I can’t think of anybody who took me very seriously.
When I told people I was heading to Hawaii on a mission trip, the first response I got was a laugh and a, “Yeah, right. Suffering for Jesus in Hawaii.”
“No, no,” I’d respond. “Hawaii is not what you think. There is a lot of need.”
At the time, I didn’t really understand what I was talking about. I was just spouting stats and anecdotes that I’d gathered doing pre-trip research in preparation for articles I’d be writing in support of the Tennessee Baptist Convention-Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention partnership. TBC messengers approved that opportunity at last year’s Summit.
My response to the ribbings was a bit defensive at the time, feeling I had to justify going to Hawaii with a group of TBC pastors who were on a vision trip to better understand if Hawaii might be a place their churches could plug into a missions opportunity.
But now I’ve been and I’m no longer defensive. I’m going on the offensive. I’m packing first-hand facts.
No doubt, Hawaii is a beautiful place with beautiful people and those who call it paradise aren’t wrong (See “Hawaii: Land of (Gospel) Opportunity”). It would be impossible to have less than a perfect sunrise or sunset in Hawaii, and I could sit for hours and watch wave after wave roll in from the horizon and lap at white sand beaches.
But Hawaii is more than copy and photos on a travel agency’s website. I had the opportunity to travel and work in 37 countries during my time as an overseas correspondent with the International Mission Board. I’ve seen great spiritual and physical needs deep in Peru’s jungles to unbelievably remote villages in China’s Himalayan mountains. The people of Hawaii are no less spiritually lost than those living in the uttermost parts of the earth.
People everywhere need Jesus, and that is certainly true for Hawaii. Many tend to believe what they want to believe about a place and see what they want to see. However, if we look at the world through the eyes of Christ, it is impossible to not see desperation. Obviously, one doesn’t have to go to Hawaii to see that. With poverty, drug addiction, low literacy rates, teen pregnancies and nearly four million people in our state who have no relationship with Jesus Christ, one can stay in Tennessee and experience the desperation. But Jesus calls us to stay and go to the world around us.
And that’s why we as Tennessee Baptists need to go to Hawaii. The Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC) covers a massive geographic area, well beyond the islands all the way to New Zealand, up to Japan and back down to Hawaii. Hawaii may be a U.S. state, but the culture is extremely diverse, and with the diversity of people comes the diversity of world religions. Baptist churches are relatively few in number and could use some help. Hawaii is genuinely a place where the fields are white, and the workers are few.
The beauty of a partnership is mutual effort. HPBC churches are not looking for handouts from TBC churches. They are looking for an opportunity to send their people on mission too. Why not Tennessee? As Randy Davis, our TBMB executive director often says, “Any way you slice it Tennessee is a mission field.” Is it possible that your church could be a church that partners with Hawaiian Baptists for the purpose of helping them reach their state and they then come here to help you reach yours?
You should seriously consider it, and a place to start is by contacting the TBMB’s partnership missions team and talk with Scott Shepherd or Heather Beard.
And when you call to talk about missions in Hawaii, don’t worry, they’ll take you seriously. B&R For more on the Tennessee-Hawaii Pacific partnership, see related stories HERE and HERE.