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Ministry asks churches to send 10,000 workers

DALLAS — The most exciting part of Rachelle Self’s mission trip to Ukraine was a moment of recognition in her students’ eyes, as if they were thinking, “Wow … Jesus might be the son of God.”
“Maybe it wasn’t a full confession and baptism, but you could see that little glimmer,” she said. “They were starting to get it.”
The Eastern New Mexico University junior and fellow members of the Southside church in Portales, N.M.,
traveled to Dallas recently for Harvest Call, an annual seminar for trainers and supporters of Let’s Start Talking.
Last summer, Self and a small team spent six weeks in Kiev on a Let’s Start Talking mission. She studied the Bible with more than 30 Ukrainian students, helping them improve their English while exposing them to Jesus’ teachings.
“I’m definitely doing another trip,” she said.
Let’s Start Talking staffers hope many more will join her.
As part of Harvest Call, the ministry launched its Centurion Project, asking 100 congregations to send 100 members each on campaigns within the next five years. That’s 10,000 workers — nearly twice the number the ministry has sent in its entire 27-year history, said Craig Altrock, director of project administration.
An increasing number of churches requests Let’s Start Talking teams,campus team Herndon, campus team developer Kelsey Herndon said.
In2006, the ministry sent more than 430 Christians to 29 countries, butturned down about 60 invitations for teams, mostly due to a lack ofworkers.
The new project’s name comes from the gospel story ofthe centurion, a Roman officer in charge of 100 soldiers. Jesus wasastonished by the centurion’s faith.
“When you read this story, one natural thought is, ‘What would it be like if just 100 others — people or churches — had the same faith as this centurion?’” Altrock said, adding that 10,000 workers is “a goal only God can accomplish.”
In the past quarter-century, Let’s Start Talking “has proven to be one of the boldest and most effective missions programs in Churches of Christ,” said Darryl Tippens, provost of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. “The Centurion Project promises to extend our congregations’ capacity to reach the lost more than ever.”
As a college student, Tina McCormack participated in one of the first Let’s Start Talking missions to Germany in 1981. Earlier this year, she traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and spent two weeks reading with students. It was her third Let’s Start Talking trip.
Though 25 years had passed since her last campaign, “the method had not changed,” said McCormack, a member of the Harpeth Hills church in Brentwood, Tenn. “It’s so simple. … You really do let the word do the teaching.”
Let’s Start Talking teams tend to be small, between three to six people. Participants conduct one-on-one sessions with students, allowing them to read and ask questions, instead of initiating conversations about interpreting Scripture. The organization’s Web site offers additional information, as well.
“If you’re talking more than your reader, you’re talking too much,” Herndon said.
Most teams train for months before their departure, using materials prepared by the ministry’s staff. Let’s Start Talking helps with travel arrangements.
Church members who request Let’s Start Talking teams advertise the free English lessons in advance and tell potential students that they’ll be studying the Bible.
Global demand for English skills is high, even in countries where English is the dominant language, said Bimlesh Prasad, a church leader in Suva, Fiji. Let’s Start Talking teams have traveled to his South Pacific homeland, conducting studies with immigrants from countries where English is not spoken widely.
“For the first time, we got people from India and Korea to come to our church,” Prasad said.
But getting those visitors to return to church after the team leaves is a challenge, Prasad and a panel of missionaries said during Harvest Call. The relationships visiting teachers have with students don’t always translate into relationships between students and the local church.
Let’s Start Talking missions are most effective when multiple teams make multiple visits during the same year, fostering ongoing relationships, the missionaries said.
Let’s Start Talking administrators hope the Centurion Project will address that concern. The ministry is working to provide apartments or other year-round housing at up to 50 of its sites. The Highland Oaks church, which hosted Harvest Call, has committed to send members each month to a site in China.
Besides Highland Oaks, five other congregations had committed to the Centurion Project at press time — Harpeth Hills; Richland Hills in North Richland Hills, Texas; Park Plaza in Tulsa, Okla.; Pine Tree in Longview, Texas; and High Pointe in McKinney, Texas.
By sending 10,000 workers, Let’s Start Talking hopes to produce more stories like that of Raul Tello, an Argentinian who first studied with a campaigner in 1996. Tello was baptized in 2000 and last November became an elder of the church in Buenos Aires, missionary Joel Banks said.
The Centurion Project also is designed to excite church members about evangelism in their own neighborhoods, said Sherrylee Woodward, who co-founded the ministry with her husband, Mark.
“What will it mean to an American congregation to have 100 members trained, experienced and excited about global missions?” she said. “Their enthusiasm for outreach at home will be even greater.”
The Pine Tree church in Longview, Texas, has sent several teams on campaigns, missions deacon Doc Turk said.
The trips have inspired missionary zeal in some church members — members who, before the trip, “you didn’t even know were in the building,” he said.
“You will be shocked at how this pulls people out,” Turk said, “and when they come back, their lives are forever changed.”
Jacob Rowe, a student at Boise State University in Idaho, had never heard of Let’s Start Talking, but had been praying for a chance to serve God. His campus minister told him about the ministry two weeks before Harvest Call, so Rowe traveled 1,600 miles to Dallas to learn more.
“The best part about the whole experience was how organized everything was, from the conference itself to the tons of handouts that pretty much take you through a step-by-step process,” he said.
Back at Boise State, Rowe is getting a Let’s Start Talking team together for next summer.
“I’m just overjoyed and excited to go through the training … so my team and I can get out there and get the word of God to those who need it so badly,” he said.

  • Feedback
    We thank God for Mark and Sherylee for LST Ministry.The team has been of great help to us both spiritually and culturally.
    John Chege
    Ujamaa Church of Christ
    Mombasa, Kenya
    August, 28 2011

    I just want to thank God for what Mr and Mrs Mark wood Sherylee doing in the Ministry of LSTs.THROUGH THIS MINISTRY GOD CAN TOUCH NON BELIEVERS TO COME TO GOD.THEY HAVE VISIT US HERE IN MOMBASA SOWETO CHURCH.PAUL
    Paul Odhiambo Ochieng
    Soweto Church Of christ
    Mombasa, oklahoma
    August, 26 2009

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