Europe opens doors to summer student volunteers

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School is back in session. Life is returning to normal in many parts of the world, and IMB student ministries are ready to get back to business.

Although visa restrictions are still a barrier in some places, Europe is beginning to open. Southern Baptist churches, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCMs) and state conventions are sending students to be a part of what God is doing across the continent.

John and Grace Wyman in the United Kingdom will host 30 students this summer from Summit Church in North Carolina, a BCM in New Mexico and Baptist General Convention of Texas. In Ukraine, a student team of three from University of Georgia and University of North Georgia BCMs will join Ross and Kasey Lewis in Kharkov, Ukraine, for two months. Church partnerships in Virginia and BCMs from Georgia are sourcing three teams to work with Samuel and Amy Dubus* in the Balkans.

Charlie Worthy, IMB student ministry associate, is excited to see the eagerness of IMB teams and supporting Southern Baptists to renew the student pathways after COVID-19.

“What I love about this summer is we have students coming from a multitude of volunteer sources — state conventions, associations, collegiate ministries, individual churches — to all three regions in Europe (East, West and Mediterranean). The students will join teams in diverse ministry opportunities. It’s a great cross-sectional spectrum of who is sending, where [students] can go, and what they can do,” he said.

Why students are so important

Students are a vital component to IMB’s task as cross-cultural gospel-bearers. They are effective in helping IMB teams expand their ministry to more people and more places; they are given an experience that helps them determine God’s call on their lives; and they make up the largest pool of future IMB workers.

In Kharkov, Ukraine team leader Ross Lewis said the students’ presence will be “more instrumental than they know.” They will not only make it possible to reach families affected by the war in the Donbas region — through VBS-style camps for kids and a camp for displaced families — but they will also help in primary strategies in Kharkov. There is a huge market in Kharkov that services close to one million people. The students will share the gospel in this market, helping the long-term team keep up with the ever-changing makeup of the city.

In the Balkans, the team leader Samuel Dubus was a BCM leader in Texas before moving overseas, so he knows the value college students bring to ministry. He and his wife, Amy, work with university students in the city they serve and are opening a new office in an area that houses about 40,000 students.

“Our space is a secular version of BCM. About 80% of the students are not from our city and will take the gospel they hear back to their villages, so the work at the university is crucial for reaching the country,” Samuel said.

The student teams will live in a hostel among the university students. They will prayer walk, share the gospel and participate in activities like cultural events and study sessions. This type of relational evangelism is very important in the culture, where people welcome the chance to sit and talk. The teams will be a huge boost to the people already working in the area to reach the 150,000 students, of whom only .01% believe in Jesus.

In East London, the Wymans will use summer student teams to share the gospel in a huge metro area. “The student teams add huge value in sharing the gospel boldly and broadly during their time here,” John said.

Teams will share the gospel through an espresso cart ministry, offering people free coffee and prayer, or free coffee for a question about the Christian faith. They will help John’s long-term team start groups with seekers and new believers, while working alongside established churches.

IMB team members are also excited to host teams because God often uses these experiences to help students figure out what He is asking of them.

“We see this as an important part of helping younger people who are exploring a call. Students are eager, bold, not afraid. They are trying to determine God’s call on their lives. We can help them explore the possibilities,” Ross Lewis said.

Ross and his wife, Kasey, know firsthand how God uses summer trips. Both served on mission teams during their university years. Kasey’s experience as a student serving in East Europe emphasizes how important these trips can be in solidifying God’s direction. She knew God was calling her into international mission work at 17, but on this trip, God refined his call on her life.

“God showed me that I was called to serve the people of the former USSR during my first summer there. We were overlooking the city when God, in the silence of my heart, told me that these were my people,” she said. “The short-term opportunity changed my life. Those summers opened my eyes to darkness that I never knew existed. God used that time to guide me to where I am today.”

This is a common thread through young adults serving overseas today — many had their first touch with missions as students.

Charlie Worthy has been helping the IMB’s European teams and student catalysts in the US reengage after COVID. “This year is just a glimpse of a broader, more robust student ministry,” he said.

As Charlie visits partners in the U.S., he’s been encouraged to see that they are ready to send and finance student teams. Although there are few remaining trip possibilities for 2021, Charlie and IMB Europe teams are already lining up opportunities for 2022, which include students from high school through college.

Please pray for the ministries of these teams this summer in U.K., the Balkans and Ukraine. Pray for the students to be effective and sensitive to God’s calling. Pray for many Europeans to hear the good news and turn to Christ.

If you have questions about how to send a team to Europe, contact Charlie at CWorthy@imb.org

*Names changed for security

Karen Pearce is a writer for IMB living in Prague.

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