JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 8, 2003– (Editor's Note: Gene Fant, chair of Union's English Dept., was recently published in Dimensions, the Woman's Missionary Union Leadership magazine. His column is reprinted with permission.)
My father was a church planter in western New York when I was a child. In fact, for a few years we lived in a house church, with a baptistry in the garage and folding chairs in our living room sanctuary. My brother and I both made our public professions of faith in that living room.
Our church was small, so programs had to be customized to meet the realities of the mission church. On Wednesday nights, the boys would play football in the back yard-church yard until we joined the girls in the garage for missions education in GA's.
Not many Girls in Action groups have sweaty boys in them, but ours sure did. The trick was that they never told us what the initials "G" and "A" stood for. In our minds, it was just the time when we learned about missionaries, prayed for them, and ate snacks. When Christmas came around, I became thrilled with the stories of Lottie Moon. My parents bought me her biography, which I dutifully read and submitted as a book report in third grade. I was hooked on missions.
When I was in sixth grade, we moved to a larger church with a strong Royal Ambassador program, but by that time I already had a good foundation in missions. I loved studying other cultures, I liked hearing about what our missionaries were doing, and I especially enjoyed working with the Acteens at their annual Queen Regent presentations. I think I was a high school senior before it suddenly hit me that I had actually been a boy GA and that it was unusual!
In college, I decided to extend my study of world cultures by majoring in anthropology. As I sought God's calling in my life, I felt called to be a missions supporter by teaching college students to be sensitive to the opportunities that surround them. I teach at one of our Baptist colleges, Union University, where we have scores of students who are planning on pursuing missions on either a full or a part-time basis. I now teach a linguistics course that helps to prepare many of these students for their calling.
God does not call every child in our church missions programs to be a full-time missionary, but I do believe that God calls each of them to cultivate a heart for missions. Those ladies who taught me as a child, those brave RA leaders, and my pastors (especially my father) have all helped me to develop that passion. God has a plan for us as Baptists, that we all share His love with a lost and hurting world. Even if you were once a boy in the GA program.
Gene Fant, Jr., chairs the English department at Union University in Jackson, TN.
By Gene Fant