Church missions unpredictable

Jeff Harris, Blairland Baptist Church director of student ministries and local Upward director, sorts shampoo bottles donated for the 2020 trip to Honduras, which has been rescheduled for June.

Some local churches have been able to resume domestic and international missions, while others are still postponing and canceling.

Canvas Church in Lenoir City has experienced both, the Rev. Nick Rains, church pastor, said. Most of the church’s local missions have resumed with some exceptions. The church for years has fed up to 300 homeless people in downtown Knoxville every other week. That ministry was shut down but is back up and running at full strength.

Canvas hasn’t been able to resume local jail missions because the Loudon County Justice Center has not eased restrictions on in-jail church services. Rains said he and the church are “just waiting on the county.”

Globally, the church is still interacting with missions partners.

“We continue to financially support our missions partners,” Rains said. “We had a trip to Thailand planned for January. We were going to send a team, but they are still not opening things up in Thailand, so we’re having to postpone that. The same thing with Costa Rica. We wanted to send a group actually in June. … They’re having to look at things back and forth if they’re going to be able to happen from a quarantine perspective and getting into the country, so we’ve had to postpone that. But we’re still continuing to interact with those missionaries and send the needs and meet financial needs in the area and things like that.”

Rains said although the church has fully resumed operations, missions are still “at the mercy” of COVID-19.

One local mission he is happy to see operational again is involvement with foster children.

“We do quite a bit for the local foster system from the viewpoint of providing when kids are in transition,” Rains said. “Like if they’re taken from a home, taken into a new home and they don’t have anything, we actually provide wardrobes and everything that they would need to basically go into their new situation, their new home with a full outfit and shoes and all the different stuff. That has been fully opened up now since December, where we’re providing both for foster system homes as well as kids in the transition providing items that they would need.”

The Rev. Scott Layer, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Lenoir City, said the church is “slowly getting back into the swing of things” where missions are concerned.

“In fact, we’re actually taking 18 folks to go on a mission trip to go to Pensacola, Fla., in June that was rescheduled from last year,” Layer said. “Our youth group and some adults to go serve with some leftover hurricane relief from a couple years ago, and then we’re also doing at the church more hands-on kinds of missions. Right now, we’re gathering food buckets for Zimbabwe during this month of May, and in July we’re going to be doing — as kids are going back to school — we’re going to partner with Good Samaritan Center to help with their backpack program as well as provide supplies for teachers to go back to school.”

Central UMC has also historically served in Costa Rica. The trip has always happened in the summer, but this year’s trip is being postponed as COVID-19 restrictions and regulations are being monitored, Layer said.

Jeff Harris, Blairland Baptist Church director of student ministries, last year planned a trip for himself and church member Lance Walden to visit Honduras as a “test run” for future international missions. The trip was delayed so many times it was eventually canceled. Harris and Walden will finally embark on the mission in June.

The trip was offered by the organization Rice Bowls, with which Blairland has had a working relationship in the past. In 2020, Blairland’s Upward Basketball players collected $1,842 for Rice Bowls.

Rice Bowls reached out to Harris last year to invite him to see the children the money was benefiting.

Harris said this is the only mission Blairland will participate in this year.

“For the last 25 years or so we’ve done domestic mission trips to other states and things like that,” Harris said. “We’ve done them for 20-something years but never an international. Our kids have asked about doing one, our students. What we felt like this would be, since we know this organization, we thought this would be a good test run I guess you could say for me and him to go and see how safe it is, see what the living conditions are and all those kinds of things. Then perhaps next year see if we want to do it as a church-wide trip.”