Rochester First Baptist Church had sent individual members on mission trips. What they hadn’t done, said Pastor Chad Williams, was send a team to serve together. In June, Williams and five others from his church traveled to Poland to serve alongside missionaries who are building relationships in a country characterized by institutional religion.
“Like most of Europe, it’s not the easiest place for ministry,” Williams said. The team originally planned to host sports camps in partnership with the Hesskew family, who serve in Poland through the International Mission Board. But the makeup of the mission team, which included several pre-teens, made them a good fit for ministry in local schools.
The group held a field day at a Montessori school and an after-school program at an international school, teaching English as a Second Language in both. They also helped missionary Albert Hesskew minister to athletes he coaches on baseball and football teams, and his church’s Upward sports program.
The Hesskews are familiar faces to many Illinois churches this summer. They’re featured in LifeWay’s “Game On” Vacation Bible School curriculum, a fact Williams was unaware of until he started receiving messages from fellow church leaders saying they were praying for the Polish missionaries in VBS, even as the Rochester team was flying across the Atlantic to meet them in-person.
The focus on relationships that is so central to the Hesskews’ work can have an impact on how his church does ministry in their own community, Williams said.
“The opportunity to work with people in Europe, whether it’s Poland or somewhere else, I think it’s an opportunity to further strengthen how we view ministry here,” he said. “You have to build a relationship, and make connections, and then you have to follow through with that relationship.”
Rochester FBC is planning two international trips next year—to Toronto, and back to Poland.
“Even for small churches, there is the ability and opportunity to go overseas,” Williams said. “We’re not a huge church, but we sent six. And that willingness to be obedient to God’s call to go to the ends of the earth, I believe will be a bigger blessing than maybe anything else we do this year.”