By Sharon Mager
PARKVILLE, Md.—Parkville Baptist Church (PBC) Pastor Kurt Wesolowski teamed up with First Baptist Church of Perryville (FBC) Pastor John Gauger recently for a vision trip to West Africa. The men worked with African Christian pastors and International Mission Board missionaries, to share the Gospel in unengaged villages.
Gauger has visited the area multiple times, with other pastors and with FBC, Perryville, but this was a first international mission trip for Wesolowski. He had the desire to do international missions, but working bi-vocationally in his last pastorate in New York, it was difficult to find the available time. When Wesolowski received an email from Gauger last year about a vision trip to West Africa, he felt a stirring in his heart.
PBC members enthusiastically backed Wesolowski, providing prayer cover and over half of the funds he needed, excited to be part of the adventure.
“The preparation was extremely good. John wanted me to be prepared as much as I could for that type of experience,” Wesolowski said. That included learning about the culture, travel information, even specifics about what to pack and what not to pack. It made for a good experience, Wesolowski said.
“It took us anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour by bush taxi to get to the towns and villages,” Wesolowski said. He laughed and said, it was a 20-year old van with a luggage rack, but it didn’t break down! ” Though, there was the time they got stuck in the mud! The rainy season had stopped later than usual, so on the first day into the villages, the bus got stuck and the driver, helped by Gauger and Wesolowski, and several others, climbed out, rolled their pants legs up and began to push. But that’s just part of life in Africa, Wesolowski said.
During their 12 days in the area, the men visited several villages where they spent their time storytelling. “It’s the simple retelling of what we would consider basic Bible stories and helping them understand…engage them in conversation… and see what they were hearing and where God was working,” Wesolowski said. “It was quite an experience sitting down among basically Muslims everywhere. The largest majority had never heard the Word, or only on a couple of occasions. It’s humbling to know you’re engaged with that kind of lostness,” he said.
In addition to feeling welcome, Wesolowski said he also felt safe. The Muslims and Christian translators, taxi drivers and guards were kind and protective. “I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that I did not at any time feel unsafe. He also attributes his security once again to the extreme preparedness that Gauger provided. Being with so many Muslims also encouraged Wesolowski. “With all this hype, it was a good reminder that the large majority of Muslims are not like the ones we hear about in the news, just like the large majority of Christians aren’t like those at Westboro ‘Baptist.’”
The biggest challenge, he said, was being away from his family for 12 days with very little communication.
Wesolowski is now happy to see that missions enthusiasm is growing in the church. Last year, the church sent seven people to work at Crossover, an outreach preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Twice that number have already shown interest in going on a church mission trip to the Appalachian region in July. Wesolowski believes some of the increased interest in missions may be due to those who worked with Crossover last year who shared and encouraged others. He also hopes that seeing that their pastor was willing to go across the world to share the Gospel also provided encouragement.
Regarding future international missions, the church is praying, seeking God’s direction.
“God is definitely up to something,” Wesolowski said.