Sandy beaches and warm temperatures make Miami a summertime paradise and international tourist destination. But for eight college students, it was a burden to share Jesus that compelled them to spend six weeks of their summer break in the city known as the Gateway to the Americas.
The students traveled to Miami from all over the continental United States and Puerto Rico through the North American Mission Board’s GenSend summer program. The group included Elim Gibson of Georgia, Hannah McMillan of Mississippi and Allison Toller of Texas, who were joined by two Tennessee students, Kayla Wilson and Regan McGriff, and three students from Puerto Rico, Jordan Gonzalez, Andres Martinez and Tiara Perez.
The GenSend students learned to live their lives on mission immersed in the specific context of North Miami — strategically located between the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. They served alongside church planters and compassion ministries to engage in the vibrancy of the city and what it takes to spread Christ’s love and message of redemption in one of the most heavily populated regions in the state and nation.
Led by NAMB Journeyman Iman Bolden, the group had the task of gathering critical information about the city of North Miami that would be used by future church planters there. Bolden also led the group of missions volunteers to serve with local organizations providing food for first responders, officials and family members seeking updates after the collapse of the Champlain Towers at Surfside.
The two unique ministries gave the students a firsthand look at the challenges — and rewards — of missions in a metropolitan region.
“This program is a lot about developing them as missionaries. This means a lot of discipleship, and this is what some of our time has looked like,” said Bolden.
At the end of their six weeks, the students developed and presented a prospectus containing a wide range of valuable information, including identifying local businesses that could serve as ministry partners and the best times to ride public transportation with the purpose of starting gospel conversations.
On Tuesday, July 27, the group presented their findings and shared their experiences with leaders from the Florida Baptist Convention and NAMB, and church planters serving in the city.
For them personally, their main takeaway was a renewed passion to be on mission back in their hometowns.
“I came to GenSend Miami, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything,” said Perez who also serves as a church volunteer in her native Puerto Rico.
“Something that I’m definitely taking home is to be intentional. The past six weeks we have been very intentional in missional living by sharing the gospel, making conversations wherever we go and that’s something I can see myself doing in my everyday life back home whether I am studying or going to a coffee shop. … I’m taking that intentionality back home with me,” she said.
Gonzalez, a former medical student in Puerto Rico, saw his summer 2021 plans upended when his plan to go abroad on a medical missions trip was canceled. His pastor encouraged him to sign up for GenSend, a choice he is happy to have made.
“Back home I serve alongside a church planter and every Thursday we go door-to-door starting gospel conversations with people, praying for them and inviting them to church,” he said. “For the past six weeks we have been on mission every day and I look forward to taking that back home.”
“I did this program in Boston after my sophomore year of college,” shared Bolden. “I think this is a great program to make students fall in love with cities that need the church, to fall in love with church planting and to understand the responsibility as part as the body of Christ to be the church everywhere.”
To find out more about the GenSend program namb.net/gensend
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Keila Diaz, and was originally published by the Florida Baptist Witness.