Wayland expands summer missions

PLAINVIEW - With finals safely tucked behind them and the start of the Fall 2003 semester 15 weeks away, many students return home for a little R-and-R. A few brave souls, however, will barely have time to take a breath before hitting the mission field for a summer full of evangelism.

Wayland Baptist University is opening a new chapter in its summer missions programs this year. Along with Rejoice and the WBU REC teams, which operate as employees of the university, working in church and youth camps throughout the summer, a new group will offer it services to area churches.

Sponsored by the Office of Church Services and the Baptist Student Ministries, the Lighting the Way revival team will visit 10 churches in West Texas this summer, serving in a variety of areas.

The team is fashioned after the Shine Out revival teams that were sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas several years ago.

"They were teams of three or four individuals that went out and conducted youth revivals, did surveying, canvassing, evangelism and things in a local church for a week," explained WBU Director of Church Services Micheal Summers

Summers explained that the Shine Out teams were phased out in recent years due to budget concerns, but there is still a need for that type of ministry. So when the area Directors of Missions and several church leaders approached Wayland with the idea, Summers jumped at the opportunity.

"Wayland is trying to be very responsive to churches' needs," Summers said. "The request came in this school year and we have put a team together. We are responding as soon as we can."

The team will be led by sophomore Shawn Mahannah, who will serve as the speaker/preacher of the group. Senior Josh Rieff will lead worship while freshman Anne Weaver and sophomore Britany Lewis will work with the children and youth respectively.

The summer will open with an on-campus retreat May 28-30 in which Summers and Baptist Student Ministries Director Donnie Brown will work with the group to prepare them for what they will face.

"One of the things we will get from each of the churches before the training retreat is an outline of what they are wanting to do and perhaps even the teaching materials so we will know ahead of time what the week will hold in store," Summers said.

Lining up 10 churches to participate in the endeavor was no problem.

"The need is greater than what we can supply," Summers said. "There is no doubt in my mind that we could easily find another 10 churches to serve in."

Summers and Brown will evaluate the group this year and hopefully be able to increase the ministry next year, adding at least one more Lighting the Way team.

"It may be better to have one team in the beginning to make sure it is successful and work out any bugs and kinks," Summers said. "Then we will build on that relationship with the churches and the testimony of the students to see if God can provide two teams next year."

The groups' activities this summer will consist of everything from working with Genesis Baptist Church, an Hispanic church which has been restarted just a few blocks from the Wayland Campus in Plainview, to leading a youth camp at the beach for First Baptist Church Junction.

While the university sponsors the team, Summers said, unlike Rejoice and the REC teams, the Lighting the Way team is not employed by the school. The four members of the team work on a volunteer basis. Churches are asked to provide $250 for travel expenses and to take care of the team's room and board for the week, but no salary is involved. Churches will take a love offering that will be divided among the students and Wayland will credit them with the equivalent of a micro-term's tuition as their only remuneration.

"This is definitely a missions commitment," Summers said, "to give 10 weeks of your summer to be in different churches every week with a different pastor every week, doing different activities every week."