Launch pads for future missionaries.
That’s how one missions team from Ohio describes the trail shelters they’ve built at the Nehemiah Teams Training Center in Mentone.
It’s also a great way to describe the work that career International Mission Board (IMB) representative Jess Jennings hopes to see accomplished on the 60-acre property.
“Our vision is to lead students to finish the Great Commission in this generation,” Jennings said.
Jess and his wife, Wendy, both natives of Alabama who have served with the IMB in Southeast Asia for more than 25 years, are especially eager to see Alabama Baptist students involved in missions. They help coordinate summer teams, Nehemiah Teams (NT) that serve internationally and Project 52 (P52) teams that serve in North America, as well as a semester-long gap-year program called Advance Operations Training (AOT).
NT annually trains approximately 180 young adults ages 17 to 29 in outreach and evangelism strategies during a one-week orientation in Alabama at the beginning of summer. Though being a student is not a requirement, most participants are recent high school graduates and college students — a prime age to be involved in missions, Jennings said.
“During their college years, students stand at many crossroads, making decisions that affect the rest of their lives. It is our prayer that through NT students stop long enough to consider God’s call, the needs of the world and their role in the Great Commission. In this way, over many years perhaps a foundation for missions involvement or even a missions movement can be laid,” Jennings said.
After training, NT members head out across the globe to work with IMB missionaries in a variety of settings. Some will teach English, others will be involved in sports ministries and still others will head into remote areas to identify unreached people groups and develop future strategies for missions.
“Each year, there are many opportunities that students choose, meeting their gifts, interests and budget,” Jennings said.
Since NT training began in Alabama in 2010, at least 1,000 students from 33 different states have been trained and sent out to serve. And since its inception in 2004, almost 3,000 young people have served on more than 660 teams sent to multiple unreached people groups in 31 countries through NT.
Some NT students volunteer with P52, choosing assignments in North America instead of abroad, though the work is often similar.
“P52 teams have served in eight urban centers in North America among some of the most unreached people groups in the world. It has been more of a challenge to help students see this harvest field and stay in North America. God has brought the nations to our doorstep. We must welcome them,” Jennings said.
Jennings hopes that in summer 2019, NT training can be held at the Nehemiah Teams Training Center. Since acquiring the property in 2015, missions teams from Catalyst Community Church, Gadsden; First Baptist Church, Fort Payne; Jersey Baptist Church, New Albany, Ohio; and Beulah Baptist Church, Muscadine, have built eight trail shelters designed to house NT trainees. Lea’s Chapel Baptist and Violet Hill Baptist Church, both in Valley Head, and a local Lion’s Club also have helped with construction. Four outhouses also have been completed.
More work is yet to be done, however. Another 15 shelters, two outhouses and several metal buildings intended for use as classroom space are still needed, as is site preparation work that will involve clearing trees and leveling land.
Missions teams are invited to join the work and donations are always welcome, Jennings said.