By Brandon Elrod
ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Every summer for the last few years, college students have participated in the GenSend missions experience, being fully immersed in one of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Cities to learn how to live “on mission” every day. But since the COVID-19 crisis is making the usual experience impossible, NAMB is launching a virtual experience for college students and leaders called GenSendNOW.
During a typical summer, GenSend summer missionaries spend up to two months in cities all across North America to live “on mission” in those communities. They learn from missionaries about how to share the gospel and make an impact for the Kingdom. After COVID-19 made that impossible, the North American Mission Board and Send Relief created GenSendNOW, a viritual experience for college students and leaders to learn from and ask questions of NAMB missionaries. NAMB photo.
“With COVID shutting down safe travel, we really got to thinking about how GenSend is a way of thinking not a trip,” said Steve Turner, NAMB’s senior director of next gen mobilization through Send Relief. “The coronavirus shouldn’t really slow us down. GenSend is really made for something like COVID.”
GenSendNOW launches June 1 and lasts through July. The program includes weekly, interactive webinars with mission leaders from across North America, training for how to live on mission and challenges that will help participants engage their own communities. Full access to the live video chats and training material requires participants to register for free at now.gensend.org.
Steve Turner, NAMB’s senior director of next gen mobilization, has led GenSend student missions program for several years and will be facilitating a virtual GenSendNOW experience since COVID-19 restrictions prevent travel for student missionaries. NAMB photo.
“GenSend is your life on mission anywhere and everywhere, whenever you’re there to the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel,” said Turner.
George Ross, NAMB’s Send City Missionary in New Orleans, will be one of the first missionaries to appear on the weekly GenSendNOW webinar.
“We have the first-hand experience of seeing college students moving to New Orleans,” said Ross. “We have seen college students participate in GenSend, come back and become gamechangers in church plants.”
George Ross, New Orleans Send City Missionary with the North American Mission Board, has seen his city reap huge benefits from GenSend student missionaries, especially those who have decided to return and live their lives in New Orleans. Ross will be a part of the new GenSendNOW virtual experience. NAMB photo.
Ross cited Lexie Green, an ICU nurse in the city, who served in New Orleans through GenSend and has been able to share her testimony after contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty. Two missionaries in NAMB’s recently launched Journeyman program also served through GenSend and currently serve in New Orleans as well, Ross said.
“We want college students to be aware that even in the midst of this pandemic, the mission is advancing,” said Ross. “This is an opportunity to make students aware of that and give them an opportunity to respond to it.
“The great news is that, as believers, as Kingdom citizens, we can step in, not only with help, but with the hope of what Jesus means to us and what we believe is the hope that changes a person’s life forever.”
Turner has recently engaged in virtual meetings with collegiate leaders across the nation. Many have been discussing plans for ministry given that the typical summer and fall schedules—such as college campus orientations and “welcome weeks” that take place at the start of the semester—could be radically different.
“GenSendNOW is about helping students navigate their life on mission in their current context while preparing them for going back to school, whatever that will look like,” Turner said.
In a typical summer, GenSend students travel to various cities or regions where they learn missional principles for using their lives to make the gospel known, then return home where they continue to practice what they learned.
The aim of GenSendNOW is to flip that script.
“For those who went to GenSend in the past, we’ve told them not just to use these principles in the cities they serve, but we’ve encouraged them to take them home,” Turner said. “Now, we are asking them to utilize the principles now and think about how they may use them in the city sometime in the future.”
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.