Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.—Ephesians 3:20, NIV
by Lisa Jordan
In the fall of 1993, Chris Shay, then Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., Corps (OBT) youth ministries coordinator, received a fax from Scott Hurula, then territorial young adult ministries director, on behalf of Captains Wayne and Debbie Bungay, Freeport, Grand Bahamas corps officers who were looking for corps willing to help transition their one-week residential camp for underprivileged children to a three-week day camp experience the next summer. Only God knew it would be the beginning of an amazing partnership He would use to touch many lives.
In fact, God was providing an answer to a question we hadn’t even asked yet. Our youth ministry goal at OBT is that by age 18 all our young people are saved, discipled Salvationists, ready to take their place in the Body of Christ. Bible teaching, leadership training, service, many programs and experiences go into their spiritual formation. But one area we’d not been able to explore was a mission trip. The Bahamas was perfect! At the time, airfare was low, a passport wasn’t required and there was no language barrier.
We started seeking approvals, and before we knew it planning and fundraising were underway. The mission trip would soon be a reality. We decided to use vacation Bible school materials for the mornings filled with Bible lessons, crafts and recreation; each afternoon we took the kids on field trips. At the end of the week we would hold a response time for each camper to consider his or her relationship with Jesus. We brought all the necessary supplies for the day camp and also prepared for open-airs, Sunday school and holiness meetings.
This annual trip has grown to include not only teenagers and leaders but other adults from OBT. Over the past 25 years much has changed, but much has stayed the same. Our goal and weekly structure remains. Other aspects have been different every time and keep us fully trusting the Lord and not our own experience—bus trips on narrow roads to bring kids from outlying areas, precious home league meetings, lively youth group gatherings, evangelistic campaigns, hurricane preparation and recovery, new building dedication, community care visitation, painting projects, reuniting with past campers as adults contributing in their community, funerals of Bahamian teens taken by violence or disease, second-generation campers and so much more.
In all, 158 different individuals from OBT have served on teams, 57 have gone back multiple times, 43 have gone on to give more overseas service and 11 have become Salvation Army officers.
As a corps we’ve grown spiritually and relationally with those who have shared the Bahamas experience, and we’ve grown in awareness, love and commitment to the Army’s global ministry.
Through intentionality, this short-term mission trip has become a long-term mission partnership allowing many people to experience God’s love and glory in ways we could never have imagined when that fax came through.