Student spends summer ministering in resort area

Release Date: August 20, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – It didn’t take long for Allison Vetter to realize that the Orlando, Fla., area is not much like the Bible belt of Texas where she attends school in many ways. The traffic, the tourists and the resort locations every block or so was nothing like the flat West Texas landscape.

But the Wayland Baptist University junior walked away from her summer realizing that there was one big similarity in the two areas: there are people who need Jesus.

Vetter, a music education major from Big Lake, spent the summer on mission in the Orlando/Kissimmee area through Go Now Missions, an arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ student ministry. Working specifically for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association, Vetter and her 17 teammates served the travel destination in a variety of ways.

“There were eight of us called Innovators, eight were part of a creative arts team called Sound Mind, and two were on a team with Give Kids the World, which is a resort for kids and their families who are going to Disney World through Make a Wish,” Vetter explained. The group lived in a Christian camp while working for the summer, and their jobs varied day to day.

The Innovators worked at a family park called Fun Spot USA in Kissimmee, where they served as ride attendants. Vetter worked the day shift with Innovators on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10-5, then spent her night-time doing ministry work at different places.

“Our main ministry was to our coworkers at the Fun Spot. Previously, they had Innovators at hotels, so this was pretty new for everyone. It was evident that was where we needed to be,” she said. “Most of the workers were 16-30 and it was totally a non-Christian environment to be in. Maybe 10 out of 150 employees were Christians.

“It was hard because we had to make the most of every opportunity to share with them. It was hot, and we had to find every opportunity to be different and not complain. It was really a learning experience for me.”

On Tuesday nights, the GOBA team had a worship service together; on Wednesdays, they traveled to churches within the association to share their testimonies and a performance by the creative arts team and to raise support for their work. Thursdays was a prayer-walking night in a local shopping mall and a chance to visit with the vendors there about specific prayer needs.

“A lot of times, that would lead to deeper conversations, and we were able to form relationships with a lot of people since we were there every week,” Vetter said.

On Fridays, the group helped with a new church that was meeting in the downtown Orlando YMCA, an eye-opening experience for Vetter, who admitted she was a “small-town Texas girl who thought that church was a building with pews. It was good to see that church is just the body of believers wherever they are.”

Saturday nights were big for the team as they all gathered back at Fun Spot for a performance by the creative arts team – which included a juggler, musical numbers of both secular music and some Christian contemporary songs and puppets – and face-painting by the Innovators who were off the clock. Since the park was open late at night, many families and tourists were present and the group took advantage of the various opportunities to share the Gospel message with anyone they met.

Sunday mornings involved working with another church plant, particularly with children’s ministry, and evenings they visited churches again like they had on Wednesday. On Monday, the group got a day of rest and took advantage of a chance to see the sites themselves or go to the beach and relax.

Meanwhile, the creative arts team did performances all over the Orlando area at restaurants, resorts, hotels and other locations. The girls at Give Kids the World served in various areas, ministering to the families in the 150 villas on the property, though Vetter noted they were not able to share their faith unless specifically asked about it.

Vetter said the summer changed her definition of missions from the traditional backyard Bible clubs or English classes to one of lifestyle evangelism.

“We had to be intentional in every conversation and watch our actions all the time,” she said. “I think I’ve seen a change in myself just in conversations, letting there be a purpose behind them. It definitely taught me that it wasn’t about comfort and how I wanted to feel but about glorifying him and making his kingdom known despite how I feel.”

Though Vetter was no stranger to mission work – she went with Wayland to Mexico last summer and to Germany with her home church – the time in Florida was unlike anything she had experienced.

“Our trip is the most realistic is some senses because we are in the real world, submerged in worldliness. It’s not a trip; it was a job. And that reminded me just to be missional no matter what I do,” she said. “I think this has taught me to be intentional with everything, that everywhere I go is a mission field. It has to be a missional lifestyle.