August 28, 2012
For the past quarter of a decade, David and Tami Wood have lived out their Christian calling on different continents and in different roles. Yet, through the years, at least one constant has remained. A love for Baptist collegiate ministries has always been at the forefront of their lives.
In the summer of 1988, a few months before they were to be married, the two college students took their first steps of faith in what David has described as “the adventure of a lifetime.” David served as a summer missionary in Israel, and Tami, who had never been on an airplane before, served as a summer missionary in Indiana.
Although the two had separate experiences in separate parts of the world, summer missions helped confirm the missionary calling that each had sensed.
As the two finished college, were married and began their careers, as God’s compassionate people, they continued to participate in short-term missions opportunities, serving in both Nicaragua and Jamaica.
In 1994 when they reached the age requirement for career missionary appointment by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, the newlyweds, who “had no confines on where God would send us,” according to David, were commissioned as international missionaries to West Africa. In the ensuing 16 years of international service there, the missionaries intentionally recruited collegiate missionaries to serve alongside them.
They knew how vital their short-term missions experiences had been in helping them understand and live out their call, and they wanted the same for others. Also, college students bring an energy and enthusiasm to the mission field, said Tami.
“Collegiate missions is an integral part of the strategic planning of missionaries both at home and abroad. Students are eager to go where no one has shared the Gospel before. They are quick to build relationships and quick to learn the local language,” she said.
In West Africa, college students laboriously, yet joyfully, helped translate the New Testament into the language of the people, recalled David.
Many college students who served alongside them now are serving on the mission field full-time, said David. Others return home with a greater awareness of the world and its needs and an increased commitment to support Southern Baptist missions efforts prayerfully and financially.
In 2008, the Woods returned to the United States so that Tami could receive medical training, a critical need she encountered on the international mission field. She has completed her physician assistant training and is currently working at a clinic in Williston, Fla., in fulfillment of a requirement for an educational grant she received.
While Tami now tends to the medical needs of a medically under-served community, David tends to the spiritual needs of University of Florida students as he serves alongside Eddie Gilley, Baptist campus minister there.
His role has evolved from that of missionary to mentor as he encourages and trains college students. One of those is Shaun Bossart, who wants to strengthen his leadership skills as he tries to discern God’s call on his life. As Bossart and his mentor have labored side by side to start a BCM group at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, the college junior describes David, as a “resource, a well of information. We have such a cool relationship.”
With his firsthand experience as an international missionary, David also leads students on short-term missions trips in local, domestic and international locations. He has taken students to Peru, Japan and Haiti as well as Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina.
According to Gilley, students gravitate to David when grappling with a call to missions. “He is an invaluable resource for students,” said Gilley.
The campus minister recalls one recent student who sensed a call to missions but met resistance from skeptical family members. The student was counseled by David, participated in a summer missions opportunity and then went on to serve for two years as a Journeyman for the International Mission Board. Those experiences served to confirm the young woman’s call to missions not only for herself but also her family members.
“Collegiate missions is vital to the preparation for future missions; it is vital to bringing the lost to Christ,” said David.
Resources provided by Florida Baptists through the Maguire State Mission Offering are used to provide scholarships for college students to participate in these missions opportunities. This year, Collegiate Ministries will receive close to $15,000 through the Maguire State Mission Offering.
Students who experience missions firsthand, even once, are never the same, agreed the two BCM leaders; these students are transformed into “Great Commission Christians.”