Several days before General Conference 2015 officially began, 300 people met for training in Orlando and then traveled to serve God and others in central Florida, Miami, Costa Rica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
GC15 mission teams included Free Methodists from 17 annual conferences and more than 60 congregations. Coordinator Doug Ranck said half of the participants had never previously participated on a mission trip, and one-third of the mission team members were age 18 or younger.
“I want to say thank you for your support and the ways that you’ve prayed for us and you’ve funded the different teams … and just the support of Free Methodist Church – USA to take on such an endeavor,” Ranck said during the final GC15 worship service on July 16, one day after the teams returned from their trips. “We went to be a blessing, and we were blessed in the process.”
Lathan Alger of Pendleton, Oregon, shared at the service how his participation on the Miami mission team reflected a family member’s vision.
“When I was born, my mom received a dream from God. That dream was I was going to be up in front of a church congregation preaching,” said Alger. He added that he had resisted that dream throughout his life, but “God has a way of being patient and persistent.”
Alger also described “a love that overcame our entire group” after the team arrived in Miami. During a team dinner, he received notes of encouragement from other team members.
“Every single one of them said, ‘You need to minister to people. You need to spread that love,’” Alger said, “and I’ve just accepted that calling. I have declared that I will be a disciple for Jesus.”
Nurse practitioner Diane DeStefano of Mount Carmel, Illinois, shared how an interpreter for the Haiti medical mission team introduced her to a young man experiencing headaches and blurred vision. The man could not read any of the letters on a vision test.
“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Lord, how am I going to help this man?’ I’m not an optometrist,” recalled DeStefano, who sensed God telling her to go to her room and get eyeglasses from her medical supplies.
“I put them on his face, and I said, ‘Let’s check your vision again,’ and praise God. He had 20/40 vision,” said DeStefano, who viewed the experience as a fulfillment of Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
During their July 9 training, the teams learned about leadership, discipleship and evangelism from Free Methodist leaders. Speakers reminded the team members that their trips have a greater purpose than personal satisfaction.
“This trip is bigger than yourself, and you need to keep in mind you’re part of a team,” Free Methodist World Missions Resource Team Leader Deb Miller said.
FMCUSA Chief Operating Officer Larry Roberts urged each mission team member to set a realistic goal, such as: “My goal is to share the Lord Jesus with one person a day.”
The mission trip team leaders included Clay Utley, Costa Rica; Pat McClanahan, Dominican Republic; Randy Bennett, Haiti; Bob Cannon, central Florida; and Ranck, Miami.