Students on Mission
// Sammie Bennett
When Keith Yarborough first walked into the New Missions Orlando office in the spring of 2009, he saw a sign above a scenic Caribbean picture with this simple phrase: “Too close to ignore.”
The sign literally caused Keith to stop in his tracks and consider those words. Less than a year later, Keith made the short trip from Florida to Haiti for the first time with a team of students.
Leading students is a responsibility that Keith knows well. He served as the Student Pastor at Winter Garden’s First Baptist Church for over thirty years and currently teaches High School Bible at Foundation Academy in Winter Garden, Florida. In fact, students from Foundation Academy were on Keith’s first trip to Haiti in January 2010.
More trips soon followed, and Foundation students have now gone to Haiti eight times and the Dominican Republic once. Each time, Keith sees these trips impact students. They return home with a deeper sense of gratitude and a greater understanding about the importance of helping others. “They’re quicker to get the need and to try to meet the need of somebody,” Keith said, of students who have served with New Missions. “It’s transformational.”
The transformation doesn’t stop with the students who have made the trips. “Because their attitude changes about what’s important, they become a catalyst among their peer group,” Keith explained. “They help their peers realize that certain things just have no eternal significance whatsoever... They don’t preach it as much as they’re just living it. And that attitude change is an influencer.”
Many of the students who have served with New Missions have gone on to play an important role in other mission-minded initiatives. Last year, students collected school supplies to help teachers and students at a local elementary school recover after Hurricane Irma. Students also collect shoeboxes for New Missions annually, and have participated in different tennis-shoe drives over the years.
This missions perspective continues beyond the students’ time at Foundation. Many have gone on to serve in different mission projects and endeavors on their college campuses. In fact, one of the students who partnered with New Missions in high school now lives as a missionary in Guatemala.
Keith believes that one of the reasons students continue to pursue missions is their desire for purpose. “I see a generation that’s looking for purpose, and the purpose has got to be bigger than themselves,” he said. “It’s got to be about people.” Students who have worked with New Missions understand the purpose in helping someone—with an eternal hope in mind. “Students share their lives, share the gospel, share truth, and transform lives.”
More stories of transformation are already underway as a new group of Foundation students prepare for their 2019 trip to Haiti. “My greatest recruiters for the next year are those that went the previous year,” Keith explained. Those student recruiters have come to understand the meaning behind the simple phrase that Keith first saw back in 2009. They do care about families and children in Haiti. They’re living on mission, and they’re inviting their fellow students to join them.