California church's 'micro mission trips' nurture its reach

Peggy Tumlinson, missions committee member at The Church on Cypress, helps prepare backpacks for school children during one of the church's "micro mission trips."The Church on Cyprus called them "micro mission trips," short-term initiatives that were affordable and close to home to increase missions participation.

There are "all kinds of reasons" why some people shy away from mission trips, said Peggy Tumlinson, a missions committee member at the church, named for its location on Cypress Avenue in Carmichael, Calif.

"[S]ome find it frightening; some find it hard because of finances; some just are not sure what to expect," Tumlinson said, so the church sought to make missions outreach "accessible to anybody including children in the family."

Cypress members went on three micro trips from May-July, ranging in cost from $50-$100 depending on the destination, with scholarships available as needed.

The first trip was to Camp Alta, 50 miles to the northeast, to help with various activities, including cleaning roads and cleaning/painting signs.

"Camp Alta is our associational camp [Sacramento Region Baptist Network], and we already have a working relationship," Tumlinson said. "We asked them if there was some way we could come up and minister, if there were some sort of projects we could do."

During the Friday-Saturday trek to the camp, the church's volunteers also focused on prayer for "kids and adults that would come to the camp throughout the year," Tumlinson recounted. They prayed that people would "come to know Christ if they didn't know Him or they could be drawn closer to Him."

The second trip's destination was NewLife Community Church in Fresno, 180 miles to the southeast. Eric Mann, NewLife's pastor, previously was associate pastor at the Carmichael church.

Church on Cypress volunteers helped with Vacation Bible School over the course of a week, preparing rooms and crafts during the day while teaching VBS at night.

New Life was in need of VBS workers, Mann said, and might not have been able to do it without the help from Carmichael.

"I would encourage churches who think they can't do something by themselves to try to connect with other churches or maybe help another church that is small," Mann said.

"They were really encouraging to us. ... By the end of the week both our church and their church were excited about hopefully doing this again next year. I think what's developing is a longer-term relationship between the two churches."

Mann noted the families from Carmichael stayed in host homes during the week, which was a blessing for both churches.

"We had a family that hosted one of the college girls, and they connected really well," Mann said. "She's actually coming back to spend Thanksgiving with them—that's how well they connected."

The third project was a three-day trip to Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Fresno. Cypress sent 12 people to help pack 500 backpacks—with pencils, crayons, paper, rulers, pencil boxes, glue, folders and a Gospel tract—for children in the community.

Becky Fees, Trinity's community outreach director, said the Cypress team's service was an "amazing blessing," and people from the school next door who came to a giveaway event were overjoyed by what they received.

"We had grandmothers who now have custody of their children and they said they had no idea how they were going to be able to pay for a backpack [from a store]," Fees said. "It wasn't just the grandparents, it was the parents and the kids who just gave you a hug and said thank you."

In addition to its micro trips, The Church on Cypress goes every summer to The Church on the Rock in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Canada. The congregation partners with a missionary there for a week, helping out any way they can.

Tumlinson encouraged churches that want to start their own micro missions effort to find "people who have a heart for the Lord."

She pointed to "the joy that you receive working together as a team—getting to know each other because you go to church with all of these people and you don't get to know them really well unless you are in a small group."

David Brown, lead pastor at Cypress, said the church was interested in calling him as pastor because of his love for the Great Commission, while the reason he and his wife were drawn to the church was because of the congregation's mission-mindedness.

"We're taking very seriously the call to be a Great Commission church where we go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth," Brown said.

Brown noted the mission trips had the most impact on the teams themselves because they were able to serve the Lord and others.

"[Y]ou can't help but be changed when you are helping others," Brown said. "Even going on these micro mission trips transforms people. They're just not the same when they come back because they see that God used them to connect with other people and to make a difference."

Raegan Melfe is a journalism student at California Baptist University in Riverside.

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