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Villages 'not on the map' focus of students' mission trip
March 10, 2003
By Michael Foust

The students hiked through rain, fog and snow in this Asian country and in the end found only one unmapped location -- a small village with a handful of families.

The old joke about the small town that's "not on the map" took on new meaning for three Southern Baptist Theological Seminary students in January.

Knowing little of the language and even less about the region, they spent two weeks exploring an Asian country*, specifically looking for villages that were not on any map. The goal was simple: make certain that International Mission Board personnel know the location of every family in the region.

The students hiked through rain, fog and snow, and in the end found only one unmapped location -- a small village with a handful of families. It wasn't much of a find in the world's eyes, but in the spiritual realm, it was a goldmine, for each of those persons needs to hear the Gospel.

The trip served as a sampling of ministry possibilities for the students, all of who are considering full-time missionary service.

"I hope to go back," said one of the students, Darryl Borden. "I feel a strong call to both -- both the foreign field and here at home."

The students toted backpacks weighing some 40 pounds over hills and mountains, going wherever the Spirit led. At each village, they plotted its coordinates with a hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system so that future missionaries could find its location. They also took a photo of the village's entrance and exit.

They had tents, but used them only once. At nearly every stop, someone took them in, providing meals and a place to sleep. The men had carried little food -- only a handful of "energy" bars.

"We were depending on the Lord for that -- for [lodging] and meals," said another student, Chris Madison. "... The Lord just kept providing."

As the men discovered, searching for unmapped locations isn't easy. They would often come to a fork in the road, not knowing which trail to take.

"We had no idea which one went to a village and which one went to a rice paddy," Madison said.

One morning they woke up and discovered some eight inches of snow on the ground. They were dreading the hike in the wintry mix, but soon learned that it could be beneficial.

"It was sent by the Lord," Madison said. "Because with snow, you can see your tracks. We were able to look at the snow and say, 'Hey, there are a lot of tracks here, so there's probably something down there.' It actually served as a guide."

While they were searching, they were also praying for wisdom and safety. Those prayers were answered at one location when the men -- looking for water -- went unnoticed by government officials.

"I walked into this one store and I started looking around," Madison said. "I looked up and there were four officials sitting there playing a game. I backed out as nonchalantly as possible. We had the energy all of sudden to get up and leave."

While the people of the village saw the men, the government officials -- who would have kicked them out -- didn't.

"They never saw us," Madison said.

All three men are prayerfully considering full-time service on the mission field. For them, the trip simply gave them a deeper burden for the lost.

"It's a definite change," Borden said.

*Because of security risks, the names of the trip's location and participants have been changed.

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