By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE MOUNTAIN – More than two dozen students at Blue Mountain College will scatter across the globe this summer as they take the Christian message to various mission locations.
These members of the Baptist Student Union are part of a tradition that the Christian, liberal arts college began many decades ago.
“The Baptist Student Union is a collegiate ministry program started by Southern Baptists probably in the 1930s in Mississippi,” said BSU Director Tracy Moser. “In Mississippi we have BSUs at work on more than 30 campuses with branches or unions at each major university and community college.”
The BSU is jointly funded by the college and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
As the BSU helps students with various religious activities and stimulates their spiritual growth, they use their talents in local communities as well as sharing their messages more broadly.
“We involve students in community service, missions, worship and discipleship activities,” Moser said.
The student leadership team leads discipleship in the dorms and on campus as well as community missions, serving in local churches by leading and participating in revivals, youth nights, Sunday morning services and other programs.
Their mission teams include a praise and worship band, a mixed vocal ensemble, a drama ministry and a clown and puppet team.
This summer’s students will be spread across North America from New England to California, Texas to Indiana, and throughout the world in East Asia and Africa. At both the campus and the state level each student is interviewed for his or her fitness for the assignment and necessary skills to fulfill it.
“Their assignments are different from state to state and country to country,” Moser said. “This summer some are going into the bush, hiking out and going into villages, while some will be working in school programs.”
The international assignments include students working on university campuses to help people in the host country improve their English language skills.
During a three-week Christmas mission trip the group had a unique opportunity to present the Christmas story to about 2,100 elementary and kindergarten students.
“We told and acted out the story of Jesus,” Moser said. “We don’t push, but if they ask us about the Christian message we can tell them. They’re OK with that.”
Blue Mountain students are not necessarily assigned together because all the Mississippi BSU students are intermingled for the various projects.
For assignments within the United States the funds that support the students also are put into a common pot, with each BSU raising $11,300 this year for the summer missions program.
“All through the year we’re raising money for that goal, and any donations we get for their local work with churches goes into the state fund,” Moser said. “Mississippi has 187 students participating and travel, food and insurance are all paid for the students out of that fund.”
International mission students get a share of that fund as well, but they also are responsible for raising any additional funds they will need, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the location.
Students participate in these weeks and months of service with no school credit or financial payoff, yet Moser noted the powerful impact mission experiences can have in their lives.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and have seen some who served as student missionaries going back as career missionaries,” she said. “The flames are stirred and their heart for missions is opened. They realize how big the world is and yet small at the same time.”