what's the "e" for?
Fifteen Years of High School Missions
by Doug Little
To find out more about Free Will Baptist International Missions, visit www.fwbgo.com.
JUNE 2006 MARKS THE FIFTEEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the E-TEAM program operated by Free Will Baptist International Missions. This year, 86 high school students have been assigned to nine teams for a two-week mission experience on North American and international mission fields. Add college interns and adult sponsors, and the total of 2006 participants jumps to 112.
The first team journeyed to Brazil in 1992, led by Ken and Marvis Eagleton. Over 15 years, 414 high school students have been assigned to 57 teams that traveled to 16 different destinations. Including the interns and sponsors, there are now 540 E-TEAM alumni.
E is for Eagleton
When he and his wife Marvis completed their service in Brazil, missionary Ken Eagleton was passionate about exposing the rising generation to the need for missionary laborers for Free Will Baptists. As part of the home office team, Ken envisioned the impact a visit to the mission field would have on high school students. He decided to put his idea to the test and recruited a team of eight high students to go to Brazil. The idea was given a name: TEAM—Teens Equipped and Active in Missions.
The Eagletons’ son Terry became involved in the TEAM program. His passion for the Lord, missions, and for mobilizing students added tremendous value to the program in its early years.
In 1992, short-term missions trips for students was a relatively new concept. Ken and Marvis were trailblazers, mobilizing our denomination for student missions service. In their honor, the TEAM program was renamed E-TEAM in 2001, following Ken’s homegoing. The E in E-TEAM stands for Eagleton.
E is for Excitement
But in spirit, the E stands for other qualities that have come to characterize the E-TEAM program over these 15 years. For students, interns, and adult sponsors, an E-TEAM assignment is an adventure. The format now includes two weeks at their destination, preceded by a week of pre-field training in Nashville.
The excitement is contagious as the teams gather, excitement builds as they prepare for their field, and excitement continues as they make friendships that may last a lifetime. Sending an E-TEAMer is exciting. Families, home churches, and friends get involved in raising funds, praying, encouraging, and supporting their students before, during, and after their trip.
Excitement is found at the destination sites, too. Missionaries and host churches prepare for housing, transportation, and other needs for the team. They look forward to meeting these students and the leaders who are coming to learn, encourage, and serve alongside them. So E is also for excitement.
E is for Evangelism
E stands for evangelism as well. In spite of language and cultural barriers, E-TEAMs participate in the evangelistic efforts of the missionaries and host churches. Each team, using their talents and experience, prepares a program to present in churches, community parks, and even on the street. Pantomime skits are often used to attract a crowd, communicate the gospel, and set the stage for the missionary, pastor, and local believers to speak with people about the Lord.
One of this year’s E-TEAM college interns came to Christ while an E-TEAM was ministering in the urban mission church he attended. Not only was he saved, he Is now a student at FWB Bible College. E is for evangelism.
E is for Expansion
As a church-planting mission, the priority of recruitment for FWBIM is prospective career missionaries. The strongest candidates for career service are those who commit themselves at a young age to prepare for the field. Mobilizing prospective missionary candidates requires an effective strategy to challenge our youth as early as possible to consider God’s call. The E-TEAM program has become the core of the student missions program of Free Will Baptist International Missions. Additionally, the connection between E-TEAM alumni and enrollment in our Free Will Baptist colleges is significant.
Since the first team in 1992, expansion describes the E-TEAM program. Between 1993 and 1999 the number of destinations receiving E-TEAMs expanded to nine. As the initiative of FWBIM for denominational mobilization unveiled in 2000, the expansion of the student missions program began in earnest under the direction of Matt Markins. Under his leadership, a system was put in place to multiply the number of students who could be E?]TEAMers. In 2001, four teams were sent. In 2002, there were six.
Former missionary Eddie Payne became director of the newly created department of mobilization and recruitment in 2000. Eddie’s visionary leadership, experience as a missionary, and ability to connect with students created an environment in which the E-TEAM program could flourish. And it did.
Angela Emerick followed Matt Markins as student missions director. Angela continued to implement the system Matt had put in place, and in 2003 and 2004 the number of E-TEAMs were nine and seven, respectively. When Angela resigned to apply for appointment to missionary service, Alicia Bunch filled the role. Alicia directed the sending of seven teams in 2005 and nine teams this year.
As destinations are available to receive teams, FWBIM plans to promote the growth of E-TEAM during the next five years to 15 teams each summer. The urgent need to mobilize young people for missionary service makes this a priority of our mobilization strategy. E truly is for expansion.
E is for Effectiveness
Is the E-TEAM program accomplishing its purpose? Yes. Currently, we have two career and four short-term missionaries on the field whose first overseas experience came as E-TEAM members. Others have served a short-term overseas assignment and are currently involved in ministry stateside. Some serve with other mission agencies.
At least 15 E-TEAM alumni have indicated that they intend to apply for career missionary service with FWBIM when their education and preparation process is completed. In addition to students, the E-TEAM program has prompted several college interns and adult sponsors of teams to prepare for missionary service.
The impact of E-TEAM will not be fully revealed until the Great Commission is fulfilled and every tribe and every nation gather at the Father’s throne. Perhaps not every member of E-TEAM has demonstrated a life change as a result of his missions experience, but there can be no doubt that most have.
E is for effectiveness.
We rejoice as we mark this milestone for the E-TEAM program. We gratefully acknowledge the staff, volunteers, pastors, churches, families, and friends who have made the program possible for the students. We thank the Lord for the students who comprise the E-TEAM alumni roster.
The E is for Eagleton, excitement, evangelism, expansion, and effectiveness.
Doug Little pastored for 18 years before joining the International Missions staff. As director of mobilization, he develops a worldwide vision for evangelism in churches and mentors potential missionaries.