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Students explore ministry call through KALEO

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

MEANINGFUL. Amazing. Invaluable. 

These are just some of the words students used to describe their summers as part of Student Summer Missions/Kaleo Arkansas Summer Ministry Associates (SSM/KASMA).

Twenty-four young people, ranging in age from 17 to 24, spent their summer serving in Arkansas Baptist churches and associations through SSM/KASMA, which was established with the goal of helping students explore their calls to ministry leadership.

“Kicking off with an orientation and tour of the ABSC (Arkansas Baptist State Convention), students ages 17-24 serve for 10 weeks, with church leaders committed and trained to serve as mentors/coaches, in positions of leadership development and ministry exploration,” said Susie Thompson, Kaleo Arkansas consultant with the ABSC.

“God continues to amaze us at how He places the right students with the right leaders in the right churches – eternally impacting the lives of all involved and most of all His kingdom,” she said.

SSM/KASMA, which is supported by the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering, began in 2011 as a partnership between Student Summer Missions and Kaleo Arkansas. Since then, 47 different students have served in 30 different churches or associations. Fourteen of those students continue to serve in church ministry staff positions, and 21 have had their calls to ministry confirmed and are taking the next step to prepare for those calls.

Merrill“If it is even possible to just say one thing I took away from this summer, I would have to say that my call to ministry was definitely defined and molded throughout this summer,” said Kristin Rhodes, an Arkansas Tech University student who served at First Baptist Church, England, as children’s minister, working with children ranging from preschool through sixth grade. 

“This was my second year to serve this church, and I knew that, when I served last summer, I was called to ministry, but who knew that I would be called to a specific ministry – children’s ministry,” Rhodes said.

“This summer I learned the power of divine appointments and the importance of being sensitive to them,” said Baylor “Clark” Whitney, a Ouachita Baptist University student who served at First Baptist Church, Searcy, as the pastoral ministry intern. He added that one thing he took away from the summer was that “no amount of human preparation or wisdom can match the moving of the Holy Spirit.”

“My call to ministry was solidified. I can now see myself doing nothing else,” Whitney said. “I learned that ministry is futile without a constant reliance on the person of Jesus.”

Emily Friederich, a student at Williams Baptist College, served at Barcelona Road Baptist Church, Hot Springs Village, in the area of children’s and youth ministry. She said one thing she took away from the summer was “how passionate I am toward mentoring and having youth connect with members of the church.”

During the summer, participants were paired with a mentor/coach who discipled them in their journeys. 

Daniel Merrill, a student at the University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, served at Temple Baptist Church in Fort Smith, primarily in the capacity of youth minister, with Pastor David Moon as his mentor.

“He taught me a lot of things – how to be more detailed and organized about things that as a single guy usually isn’t my top priority. So it was most helpful for my future,” Merrill said. “It made me see a lot of things I need to work on not just as a future pastor, but as a man as well.”

“Kaleo Arkansas is so wonderful,” Merrill said. “We need more older men to come and equip and invest and pour themselves out to younger men who aspire to shepherd a people.”

Jantzen Lester, a student at The College at Southwestern, served as an intern at Bluff Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith, and he said his mentors helped him “see things I needed to improve on, and encouraged me in areas I’m doing well in.”

“It gave me confidence in the future,” he said.

Rhodes spoke of how her mentor – Pastor Robby Sherman of First Baptist Church, England – assisted her.

Lester“He knew I could do it before I knew I could do it. Because of his faith in me and his sure faith in Christ, I was able to grow in areas I was weak in last summer,” she said. “He changed the way I saw myself and how I came upon a task. I am a stronger person because of how he encouraged me when I least expected it.”

But the blessings run both ways, and Jay Shell, church leader at West Baptist Church, Batesville, can testify to the impact a student can have on a church. He was mentor to Mike Dixon, a Williams Baptist College student who served as an intern at the church.

He shared how Dixon led a young man to Christ early in the summer and began to disciple him. That young man, in turn, led someone to Christ on a mission trip. And when a youth group member rededicated his life to Christ later in the summer, Dixon and the young man encouraged him and “set a plan to begin a weekly Bible study to disciple him.”

“This story is meaningful to me because I got to see the Great Commission carried out within our youth ministry. Disciples were born and reproduced. That is what it’s all about,” Shell said.

He said Dixon was the church’s only “staff” person during the summer and “he brought unity and restored relationships in our youth group at a time when we really needed it.”

Friederich“Not only did the summer benefit the participants and mentors, but also it impacted the lives of those around them. Throughout the summer, the gospel was presented more than 300 times, more than 160 people made decisions for Christ and about 40 people rededicated their lives to Christ.

“Because we are increasing our focus on the call to ministry through a network of life-on-life relationships, more people now know Jesus, churches are being strengthened, leaders are being impacted and students have a new understanding of God’s call – and of who we are as Southern Baptists. They continue to be amazed at, and want to serve within, our cooperative efforts of reaching the world for Jesus,” said Thompson.

“SSM/KASMA continues to grow each year,” said Breck Freeman, SSM/KASMA mission strategist and ABSC missions ministries team member. “God is raising up students, churches and mentors to grow high school and college students in the calling that God has placed upon their life.  This is one of the many ways that your ABSC can partner with you and your church see kingdom impact from the doorsteps of your church to the ends of the earth.”

For more information on SSM/KASMA, email Thompson at kaleo@absc.org or Freeman at bfreeman@absc.org.

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