Members of First Baptist Church Florence have been engaged in missions endeavors throughout their community and state for several years. But 2022 marked at least 10 years since a group from the church traveled beyond state borders.
In February the idea for a missions trip to Alaska came through Andy Thompson, a University of North Alabama student involved with Baptist Campus Ministries who attends FBC Florence. He shared with Scott Underwood, associate pastor of worship and students, that he would be a summer missionary at Montana Creek Baptist Church, located three hours north of Anchorage.
Alaska Baptists have another connection with UNA and its BCM. Jae McKee, director of missions and church planting for the Alaska Baptist Resource Network, is a UNA graduate, where he was involved in BCM. (Read more here.)
Eddy Garner, associational missions strategist for Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association where FBC is a member, was BCM minister at UNA while McKee was a student. Garner is working with pastors in the association and in Alaska on partnership opportunities.
Underwood and Kevin Johnson, pastor of FBC Florence, began to pray and talk about making Alaska a church missions trip destination. Underwood contacted Rendell Day, pastor of MCBC, and the two selected July 8–16 for the trip to Talkeetna.
From the initial planning, Underwood had two goals for the 12-member Alabama team: to gain a glimpse of what lies beyond their backyard (a tangible experience of the Great Commission) and to become more aware of their spiritual gifts and talents as they served.
Timetable of connections
Upon their arrival the team met with Day, who laid out the week’s activities.
Starting off the week was worship with members of MCBC. After the service the church family and missions team connected over a meal and time of fellowship.
Monday they worked at the Upper Susitna Food Pantry. They removed everything from three shipping containers, took inventory and organized the items. LouAnne Carroll-Tysdall, food pantry director, told Underwood she had not had a more willing and loving group serve.
The group also served local residents and church members. Working in groups, the team cut down and cleared trees, raked leaves, painted and completed other tasks.
Some worked at the home of Shirley, a senior adult who has been a member of MCBC for years and formerly was director of the food pantry.
The team worked together at Ms. Shirley’s, creating a French drain and putting down pavers for a walkway. They cleaned up the yard and helped improve accessibility for her.
The mostly young adult team members benefited in numerous ways from the trip, Underwood said. Not only did they have several opportunities to share the gospel, they made connections with each other and those they helped.
“Serving in ministry, one of the great joys is always seeing when those you are leading have their ‘aha’ moments — the times when their faith connects to their service, and they see God at work around them, through them and in them,” he said. “Seeing this team make that connection was just an amazing moment for me; knowing that what happened in each team member’s life can have a ripple effect that can spill over into every aspect of life, whether at home, school or work, to give them the encouragement to live a life ‘on mission’ daily.”
The church is praying about a partnership with MCBC and planning a return trip. Some members from MCBC hope to participate in a Florence missions trip too.
Alabama Baptists entered a five-year partnership with Alaska Baptists last May. Churches or individuals interested in learning more about the partnership can contact Scotty Goldman, director of the office of global missions for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions at email@example.com or 800-264-1225, ext. 2387.
McKee will attend the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting Nov. 15–16 at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills, where he will be available for conversations about the partnership, the need for “frontier pastors” and other missions needs.