Lee: Mission trips help transform lives

Published 1:12 am Friday, September 9, 2011

With the help of translator Ntombie Masombuka (left), Bryan Lee preaches a Sunday morning sermon. (Contributed Photo)

For more than 10 years, members of First Baptist Church in Washington have taken mission trips to Swaziland, a small, landlocked country that shares a border with South Africa. This year, they organized a youth trip led by Bryan Lee, minister of youth and education.

Baptists started a partnership with the South African Cluster, a group of countries, including Swaziland, around 15 years ago. The partnership is defunct, but First Baptist Church and the South Roanoke Baptist Association, of which the church is a member, have maintained their ties to Swaziland.

“Our church just kind of fell in love with Swaziland, so we kept up the mission trips,” Lee said. “We have people there that are still making contact with us yearly. A lot of good relationships were made. We have members who are missionaries over there now.”

Lee, 26, moved to Washington with his wife Annie, 24, and started his job at First Baptist Church in January. Not long afterward, he was informed by the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jimmy Moore, the original team leader was unable to go to Swaziland this summer. Lee was asked to lead the trip.

“When the pastor asked if I’d be willing to go, I said, ‘Oh, yes, definitely.’ When he asked me to lead, I was a little nervous,” Lee said with a laugh.

Lee is no stranger to mission trips.

“I’ve had a heart and passion for missions for a long time — since I was 17, and I went to Mexico,” he said.

Lee and his wife led a mission trip to Greece, through another church, when he was 22.

Lee was especially excited about leading teens.

“I think teenagers need to see a bit of the world — see what they have,” he said.

The team was composed of seven teenagers, five adults and two college students. Four of the 14 were from other churches.

The trip cost $2,500 per person. First Baptist Church paid $500 of that amount for each of the teenagers who were church members. The rest of the money had to be raised individually.

The team was gone for 10 days, from June 30 to July 1. Six of the days were spent ministering to people in Swaziland. The remaining days were travel and orientation days.

Team members stayed in a hotel in a city named Mbabne, and they spent the days in the outlying villages and rural areas doing mission work. Every day they led Bible studies. Lee split the team into groups, and the groups spent two days doing homestead visits. They would visit the grass huts of the natives to share the gospel with them and invite them to the Bible studies.

Most of the people the teams approached had never heard of Christianity, and those who did know about Christianity knew little about it.

“I guess it’s just a part of their culture, but they’ll sit down and listen to you,” Lee said. “They’ll pull out a chair on their porch and sit you down and talk to you.” “Their porch might be a dirt lot, and the chair might be a grass mat or a stump,” his wife interjected with a smile.

“They were very receptive,” he added.

After three days, Lee and the mission team held a tent revival.

“It was one of the most successful ministries because at night it’s dark and there’s nothing to do,” Lee laughed. “A single light on a hillside can be seen for miles.”

The missionaries set up a 20-foot-by-30-foot tent with a generator and a light bulb and held a two-hour worship service. Fifty to 60 people attended. They sang, gave testimonials and listened to sermons by Lee and another team member.

“The singing was, by far, the best,” Lee said. “It’s definitely spirit led. There’s no structure and no bulletin. One group just looks at each other and says. ‘Let’s get up there and sing.’”

One morning, the missionaries visited the government-run hospital.

“It was pretty bad. It was like one of our hospitals a hundred years ago.”

“In a war,” Annie Lee added.

“There were big rooms full of beds, and the doctors wouldn’t bring anything to the patients. Patients had to get up and walk to get food or medicine. If they couldn’t walk, they had to hope they could find someone to do it for them,” Lee said.

The team went to visit with patients, share the gospel with them, talk and “mostly to give them a listening ear and show them someone cared.”

While there, the team went to the orphans’ room in the children’s wing.

“There was a little girl laying there in the crib, 6-weeks-old,” Bryan Lee said. “She’d been left there by her parents, who didn’t want her. She was laying there with her bottle propped up on a blanket, pretty much feeding herself. We (my wife and I) asked the nurse what her name was. The nurse said she didn’t have one. No one had even bothered to name her yet.”

“That day hurt,” Annie Lee said.

When asked how they dealt with things like that, Bryan Lee answered, “At night, we spent time with the team talking about it. To be honest, though, we’re still processing it.”

First Baptist Church has plans for another trip in February 2012. This one will be for adults and led by the pastor. Lee hopes to organize and lead a youth mission trip for the church every two years. He wants to organize trips to other areas of the world as well, particularly Central America and South America because they don’t cost as much money.

“I think it’s good for kids to see some other countries,” he said.

One thing is certain, Lee said, trips like the one to Swaziland make a difference in people’s lives.