Wayland group prepares for mission in Macedonia

Release Date: April 18, 2008

PLAINVIEW – In preparation for a two-week mission trip to Macedonia and the region, a group of Wayland Baptist University students is collecting clothing and other items to be distributed in a village on their trip.

The group, headed by Dr. Rick Shaw, director of the WBU Missions Center and assistant professor of religion, will leave May 29 for the area, traveling first to Macedonia, then to Kosovo, then taking in some sights in Greece. Supplies will be delivered to Konjare e Mesme, an Albanian/Bosnian village in Macedonia. The group is collecting gently used children’s clothing and small toys as well as over-the-counter pain relief medications, such as ibuprofen, in sealed packages.

Many of the locations to be visited on the trip are places where Shaw and wife Martha served as missionaries, and the group will be working with many of the pastors and churches he planted while on the field. He is excited to take the next step in the missions journey – taking his own charges to meet those converts.

“It makes me feel kind of like Paul, you know,” he laughed. “My dream is to offer students cross-cultural missions experiences, for our religion majors as well as any students who would like to do that.”

The trip to Macedonia, Shaw said, will do just that as students are exposed first-hand to Muslim people in their own native settings. It’s an experience he said most Wayland students have never had.

“They have very little experience with Muslims, and even a little fear and anxiety about them,” he said. “They’ll come back changed people, for sure.”

That exposure is what interested Melanie Vasquez, a WBU sophomore from Hobbs, N.M., in the trip. A religion major with an interest in missions, Vasquez has participated in missions experiences inside and outside the U.S. But this trip will be different.

“What interested me is the Muslim people,” she said. “I see the need for people to reach out to the Muslim people. A lot of Christians are afraid of them and don’t want to approach them, but God loves all people and we need to reach them too.”

While overseas, the group of seven will be participating in several different activities. Junior Kevin Burrow will be preaching and leading a sports camp in the same Macedonian village; Vasquez, sophomore Khrystyne Eckerd and junior Amber Hamilton will be helping teach English as a Second Language in Macedonia and Kosovo and giving their testimonies at an all-Balkan women’s conference. Other young men, senior Micah Evans and sophomore Taylor Phillips, will be preaching and helping lead in several areas. The group will also be speaking, singing and doing drama in churches around the region, all in Macedonian.

“We’ve been meeting for two weeks for language lessons and Bible study in preparation for the trip, and they are doing very well,” Shaw said. “Some of them have had other languages and are picking it up very quickly.”

The training sessions will continue until the group leaves on May 29. They are set to return June 14. The group plans to take two large suitcases, with one for their personal items and another full of clothing and supplies for the Macedonians.

Shaw said besides hard work in Macedonia and Kosovo, he has planned some tourist attractions for the students, including visits to Thessalonica and Philippi in Greece, touring many of the sites covered in Paul’s missionary journeys in the Bible. The group will worship near the pool where Lydia was baptized, an experience Shaw said is almost surreal.

“These places really make the Bible real to people,” he said.

Shaw will also be leading a group of students, along with two groups from area churches, to Kenya in July. Groups from First Baptist Church Matador and FBC Plainview will join the trip at different intervals, with the charge of building an 8-foot stone security fence around one of the churches in a ghetto neighborhood. The church has constantly been vandalized. The group from Matador, which consists of several contractors, will begin the project and the group of Plainview will hopefully complete the fence. The groups and students will also be working with another church that houses and orphanage for children whose parents have died from aids.

Anyone wishing to donate items for the trip may contact Shaw at 291-1162 or give items to one of the participating students. Anything received that won’t fit on the trip will be donated to local benevolence organizations.