Partnership Missions Virtual Mission Trips
Craig Waddell reflects on the latest experiences in virtual mission trips.
In an engaging series of online Partnership Missions Conversations beginning in late spring of 2020, international partners reflected with us on the theme of Global Discipleship. Every two weeks we sat around the virtual table with friends from South Africa, Jamaica, Armenia, Austria, and Norway. Pursuing a better understanding of what it means to follow Christ together in his worldwide church, we listened to their perspectives on our Mission, Call, and Worldview.
In August 2020, we launched a year of monthly mission experiences with long-term partners. Though the internet has long been in our toolkit, this was an effort to reach out on a regular basis to our global mission family in a time when travel was not possible. Many churches and organizations had had to cancel projects and visits, so this would be a reciprocal opportunity for partners to have live interaction on-site and during ministry activities.
In our first Virtual Mission Trip, Eastside Community Church from South Africa, visited via Zoom the then newly-established community garden at Parkview Baptist Church in Newport News, Va. The ministry’s founders and volunteers shared straight from the garden about how the project was an expression of their community. The Virtual Mission Trips have continued since then, with BGAV churches virtually visiting our focus:refugee partners in Lebanon, Croatia, and Austria, as well as Panama Baptists making a Zoom stop at the Southwest Virginia Partnership in Nickelsville.
There are several ways the VMT’s have proven particularly valuable. Spurred by up-to-date info and heart-warming interaction, we can pray currently and accurately for each other. We can fill each other in on how individuals and churches are doing, as well as literally show the status of our respective projects. This has greatly enlarged the circle of people praying specifically for each other. Set up as Zoom webinars, the VMT’s have also been streamed live to Facebook. This has made it possible for more participants to join the mission team as they virtually interact with their partners.
Following Christ involves reflecting on where we see God reaching into our lives, as well as talking about what that will mean for the next steps in our journey. As we have shared that with each other, we have benefited from the insights of our co-travelers and from a healthy sense of accountability. Hearing what it means in another culture to follow Christ, or how to engage with one’s community, can sometimes help us better apply the Gospel to our own context.
At any time, but markedly during the restrictions of the Covid year, it is easy to feel isolated and limited. Being in touch with the worldwide Body of Christ strengthens our sense of God’s presence and is a reminder as well to trust in his abilities in our own community. Rather than being resigned to inaction, this has been an opportunity for churches to encourage and constructively contribute to each other’s local ministries.
The Virtual Mission Trips are joyful reunions with people we care about, and an intentional investment in these relationships. It feels good when your partner misses you and wants to visit; it is a good sign that you have not been forgotten! They are also important encounters as we continue to work out how we can most effectively work “Together for Others.”