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Faith in Action: Summer Missions with Mr. Swanson

March 20, 2024
By Matt Swanson, Upper School Theology Teacher

My passion and calling in life is to make disciples of Jesus, and part of how God has led me to do that is through leading mission trips with Royal Servants Mission Trips during my summers away from teaching Bible at Rockbridge Academy. Royal Servants is a division of Reign Ministries, an organization that exists to build and advance the kingdom of God by developing youth and youth leaders who have great commandment hearts and live great commission lifestyles. 

My first summer with Royal Servants was as a 17-year-old student. I loved the community of a Royal Servants team. It was a powerful experience to be a part of a team of my peers who were all focused on a unified mission for Christ as they worshiped and sought the LORD together in the Scriptures. Sharing the gospel was a really stretching experience for me, especially cross culturally. I loved every minute. I returned for a second and third year as a student and received leadership training and the opportunity to study the Bible in Israel. After I started teaching in 2008, it was a no-brainer to return to serve with Royal Servants during the summers and help provide that same discipleship experience for the next generation of students. 

We believe that this sort of training and mission experience can be an integral part of growing young people into what David Kinnaman calls “resilient Christians” who are able to sustain and live out their Christian faith in a post-Christian culture.

A Royal Servants Trip is different from many other mission trips. They are between 5 and 8 weeks long and start with intensive training at our camp prior to going overseas. As a part of the trip, there is an intensive discipleship training program that each middle school, high school, and college student goes through. We study and memorize the Scriptures together, talk about the Word in small groups, worship, and learn how to effectively share the Gospel in a cross-cultural setting. Our trips are not meant to be an end in and of themselves but are field experience and a part of the training to go, live out, and share the Gospel at home. It is a summer of service for a lifetime of ministry. 

We send teams all over the world each summer. Last summer (2023), my wife Stacey and I, along with our three children, led a trip to Costa Rica where Royal Servants has been partnering with a church for 20 years. Our ministry is focused on connecting our students with other teenagers and giving them the opportunity to share the Gospel. Most days we traveled to a nearby town and set up at the local soccer field. We would play pickup games of soccer along with other games and activities. We also used dance, drama, and puppets (for little kids) to build a crowd and share the Gospel. Members of the youth group from our church partner joined us as interpreters since most of our students did not speak much Spanish. On our last day of ministry, we had been invited to the local elementary school to serve in the classrooms during the morning. During recess, we played and shared the Gospel. After lunch, Pastor Alfonso, the Costa Rican pastor with whom we partner, had the chance to do a special assembly with 5th and 6th grade students. During that time, 15 students prayed to put their faith in Christ. It was an awesome way to end our ministry in Costa Rica. 

We continue to find that spending five weeks away from the routines and distractions at home and moving into an intentional community focused on seeking and serving Jesus continues to be a profound and life changing experience for many students.

We continue to find that spending five weeks away from the routines and distractions at home and moving into an intentional community focused on seeking and serving Jesus continues to be a profound and life-changing experience for many students. We believe that this sort of training and mission experience can be an integral part of growing young people into what David Kinnaman calls “resilient Christians” who are able to sustain and live out their Christian faith in a post-Christian culture. We had one Rockbridge student join us last summer. We plan to continue to serve in Costa Rica this summer (2024) and, LORD willing, for years to come. We would love to have more Rockbridge students join us in serving Christ around the world this summer. Would you or your student be willing to join us in a life-changing summer of seeking Jesus together?

Please contact me at mswanson@rockbridge.org for more information. 

CLICK HERE to read the final update from our summer 2023 trip. 

 

Matt Swanson, a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has served as an upper school Bible teacher for 16 years and has been leading Royal Servants Missions Trips for 14 years. He joined Rockbridge Academy in 2022. Matt and his wife, Stacey, have three children.

Posted in Upper School

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands: Rockbridge Academy Student Summer Missions

September 08, 2022
By Olivia Reardon, Class of 2022

Here at Rockbridge Academy, we highly value service towards others as every human is made in the image of God and loved and valued by Him. As a result, Rockbridge students are continually immersed in service activities, and the summer is no exception. Our students served kids in VBS (vacation Bible school), ran Christian summer camps, helped at medical clinics in Guatemala, taught English in Mexico, and everything in between. From local churches to out-of-state camps to overseas missions, our students have been busy serving God’s people. Here are what a few students have to say about their experience.  

Sarah Daly, Class of 2021, served as a camp counselor at Summer’s Best Two Weeks in Pennsylvania. She said, “Working at camp has taught me a lot about how God works despite and even through my weakness. I’ve been confronted with my inability to change campers' hearts and I’ve been forced to trust that He is working while the campers are here and after they leave. It’s hard to spend two weeks loving and ministering to campers and then send them back to sometimes very spiritually dry homes, but I’ve been forced to trust God to bear fruit in their lives. He is faithful and good.”

Working out of state has allowed Sarah to interact with people she doesn’t normally. Sarah said, “I’ve been really encouraged to work with a staff of around 100 college students who come from many different backgrounds but all are united by their love for the Lord. Hearing everyone’s unique testimony had reminded me that God is continually preparing a people for Himself.”

Bailey Lamar, Class of 2024, traveled to a school in Mexico to assist with VBS and English training for high school students. He said, “My missions work showed me how important prayer is for a community. We were teaching English at a school in Mexico and got a chance to hear how the school was founded. A missionary went all around Mexico looking for land to start a Christian school. He found the land he knew would be perfect, and began asking the owner to sell it to him. The owner told him no. For a year he asked, and the owner refused each time. Finally he prayed, telling God that he would ask one last time and praying that this time the owner would say yes. He did. Hearing this story amazed me, because I saw God can use one man's prayers to bring many to Christ.

Being in a different country, Bailey was immersed in a different culture where he met people different from himself. He said, “Working with other teenagers in Mexico really showed me how Christians can be hospitable; they were the nicest people I have ever met. They would always ask us questions and be interested in what we said, and they would always joyfully include us even if it meant they had to speak their second language or carry us in their soccer games. Their hospitality is something I hope all Christians can imitate.”

This past summer after her 11th grade year, Eden Logan, had the opportunity to go to Uganda and lead a children's Bible study camp, help with home visits, and generally spread God's gospel and love. She said, “I have never been more heartbroken and joyful than when in Uganda. I witnessed a ministry that takes despairing, diseased kids and gives them hope and life–both physically and through Christ. The joy I saw there, despite such poverty, inspired me more than ever to work overseas as a medical missionary, and I pray that God will lead me back there!”

Eden also was presented with the opportunity to meet and learn from people very different from her. She said, “I saw a farmer, so poor his house was literally crumbling, worshiping God from the depths of his soul. I realized, even though I could barely understand his words, the Holy Spirit had connected us in our love for the Lord. God’s people are more united than I had ever realized, even across boundaries of language, oceans, and culture.”

God’s people are everywhere, which means you can serve wherever you are. These students have blessed people around the world, some just walking out the front door while others stepping onto an airplane. No matter how different a culture or a people may seem, we all have at least one thing in common: we are all made in the image of God. And, between Christians, there is an unmistakable bond that transcends language and culture. We all serve the same living God and one day we will stand before Him as one people proclaiming His name with one voice. I am thankful for all that our community does to serve and I hope the examples of these students can remind us that all kinds of service is needed and every action done to further God’s kingdom is infinitely valuable.

 

Posted in School Culture

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