Mission Jax workforce.
 
Students worked in two St. Johns County schools, helping teachers box up and relocate their classrooms.  
 
The St. Johns County School District has already asked the Mission Jax team to come back next year, with the hope that they could help in even more schools.
 
Drew Garner, middle school pastor at Fruit Cove Baptist Church, sees the importance of being allowed into public schools, and calls it a privilege to serve them.
 
By the end of the week, more than 25 students and one adult leader had received Christ as Savior. Many of these were unchurched students from the community who had learned about the event from their friends and came to check it out. 
 
But things are just getting started. Joseph Smith, associate pastor of Switzerland Community Church in northern St. Johns County, says as more churches join Mission Jax, the mission can expand.
 
With the addition of Lake Asbury Baptist Church this year, the hope is to start a second Mission Jax site in Green Cove Springs. This will give more students the chance to participate, as well as involve more churches in Green Cove Springs and the surrounding areas.
 
Arlie Brashear, youth pastor at Lake Asbury Baptist Church, got involved with Mission Jax when he served in the youth ministry at Switzerland Community Church.
 
When he was called to Lake Asbury, he brought the vision and passion he had for Mission Jax with him. Ten students from Lake Asbury took part in this year’s Mission Jax. 
 
Brashear’s plan is to develop a training camp where a group of churches on the west side of the St. Johns River could come together and do the same thing for their communities. He’d like to invite pastors from the area to come and take part in a mini-version of Mission Jax to help them catch the vision of the bigger impact they can have on the city of Jacksonville.
 
And the vision doesn’t stop there. After the success of this year’s Mission Jax, Smith, Garner and Brashear would like to take the concept to other cities, imparting their knowledge and experience so that other communities can benefit.

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