Deep Impact students serve the nations in Charlotteby C. Walter Overman
As Erin Jenkins went door-to-door at a number of apartment complexes near downtown Charlotte interviewing foreign refugees, she gained a deeper appreciation for the little things in life.
“It’s a different experience because the people who live here don’t have much,” she said. “They have little furniture and decorations. It’s not like what we are used to at home.”
Jenkins, a rising high school sophomore from Bryson City, participated in Deep Impact Charlotte the week of July 14-19. Deep Impact is a weeklong mission camp for middle and high school students sponsored by NC Baptist Men.
Jenkins was on a team comprised of youth and adult leaders who conducted surveys of foreign refugees living in apartment complexes throughout Charlotte. During their first two days in the field, they interviewed people from 15 different nationalities, including people from Africa, Burma, Cuba, Nepal and Vietnam among others.
Most of the refugees have few belongings, speak little English and have minimal job skills.
“It’s been a new experience. I never realized that so many people live here who don’t even speak English,” Jenkins said.
Robyn Duncan, an adult youth leader from First Baptist Church Bryson City, said many of the youth participating in the surveys were apprehensive about going door-to-door in the inner-city apartments.
“My 11-year-old daughter was scared at first, but that all changed once she began serving,” Duncan said. “She has been able to see that we are all alike, we’re all the same and that we all need to be loved.”
Duncan said the people they met were loving and welcoming and that some indicated they were happy just to meet new people. She said the experience was “eye-opening” for her and the students.
“It is like God is bringing the world to us,” she said. “They still have family in their home countries and if Jesus can become Lord of their lives and we can disciple them and then they reach their families, we can make a big difference.”
Making disciples is the ultimate goal of the survey project.
The survey teams were assisting the Metrolina Baptist Association’s (MBA) efforts to identify the various people groups living in Charlotte. The six-question survey is designed to discover ethnic and religious backgrounds plus any physical and spiritual needs people may have.
“Our ultimate goal is to gain as much information about the different people groups as possible and then approach local churches about reaching out to them,” said Matt Lee, a people group intern at MBA.
Lee has lived his entire life in Charlotte, yet he was also unaware of the number of people groups living in Charlotte until he began working with MBA two years ago.
He said the Deep Impact teams are laying an important foundation for future efforts to reach the refugees with the gospel.
“The Deep Impact teams are only here for one week but their work is important,” he said. “Churches will utilize the information they collect to connect with these people.”
Nearly 2,000 students attend Deep Impact weeks at numerous locations each year. This year, students will participate in Deep Impact at 11 locations statewide, plus New York City, Cuba and Honduras. The camp allows students to participate in a number of mission projects such as construction, Vacation Bible School (VBS), prayer walking, senior adult ministry, community outreach projects and more.
The weeks are pre-packaged, meaning that all of the planning and coordinating for the mission projects are provided and finalized before youth groups arrive at camp.
“These are nice ways to get youth groups and churches involved in missions where they don’t have to do all the legwork upfront,” said Dollie Noa, onsite coordinator for Deep Impact Charlotte. “This way, youth leaders and groups are able to spend more time in the field.”
In addition to the survey project, students attending Deep Impact Charlotte participated in construction and landscaping projects, conducted a VBS and a sports camp and served in a number of community projects.
Altogether 120 youth and their adult leaders representing seven churches attended the camp.
Noa said the camp impacts her each year as she sees the impact that missions have on the youth who serve.
“Something like this can be life changing for youth as they see the importance of missions,” she said. “I love seeing the change in their lives and it makes a difference in my life.”
This year’s camp had an impact on 15-year-old Erin Jenkins, too.
“I was very nervous at first, but now I love going and knocking on people’s doors and seeing the smiles on their faces,” Jenkins said. “It’s been an amazing experience.”
For more information about Deep impact, visit www.baptistsonmission.org.
The surveys conducted in Charlotte are also part of a larger effort (North Carolina People Group Identification or NCPGI) to identify ethnic/language groups of people living in North Carolina who are unreached and unengaged, meaning no church planting ministry has been started for them. NCPGI is an integral part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s strategy to impact lostness through disciple-making. More information about the strategy and NCPGI is available here and here.