Josh Willis came to Lipscomb in the fall of 2008 all the way from Houston, Texas. He graduated this past weekend with a degree in Theology and Ministry. Over the past four years, he has participated in a variety of mission teams: Honduras (2009, 2011), Panama City Beach (2010) and this year’s spring break trip to the Caribbean island of Nevis.
“All three of these trips have each brought something different and beneficial to my experience at Lipscomb. Both trips to Honduras humbled me and opened my eyes to true poverty and made me grateful for the many blessings I have,” says Willis. “I was so blessed by worshipping with the church in Honduras and experiencing the kingdom of God by sharing meals, building houses, and spending time with the Hondurans. I went with an incredible team both times and developed strong friendships that will go with me long past my time at Lipscomb.”
Willis’ mission trip to Panama City Beach was one of the more interesting and challenging experiences he has faced while in college. Being on a mission team on a beach where a half million other people are there for different reasons was not easy, but he did not expect it to be. He sums up the experience by saying, “The trip consisted of purely relational ministry. We found ourselves at the beach all day talking with college students just hanging out and then at nights we would go to the bars and clubs and talk with people. We got to know so many people and walk with them, listen to them, love them, and show them Jesus. It was intimidating trying to live for Jesus in such dark environments but God was moving in our lives and in the conversations we had with so many people who were searching for something more.”
Throughout his involvement with Lipscomb Missions, Willis has developed a deeper desire to live more missionally in his everyday life. He describes the impact these trips have had on his personal journey as he longs to continue pursuing mission work throughout the world. “Sharing meals with people from around the world and being able to laugh, sing and experience life with Christians who are radically different from myself is beautiful. The more diversity that I see in the body opens my eyes to how big and relational our God is,” said Willis.
Willis plans on working in full-time ministry with churches, specifically in youth ministry. Willis is excited about the opportunities ahead, “I believe that there is nothing more worth living for than the kingdom of God. I want to immerse teenagers into service, missions and ministry and show them how their relationship with Jesus affects every single relationship and area of their lives.”
Nikki Arnold, a double major in Psychology and Family Relations from Mitchell, Indiana, has also been heavily involved with Lipscomb Missions throughout her four years on campus. Her freshman year, Arnold was part of a spring break trip to Brandon, England. As she settled into her sophomore year a friend introduced her to the idea of a month-long summer mission trip to Australia. Although she had heard stories, little did she know that the people of Brisbane would capture her heart while God revealed Himself to her in ways she had never experienced or imagined. She not only returned for a second trip last summer, but has served as a student leader this year while preparing for her third trip in June.
Although Australia is a developed country like America, Arnold has been exposed to how spiritually impoverished the country is. “The number of Christians there is surprisingly low and just seeing the small difference we can make by giving up a few weeks of our time is inspiring. It has taught me and continually reminds me the difference we can have in someone’s journey just because we care to go and be present,” says Arnold.
Arnold’s involvement with mission trips has enriched her college experience. “Having friends from missions has given me insight to others' spirituality and has shown me what God’s Kingdom can look like on earth. I have learned more about who I am through these mission trips than I ever knew was possible. It has given me a glimpse of the Kingdom and I can’t imagine my Lipscomb experience without that. “
After she returns from the Brisbane trip in July, Arnold will be going to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She anticipates continued involvement with local organizations and ministries. “Serving the people I care about most has come to be a rewarding thing in my life and something I feel called to pursue through furthering my education. Whether it’s encouraging my new-found family in Australia or providing counseling services to someone who's in need, I want to continue serving those people God puts in my life.”
Lipscomb Missions has continued to expand, both in service locations and participants, thanks to the leadership of many of this year’s graduating seniors. Of the 2012 graduating class of four-year students, 52% of them have served on a trip with Lipscomb Missions. As these seniors turn the page to the next chapter God has in store for them, the door remains open for their continual involvement with missions at Lipscomb. Even though they now have a diploma in hand, on average nearly 75 Lipscomb alumni return to their alma mater each year to continue building on those relationships they’ve created on mission trips around the world.