By Debbie Adams
A mission team from Vinton Baptist Church has once again traveled to India to fulfill the mission presented in Romans 10:14-15: “How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
Members of the 2020 team include Senior Pastor Rev. Travis Russell, Associate Senior Pastor for Worship Dr. Chris Monroe and his wife Mary Beth, Connie Agee, Dock Epperly and Austin Nicely.
The church became involved in India missions in 1988 when Dr. Bill Ross came to Vinton Baptist as pastor and has continued ever since. Ross had been introduced to India by Dr. Ray Allen, pastor of Blacksburg Baptist, where Ross also served at the time.
Ross was invited by Dr. Kunjumon Chacko to bring people from the United States to teach pastors in India and to help establish churches there.
Vinton Baptist has since sponsored numerous trips to India. One of the largest groups went in January of 2000 with 16 people on the team.
“India captured my heart some 25 years ago when I went with former pastor Bill Ross,” said Monroe. “We did clinics for the pastors to come for training. We taught them how to do communion, how to communicate Bible truths through storytelling, and basic health habits. Several hundred people, both pastors and laymen, would show up at each pastor’s school.”
“It became a dream to start a seminary to fully train pastors and teachers to spread the gospel across India,” Monroe continued. “Dr. Kunjumon Chacko owned six acres of land passed down through his family. He grew pineapple, coconuts, rubber trees, black pepper, jack fruit and many other fruits and vegetables. This small farm produced income to support his family. He was willing to give up his family inheritance and income to build a seminary so the gospel could be spread across his country.
“On that trip we broke ground for a seminary,” said Monroe. “Vinton Baptist, Blacksburg Baptist and a few other partners faithfully supported the work both financially and by sending folks there to encourage the work. This dream matured through the years.
“At present, students can earn an accredited master level degree in multiple disciplines,” he explained. “For the first time at this year’s graduation, we will confer Doctor of Ministry degrees to those who have completed the program. God has richly blessed India Baptist Theological Seminary. Vinton Baptist has played a key role in spreading the gospel around the world, as commanded by Jesus.”
As for their specific goals for this trip to India, Monroe said, “We will be leading a day camp for a group of the precious children who were relocated about two hours from the seminary. We will visit with Dr. Chacko, attend church with the seminary students and bring greetings from Vinton Baptist. We will take the full leadership in a three-day conference focused on missions and being prepared for the next steps ahead. We will be speaking and leading in the baccalaureate service and in the 2020 IBTS graduation exercises.
“It will be a whirlwind trip as we have a lot packed into a 10-day trip,” he noted.
The members of the mission team were commissioned during both worship services at Vinton Baptist on February 9.
Their families and several members of the congregation came to see them off on their journey on February 10 after a prayer from Dr. Allen. They took the church bus to Dulles Airport to catch their plane for Abu Dhabi and then on to India– some 22 hours or more of travel time. They will return home on February 21.
“Please remember us as we travel and pray that each person going will adjust quickly to the heat and have a missionary’s stomach,” Monroe asked. “I want to say a special thanks to everyone for such overwhelming support for our India Mission Trip.”
“We covet your prayers for a safe and fruitful trip through the Missions Conference we will be leading at India Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as our work with the children of a local church,” said the Rev. Russell. “Our team is excited about the journey ahead and looks forward to sharing it with you in the days to come.
“As a church, I believe that which God’s love has initiated calls for both a local and global response,” Russell said. “Our mission in India is a part of that global response, and we are currently seeking more concerted ways to respond locally. As Christians, I also believe we are called to respond personally in the day-to-day places we go and things we do. As we all consider God’s selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love for each of us, may we ask ourselves: ‘What is my response to God today?’ Our answer to that question is our highest activity.”