Woodlawn Baptist Church in Lenoir City hosted two missionaries Sunday who shared their stories in an effort to garner monetary support before they head out to foreign lands.
On Missionary Sunday, Jens Looney preached during the 11 a.m. service, while Nate Wilkerson followed in the 6 p.m. service. The church has previously supported Wilkerson. Looney was a new face to the congregation, the Rev. David Latham, pastor, said.
The church currently supports about 30 missionaries.
“We’re looking for somebody that is dedicated to what they’re doing and just loves the Lord and is ready to go wanting to serve him,” Latham said.
Wilkerson, who is leaving Feb. 26 for West Africa, was 13 years old when he began training to be a missionary. After graduating from South Doyle High School in Knoxville, he went to Vision Baptist Missions in Alpharetta, Ga., and attended Our Generation Training Center, where he received formal missionary training and learned of other cultures and how to plant churches.
Wilkerson has traveled to 220 churches across the U.S. for support. He asks if he can share his burden with the congregation.
“I would say the Lord put a burden on my heart when I went over on a missions trip to (West Africa), just a desire to go see more churches started,” Wilkerson said. “We went out into villages where there were 50-100 people, and it’s all one big family. There’s a lot of polygamy there. The men out in the villages will have five or 10 different wives and five or 10 kids with each wife. They’re so hungry and so open to hear the gospel.
“Many of them are illiterate, not able to read, but we went out there and preached the word of God to them, and it was translated into their language,” he added. “They were so hungry to hear God’s word and many people got saved and we were able to see several churches have been started there now. … We’re praying God will let us go and see many more churches started.”
Looney was also 13 years when he realized his purpose as a missionary. He also attended OGTC to receive formal missionary training.
Looney said he was raised in a Louisiana home where church and the Bible were important.
“Three months after I put my faith and trust in Jesus, I was standing at the foot of my brother’s grave,” Looney said. “Now, my brother was going to be a missionary. He was going to take his life and use it to bring honor and glory to God, to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When I was sitting there at his grave, I was asking God, ‘Why? Who is going to bring the gospel to this world that didn’t know about Jesus?’ … As I was asking that question, I turned my face toward him and said, ‘Lord, if this is what you’d have me do, then I’ll do it.’ Since I was 13 years old, it’s been my highest and only aspiration to be a missionary.”
Looney and Wilkerson only see a small percentage of the money raised. The rest goes to purchasing church materials such as Bibles, buildings and pastor training, Wilkerson said.
“I will tell them a little about what God’s called us to do and how God’s put this burden on us and what our plan is to evangelize the lost,” Wilkerson said. “… And I will preach at the end, and sometimes at the end of service or sometimes it takes up to weeks, months or even a year or two. If the church believes that God’s going to work and going to move and want to be a part of what we’re doing financially then they will, as a church, vote to take us on for support and send either $25 or $50 a month or $100 a month, whatever the Lord puts on their heart to do.”