Sonali Albus said that for her, planning to spend the rest of 2023 in Chile was a leap of faith.
“I grew up in church and heard about missions,” she said, and over the years, she went on short-term missions trips.
But as Albus prepared to graduate from the University of Alabama this May, a longer missions stay wasn’t on her radar.
“I thought I was going to grad school,” she said.
As time went on, those plans didn’t work out quite like she thought they would, and she found herself praying through what she might do instead. She started looking at student summer missions, and eventually she felt God leading her to commit not only to spending the summer in Chile but to spending the fall semester there too.
On April 22, she was one of 106 students commissioned at REACH weekend to spend their summer serving in 19 countries and 10 states.
Chris Mills, student missions mobilizer for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said he sensed “an excitement about what they’re expecting the Lord to do in their lives and the lives of those they serve this summer.”
He said it’s a joy to have the time at REACH weekend — held at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega this year — to train and encourage summer missionaries and walk with them through logistics. And the commissioning service at the end of the weekend is “always a highlight,” he said.
“I also was grateful for all the parents who came, and just the sweet spirit they had,” Mills said. “Looking across the room seeing the family members, I couldn’t help but think of the stories we’ve all heard. There are obstacles that keep students from going on mission, and family is often at the top of that list of things that keep them from going.”
He said he was grateful for the influence these parents had on their children’s lives “even in going to the ends of the earth.”
Ben Edfeldt, director of the SBOM office of collegiate and student missions, said he’s “so grateful to be a part of a ministry that moves students to respond to Scripture by mobilizing them to the nations.”
“I’m so excited to see how these Alabama Baptist students change the world, their campus, their jobs and their churches for the sake of the gospel,” he said. “I’m grateful for the campus ministers, college ministers and pastors who invest much into these students. I’m also grateful to have Chris Mills on my team — he is a fantastic mobilizer, and Alabama Baptists are fortunate to have him leading and serving.”
Mills said it’s a privilege for him and others to “engage the campus and ultimately engage the world through the campus.”
In addition to those headed to serve on summer missions, 130 students from 10 campuses also served during spring break in March. Some served alongside a church planter in Cincinnati, some served in mercy ministries in Texas, some did beach evangelism in Baldwin County and others served in New Orleans in partnership with the seminary there.
Edfeldt said they’ve heard “story after story of students out of their comfort zones serving people.”
“They shared the gospel all week long,” he said. “One who went was super nervous, but as he became more acclimated, he became more confident and bold.”
Mills said in Cincinnati, students “got it” as they engaged the community and came back ready to use what they learned on their campuses.
“I think that’s one of the advantages of a spring break opportunity — it provides a learning opportunity to come back to campus and be challenged to apply some of those same things in the most strategic missions field in our state,” he said.
“It’s a lab for students to learn,” he said. Not only do students go and share abroad, they “come home and do [missions] at home,” Edfeldt said. “It’s an opportunity for new believers to go and learn about this call to go, and it’s a chance for our current leaders to practice and share so that when they come back, they’re reaching more people.”
For more information, visit onemissionstudents.org.