Pictured Above: Miami BCM team members.
It was a week of learning, growing spiritually and seeing lives changed by the gospel.
In partnership with the International Mission Board, ten Florida Baptist college students spent a week sharing the gospel in Spain this summer.
“We partnered with IMB missionaries in Basque Country, Spain, to reach one of the most unreached people groups in Europe,” said Nathan Schneider, next generation ministries lead catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention. “Students built relationships with locals and shared the gospel in the hopes of connecting additional Basque people to the first evangelical church plant among the Basques by the IMB.”
Six students represented the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at the University of Miami and their home churches: Christ Family Church, Grace Church Miami, Reality Church, and Christ Journey. Another four students represented First Baptist Church of Brandon. Leaders included Schneider; Andrew Fernandez, BCM director in South Florida, and Andy Hedvall, associate pastor at First Baptist Brandon.
Europe’s 810 million residents are from every country in the world. Though diverse, the people of Europe do have one thing in common – more than 98% do not follow Jesus. The people of the Basque Country are an especially challenging group to reach as they do not identify as Spaniards but rather as Basque people with a different language, culture and customs than the rest of Spain.
For the students, it was an eye-opening experience.
‘All the students were challenged to engage in evangelism in a different context, which also encouraged them to engage in evangelism back home or on campus at University of Miami.’
“I think that the biggest change in perspective was seeing the need for evangelism,” said Fernandez. “Students were able to see the need, specifically of spiritual lostness, even in a country that is rich in resources, culture and customs. All the students were challenged to engage in evangelism in a different context, which also encouraged them to engage in evangelism back home or on campus at UM.”
During their time abroad, the students and leaders shared the gospel with students on campus at the college in San Sebastian, volunteered at church community events and Bible studies, and engaged in English chats with students who wanted to practice speaking English, which opened the door to spiritual conversations.
“One thing our group grew in was our understanding of the power of prayer,” said Schneider. “God answered small prayers, like finding a missing phone in a major tourist city, to big prayers, like being able to share the gospel with clarity and effectiveness.” While there, students had gospel conversations in French, Spanish and even Mandarin.
“I believe that [students] walked away with the belief that missions isn’t this far off, unattainable thing for perfect Christians,” said Hedvall. “Their future involvement became much more real. They walked away saying, ‘Hey, I think I could do something like this.’”
For Hedvall’s wife, Mindy, seeing the missionary women at work was impressive.
“One of the missionaries took us shopping at a grocery store. Watching her navigate her way around seamlessly in a strange (to me) culture and context was so eye opening and showed me that it really does take time and practice to build familiarity in a new country. Everything from driving a manual transmission to parking to ordering the right cut of meat was all so foreign, and she made it look so easy. I was grateful to witness her strength and hard-learned lessons at work in how she served her family and served us as a team.”
Fernandez says that he sees three big wins from this international mission trip.
First, students had the opportunity to work with the IMB church planting team, serving alongside them and engaging in evangelism.
Second, students saw firsthand how the IMB functions, from the perspective of missionaries who have served for 14 years to Journeymen who have been serving for just a few months.
Perhaps the biggest win of all, Fernandez said, was “students being motivated to return to Miami, excited to put into practice a lot of what they learned, but students also feeling the desire to return to Spain next summer for a longer period.”