It is an incredible thing to attempt a full-scale mission trip that includes the whole church! We always knew that all of us should be involved, but that only some of us will go.
Barton is a small-ish Baptist Church in Torquay, and we took ten people on a mission trip to Cambodia in partnership with a church in Australia, who themselves took thirteen people.
We wanted it to be an inspiring time of trusting God for provision, hearing God’s voice, uniting for the team and church, and the like. We didn’t want to merely see the seasoned travellers go, but the unseasoned. We didn’t want those with missions’ experience to be the only ones, but those going for the first time.
Nor did we want only those with the means to go, but also those with no natural means to go. In the end we had a good combination. For those who stayed, they prayed. “Some will go; some will stay; all will pray!” That was our tag-line.
It was a sweet irony that a Baptist church in the English Riviera partnered with a church in Victoria, Australia, called the ‘Riviera Christian Centre’. This church has been partnered with several ministries within Cambodia for the past fifteen years, and every year, they take more people, young or old, experienced or not, to experience the world of Christian ministry within the format of short-term mission.
Cambodia was simply breath-taking, amazing people and truly amazing pepper! It was also heart-breaking. The country is a generation from the catastrophe of the Pol Pot era in the 1970s. Thus it is a “young” country, but it is emerging at pace as it faces the future.
The ministries we experienced were connected to the big city church in the capital Phnom Penh (or ‘Phenomenal Penh’ as I like to call it), and two particular ministries: one devoted to the education, feeding, health and nurture of children from very poor backgrounds, called ‘Transform Cambodia’; the other, a ministry that offers support, education and dignity to women and children who had been caught up in the trafficking industries, called ‘Precious Women’.
Every aspect of ministry focus had its historical tragedy, but there was not one without present or future hope. In a country where the Killing Fields have become an open museum and a testament to human evil, there is hope, and a significant part of it is located within what the church is doing, empowered by the Gospel.
Outside the capital, we visited the town of Poipet, on the Thailand border. This border town, displays the usual subsistence-level poverty and great wealth, side-by-side, as it is in many places around the world. Here, we supported the ministry of the church (a plant from the capital), including youth work, preaching, outreach and evangelism, prayer, pastoral ministry and the like.
There was much here that challenged many on the team, but despite whatever each individual on the team was experiencing, I for one, was so impressed with how the personal difficulties were covered for the sake of the corporate unity and the wider mission. The group held together in a truly astonishing way, even though for some, the difference in culture was challenging!
It is my hope and prayer that, in doing something like this, we gain a fraction more of the Kingdom of God and the wider world. That our churches exist for more than our local communities; that it is good for our local communities to see and know that their local church has done something out of the ordinary. That they are people who take God seriously, that God is not content with mere localism, even if we are; that our horizons must expand if we are to love and serve in a world that desperately needs to experience the love of God in Christ.
A banner of gratitude and thanks hangs at the back of our church from the members budding Christian community in Poipet. It reminds us that Barton Baptist Church is inextricably linked to the worldwide church. And we’ve been there to make and then tell our own stories of the love of Christ!