IMB Missions College creates connections for cross-cultural ministry

Representatives from 21 states came together for an intensive training on cross-cultural missions taught by International Mission Board missionaries April 2-5. The annual Missions College hosted near Richmond brought IMB missionaries from all over the world together with pastors, church members and missions leaders.

WMU Executive Director-Treasurer Sandy Wisdom-Martin, far right, acts out an orality and storying exercise at IMB’s Missions College. She learned the art of Bible storytelling at IMB’s Missions College. (IMB photo)

The goal of the conference is to give Southern Baptists access to IMB resources and to each other. The event includes learning tracks that allow participants to dig deep into topics like foundations of missions, cross-cultural evangelism and strategy coaching. The tracks and sessions are more than lectures. Participants spend time developing and practicing a missional strategy that works in the context of their church and ministry.

This hands-on approach for sharing resources is what keeps Kelly and Erika Mitchell coming back. The Montanans have been to three Missions College events. They searched for a way to better serve their work on the Flathead Indian Reservation and other Native work in the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. Traditional strategies designed for traditional Southern Baptist churches did not always work among their indigenous population.

“We tried to reinvent the wheel a lot and longed for access to IMB training,” Kelly said. “As Southern Baptists, we knew the IMB had missionaries all over the world ministering cross-culturally to people groups and doing it well. This conference is unique because the trainers are IMB personnel who are super generous in offering their support and materials and allow us to pick their brains.”

Steve Evans, IMB missionary, engages with Kelly and Erika Mitchell, who serve on the Flat Head Indian Reservation in Montana, after leading a breakout session on Orality and Storying at Missions College near Richmond, Va. (IMB photo)

Through breakout sessions and conversations around the dinner table, the Mitchells found the people they serve shared characteristics with many people groups missionaries worked with in the Americas. The connection allowed them to stop “reinventing the wheel” and utilize methods that have shown results, like using oral methods in the missionary task through chronological Bible storying.

“I wasn’t anticipating that we’d connect with so many people and continue to have those connections and conversations,” Kelly said. “For us, Missions College has blossomed from a place to get training to finding partnership and unity.”

This networking was something Max Moore noticed in his first Missions College. Moore, an IMB missionary serving in Asia-Pacific Rim, worked with participants who wanted to develop a passion for missions as a “Sending Church.”

Sticky notes with ideas plastered the board. Conversations buzzed around the table. Small churches and mega churches brainstormed ways to make missions a normal thing among their congregations — all age groups and demographics.

“There’s no other opportunity to build these types of connections,” Moore told the group. “You always have us at IMB, but now you have a network from this meeting. You all are the greatest asset.”

Ester Yu, center, and her husband, David, traveled from Sherman Oaks, Calif., to participate in the International Mission Board’s Missions College event. In the “Sending Church” workshop breakout, Esther shares how they help to foster a culture of engagement in missions with church members. (IMB photo)

Spending extended time with others committed to proclaiming Christ among the nations was special for Sandy Wisdom-Martin. The Woman’s Missionary Union executive director-treasurer is used to promoting missions education and coming alongside churches to energize, motivate and equip. After speaking the first night, she slipped into the role of participant, attending sessions and networking around the table.

She said Missions College gave an opportunity to learn from exceptional global practitioners and strategists. She treasured the time to go deep into studying missiological topics with others who share the same interest. The extensive training helped develop skills and gain resources.

“I treasured the opportunity to be immersed in Bible storying,” Wisdom-Martin said. “I’m departing equipped, challenged and inspired!”

— Some names changed for security reasons. Sue Sprenkle writes for the IMB.