A group of volunteers stepped into what was described as a “forgotten and disparaged” trailer park in New Lebanon just outside Dayton, Ohio. They began some rehabilitation work on some of the homes and then hosted a celebration party for the residents. In addition to the home improvements, homeowners received hope and an invitation to a nearby church.
More than 560 volunteers served 2,600 people as the Send Relief Serve Tour concluded its final 2022 schedule with an event in Dayton. The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, local associations and 46 churches came together to join Send Relief in the last of seven Serve Tour events that took place in this calendar year.
“Serve Tour Dayton has proven there’s strength in working together,” said John Heading, Disaster Relief director for SCBO and project manager for the Dayton Serve Tour stop. “The Dayton Serve Tour has connected several churches to their communities that now have an open door for continued engagement.”
While most Serve Tour events only last a couple of days, the opportunities for local churches in the area to continue engaging their neighbors can last for months.
The 35 total compassion ministry projects in Dayton were designed to help churches connect with their communities by meeting needs in the area, encouraging local pastors and congregations and sharing the hope of the gospel with the people they serve.
Coming to Christ
At the heart of every Serve Tour stop is the desire to see people come to know Christ.
As a result, more than 345 gospel conversations took place in Dayton during the two-day event.
“It’s been a great joy to partner with local churches, associations and state conventions throughout the entire process as we’ve engaged multiple cities this year,” said Sammy Simmons, Send Relief’s national project director. “I believe Southern Baptists are at our finest when we partner together to meet needs, share the gospel and see lives changed.”
Southern Baptists did just that this year, coming together in cities like Jacksonville, Florida; Meridian, Mississippi; and Baltimore to participate in the Send Relief Serve Tour. All across the events, nearly 4,800 volunteers participated, serving more than 17,000 people and seeing 363 people make professions of faith.
“It was an overwhelming success. It was a great picture of unity,” said Larry Lin, who served as the project manager for the stop in Baltimore. “One thing I was excited to see happen was, if I had to estimate, maybe about a third of the volunteers were from city churches, then a third were from the Baltimore suburbs and then another third were from out of state.”
Not only did volunteers come from all over, but the Serve Tour helped build connections between churches.
“We were able to do more than just work together for a weekend,” Lin said. “We were able to establish long-term relationships that will be able to last.”
One of the biggest themes to come out of the events is unity, as every level of Southern Baptist life came together to serve and share the gospel — from the national to the state, associational and local church levels.
“If any community has an opportunity to do this, they should. It is a wonderful opportunity to get churches together and work for the Lord,” said Meridian Serve Tour project manager Greg Massey, who is a retired International Mission Board missionary and associational missions strategist.
Jacksonville, Florida saw support for their Serve Tour event pour in from across the city.
“We had a number of larger churches and a lot of smaller churches pitch in,” said Troy Dixon, Serve Tour project manager in Jacksonville and senior pastor of Normandy Park Baptist Church.
“One of the things that I have said over and over again was — from the local church to our association, to our state convention, to our national expression — I’ve never been prouder of being part of the SBC.”
Though the 2022 Serve Tour season concluded in Dayton, Send Relief has already announced eight Serve Tour events for 2023, including Send Relief’s first international mission trips in Bangkok, Thailand; Nairobi, Kenya; and Athens, Greece.
To learn more and register a team from your church for early access to a 2023 Serve Tour stop, visit ServeTour.org.