Designed to “bridge the gap between those currently giving their lives to mission work and those who aspire to work alongside them,” BC’s Missionary-in-Residence (MIR) Program provides a much-needed, well-deserved furlough for missionaries from the International Mission Board (IMB). In fact, this spring IMB career missionaries Kent and Debbie Staton are taking a sabbatical from their five-year stint in Mauritius, an island off the coast of South Africa in the Indian Ocean, to rest and to be rejuvenated on the Bluefield College campus.
But, the MIR Program does more than provide furlough facilities for missionaries. It brings the mission field to the BC campus and as a result increases the understanding among the campus community of the need to be involved in mission work.
“Our primary motive is to bring awareness and to motivate the students to be more involved in missions,” said Kent, a native of Oklahoma who fell in love with mission work as a young boy at a church his father planted in Rochester, New York, “and for us to learn from them more about the young adult American culture.”
Through a class in international missions, Kent, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Oklahoma, is teaching students what it means to be a career missionary, how to plant churches in multi-national, interdenominational settings, and how to organize and lead evangelistic social reform projects.
“The kids here are awesome,” said Kent, who has also served as an associate pastor in Oregon, a youth minister in California and London, and a math teacher in Hawaii. “They are very engaged in class, very open, friendly, and supportive. We really like college-aged kids, and so we’re really enjoying being with them.”
In less formal settings — like the students’ weekly worship and devotion sessions or during the school’s weekly chapel service — both Kent and Debbie are sharing their testimonies and stories about life on the mission field. During one-on-one times with students, they’re putting to good use their skills in relational counseling and crisis management.
“I love this age group,” said Debbie, a native of Hawaii, “and trying to communicate with them and learn from them, and maybe even be a mentor for them. I enjoy the one-on-one time, and in some ways it’s like being a substitute mom.”
Kent, who gave his heart to God at age 10 and his life to the Lord for vocational ministry at the age of 17, added that serving as a missionary in an underprivileged society teaches humility. That message he said he hopes to pass on to BC students. When food, shelter and other necessities are hard to come by, he explained, you learn the valuable lesson of being totally reliant on God, which all Christians, he added, could benefit from.
“Kent and Debbie are able to bring their mission experiences to every aspect of our campus life so that students don’t have to travel abroad to learn about mission work,” said BC campus minister David Taylor. “Their sharing also helps our students realize how fortunate and how blessed they are, compared to other parts of the world.”
And, the influence isn’t limited to just the BC campus. Both Kent and Debbie, in Bluefield January through April, are reaching out to Virginia Baptist churches and the Greater Bluefield community with their message about missions by speaking to congregations and witnessing to regional Baptist associations.
“We’re really enjoying our stay here,” said Kent. “They’re treating us like royalty, and we’re getting as much out of this as the students are.”