This post originally appeared at BGAV.org.
Over a period of ten days last month, a twelve-member team of college-age young adults spent time in three Romanian cities, worshipping, serving and offering a relational presence.
“Our lessons were hospitality-oriented,” reflects Welford Orrock, leader of the BGAV’s Kairos Initiative and co-team leader of this team. “One of the most important things a short-term team can do is land well.”
And land well they did. Experiencing the warm hospitality of our Romanian partners, the Kairos Initiative mission team moved from Bucharest to Sibiu to Cluj, worshipped in Baptist churches throughout the country, came alongside Romanian partners in ministry experiences and saw the beauty of the country.
The team spent time with kids through Providence Baptist Church’s ministry in Bucharest, taught in Bethany Baptist Church’s English as a Second Language program in a local high school, and visited shut-ins through the work of Bethel Baptist in Cluj.
Through the BGAV’s partnership with Romanian Baptists, the Kairos Initiative mission team, led by Orrock and Blake Tommey, Baptist Collegiate Minister at the University of Virginia, brought these students together from around the state for a year-long experience of mission, leadership and calling.
The Kairos Missions Initiative is an annual short term mission immersion experience through the Kairos Initiative of the BGAV. Each year a team of 10-12 college-aged young adults travel internationally to serve with BGAV mission partners and spend time reflecting on their cross-cultural experiences to explore the ways God is calling them to live missional lives at home and abroad.
“By the end, we want them to understand what partnership missions is all about,” Orrock shared. “We don’t want to tell them, though, we want them to experience partnership.”
What Makes Partnership Missions Different?
In the early 1980’s, mission for Virginia Baptists began to be about more than sending money for someone else to be a missionary.
“It’s not just about sending money,” says Craig Waddell, Partnership Missions Coordinator for the BGAV “We can go ourselves.”
Bringing the Body of Christ together globally and transforming the people who go expands the church’s perspective on how God is at work in the world.
“When [teams] come back,” Waddell continues, “they have a greater vision for what the Kingdom is and can be.”
In the early years of partnerships, Virginia Baptists used fulltime field personnel from US-based mission agencies to work as a conduit, but as partnerships have progressed, the relationships have grown to include more indigenous leadership. By highlighting the relationship with the national Baptist union in a partner country, participants gain a greater understanding of life and ministry in the partner country.
Waddell says the idea of a partnership “is a way for us to work together across geographic and national boundaries in order to be available for others.”
This idea has grown into a theme for Virginia Baptist partnerships: “together for others.”
“It’s a way to enlarge [our] vision of the Kingdom of God,” Waddell shares. “It’s a way for God to combine our gifts to address Kingdom issues. It helps to give a perspective not limited by cultural biases.”
Will Cumbia, part of the William & Mary Baptist Collegiate Ministry and a member of Chancellor Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, experienced this in Romania.
“I learned how vastly small the world is and how similar the human experience is even half-way around the world,” Cumbia says. “I learned that God’s love and compassion transcends all borders, languages, and cultures.”
For the Kairos team, the close relationships with Romanians allowed for honest questions about social dynamics, the political history of Romania and the personal stories of their new friends.
Once the team arrived in Romania, they added full-time team members who helped drive and translate, but, Orrock notes, they became fully-vested members of the team, too.
“The most important moments of the trip for me were the moments in between scheduled time,” Orrock says, “after worship had ended, riding somewhere in the van.”
Prioritizing the time to begin conversations and focusing on people over completing a project are trademarks of a partnership mission experience.
Catalin at Impact
We have ministry needs in the communities around BGAV churches, too, and our partners can join us. This summer, four Romanians will serve across Virginia.
Catalin Robu (pronounced “Kat-a-lynn”), a student at Romania’s Universitatii Politehnica din Bucuresti (University Politehnica of Bucharest), joined the Impact Mission Camp staff for the summer.
Catalin says he has seen God at work in Virginia “day after day, worshipping God, going to job sites, talking with others and seeing God work in their lives. I see God changing lives [through Impact].”
Relationships are important for Virginians and Romanians in partnership missions, and Catalin says he enjoys developing new friendships. He says he will continue to focus on building relationships when he returns to Romania later this summer.
The highlight of the summer for Catalin has been these new friendships, knowing if he never sees them again on Earth, “I’ll see them in Heaven.”
“We’re already on partnership with each other,” Waddell believes, “because the Body of Christ is a grand partnership. With one particular partner, we decide to journey together for a season.”
The Romanian Baptists issued an invitation for Virginia Baptists to partner with them on what they envision their call to be throughout Romania. Through an official relationship, opportunities such as the Kairos Initiative mission team can come to life.
As an official partnership winds down this year with the Panama Baptist Convention, another current Virginia Baptist partnership, Waddell is currently exploring a future partnership.
“We’re looking for a situation where the local body of believers is already addressing a human need,” Waddell says, “where we can work together to multiply the impact.”
Waddell also hopes our future BGAV partnerships will allow us to continue relationships with former partners, continuing to join together in shared mission around the world.
Over the next six months, the Kairos Initiative mission team will gather with Orrock and Tommey to continue debriefing, but also to grow and develop individually as they continue to respond to how God will use their experiences in Romania to shape life at home.
“Everything we do [in the Kairos Initiative] is meant to have a trickle-down effect,” Orrock says, indicating the need for Kairos-backed experiences to translate to the local level in individual expressions of leadership, community relationship and the missional life, and through corporate expressions of worship and service.
“One of our goals with volunteers is to help them understand these opportunities as part of their Christian discipleship,” says Dean Miller, Glocal Missions team leader. “These are not meant to be standalone events, but rather a step of the faith journey, and we want to empower the church and individuals toward continuing discipleship opportunities, such as small groups, book reviews and dialogues.”