Calvary Baptist trio to mission in Southeast Asia

Trip often difficult, dangerous

By Thomas Lark

CHARLOTTE – Members of a Mountain Island-area church are living out the Great Commission to “go and teach all nations.”

Doug Bynum is flanked by Vikkie Stokes and Pastor Brian Taule as they discuss their travel plans at Calvary Baptist Church in Charlotte. The trio will travel to Southeast Asia this month. (Thomas Lark/MI Monitor photo)

At Calvary Baptist Church, the words of Christ that conclude the Gospel of St. Matthew strike resonant chords.

The Rev. Brian Taule and church members Vikkie Stokes and Doug Bynum will journey later this month to Southeast Asia for the church’s 15th mission trip. Members of Calvary Baptist’s youth group have been twice to Southeast Asia since the effort started in 1998. The project is paid for with fundraising events such as church suppers, Stokes said.

Taule said they are about to re-enter hostile territory. They’ll spend two weeks in a country that’s so vehemently anti-Christian that they can’t name it. For the purposes of security and to help protect in-country missionaries, the team doesn’t publicly identify the target nation, saying only that it’s in Southeast Asia. In spite of successes, a low profile must be kept for safety’s sake, as Taule noted.

“We don’t want to draw attention to our missionaries,” he said. “And I think we’ve done very well with that.”

The officially irreligious nation, Taule added, requires that a strange distinction be made. “The law of the land is that you can talk about religion, but you can’t proselytize,” he said. “We walk a fine line.”

They may pose as tourists or pretend to establish a business, such as furniture imports, as Stokes explained. Plus, they’ll be teaching English to about 60 high school students, using the Gospel of St. Mark. The missionaries have no political agenda – only a spiritual one. They’ve given gifts and money for an orphanage.

But Stokes revealed that some days are fraught with deadly danger. She recalled a harrowing experience one year in which she and Taule’s daughter, Corrie Schmidt, were arrested and detained for several hours by officials, all over what was essentially a simple village misunderstanding.

“That would be putting it nicely,” Stokes said.

Still, the situation is not the same everywhere. Bynum said China presents much hope, as membership in Christian denominations is increasing despite the atheism common to communist countries.

“You see more people reading their Bibles in train stations,” he said, “especially in the south. There’s a lot of Christians in southern China. It’s more open.”

Mission work, Taule said, and helping one’s neighbors is what Christianity is all about:

“That’s what a church is supposed to do. If we’re going to be a well-rounded church, missions don’t just begin and end locally. They go much further than that.”

Such efforts leave church members with a great sense of accomplishment, Taule said.

“I feel deeply humbled,” he said, “to serve a church like Calvary Baptist, which has a heart for the world.”

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