GREENFIELD — Sometime during her junior year at Ball State University, Jen Robbins realized it: Her favorite part of the week was the Bible study she was leading for freshmen women.
Robbins, a 2009 Greenfield-Central graduate, had never contemplated being a minister, so she had never expected ministry to be a career. But she points to that moment as one that began to shift her thinking.
Now she is a staff member with Cru at Ball State University, raising support so she can spend time with students. She works to reach out to those with questions about spirituality, as well as help Christian students grow in their faith, learning how to live it in everyday life and share it with others.
Robbins will meet with junior high and high school students during Youth Missions Night on Sept. 24 at Trinity Park United Methodist Church. It’s part of the church’s annual two-day Mission Celebration that begins Sept. 23 at the church, 207 W. Park Ave., Greenfield.
The annual celebration is a peek into different kinds of outreach happening both around the world and close to home. Organizer Nancy Grimes has said anyone is welcome to come simply to hear these stories and be encouraged.
For Trinity Park members considering their Faith Promise giving commitments for the year ahead, the celebration also informs them about ways their contributions are being used. Faith Promise is an offering beyond regular giving to the local church.
“We give in faith, knowing that the kinds of support we can give to missionaries … will have a tremendous impact,” said the Rev. Larry Van Camp, senior pastor of the church.
Nearly $50,000 is pledged annually at this event, and those funds support more than 60 projects locally and globally. They range from bringing monthly birthday parties to students at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility to supporting New Palestine High School graduate Ashley Malloy’s work as a nurse practitioner in Uganda. The church also joined with Hagerstown United Methodist Church in a March mission work camp to help rebuild Louisiana homes flooded in August 2016.
A recent addition to the list of supported work, Van Camp said, is a Nigerian man who focuses on reconciliation between the Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria.
Van Camp, who came to the church in July after the Rev. Michael Manning’s retirement, is familiar with the concept of Faith Promise giving and has been to similar mission gatherings at other churches he’s served over the past 36 years. He served at Cumberland United Methodist Church in the early 1990s and has also led churches in Clarksville, Bloomington, Rockport and Jasper.
Van Camp has been part of various mission work camps through the years. They began with a trip to Haiti when he was a high school freshman, helping dig the foundation for a hospital expansion in Port-au-Prince with picks and shovels in sweltering heat.
He said he’s heard about a rich history of mission involvement at Trinity Park and is looking forward to experiencing Mission Celebration firsthand.
Keynote speaker for the weekend is the Rev. John Muehleisen. His wife, Beth, is a nurse. They have served in Africa for 32 years, the last 10 of those in Uganda.
They have visited Indiana before, not only because World Gospel Mission’s headquarters is in Marion but also because they’ve visited previous Mission Celebrations at Trinity Park. He was the main speaker at the 2002 and 2013 celebrations. He’s a ventriloquist, and his dummy, Lazarus, will also be part of the weekend.
John Muehleisen said mission work has changed over the years, from a mission field to a mission force of people working alongside each other. He’s impressed by his Ugandan ministry partners.
“They’re fearless,” he said. “They have incredible faith.”
Together, they train people to share public health information, such as the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net or washing hands after using the bathrom. They gather five or six churches, each represented by three to four people, and conduct workshops on community health, women’s issues or agriculture methods. The hope is that this information is carried back to communities and used to save lives.
The sessions are offered through local churches so they can develop relationships with their communities. Throughout the work, they try to balance the practical and the spiritual, he said, believing good deeds alone will point to themselves but deeds coupled with a message of faith will point people toward God.
“It’s our goal that God would get glory,” he said, “and people’s lives would be changed.”