Campus wide, Student Stories

Hands-on mission opportunities offered through GenSend

By Sam Arp | December 15, 2022
Sam Arp, Robbie Fleschner, Anya Swift, Maeve O’Toole, and Grace Daniel. Photo by Ty Cornett
Sam Arp, Robbie Fleschner, Anya Swift, Maeve O’Toole, and Grace Daniel. Photo by Ty Cornett

GenSend is a ministry of the North American Mission Board that sends college students to major cities all over North America to learn what it means to live on mission. The vision of the GenSend program is that college students understand the Great Commission– to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” By entering a completely new city, partnering with the local church, and carrying the Gospel to their neighborhoods not just as short-term missionaries but as members of the community, college students experience a truly Gospel-driven life. 

The goal of this program is to display the nationwide move of God outside of college students’ Christian communities and equip them with evangelistic habits that follow them home to their campuses, workplaces, and families. 

In the summer of 2022, Charleston Southern University sent more students than ever to the mission field through this program. As CSU seeks to help students realize their purpose, hands-on experiences like GenSend help shape and refine their callings. CSU students scattered across North America, from California to Pennsylvania, and everywhere in between. A handful of these students shared their GenSend experiences: 

Maeve O’Toole

Junior, Public Health major

GenSend San Diego

Q. What did this experience teach you about the Great Commission? 

A. This summer with GenSend taught me that the Great Commission is not as intimidating as it seems. I was able to learn practical ways to start conversations and build relationships that set the foundation for sharing the Gospel with someone. Getting to know your local barista or the person you see on the bus every morning is one step closer to a relationship that could bring them to Jesus. Discipleship is just doing life with someone and learning about the Lord together, so the core of that is a comfortable friendship. They are not a project that you are determined to save to check a box. They are a friend who you love and want to know the Lord because you hope to see them in Heaven alongside you. When you look at it through that lens, you realize all you can do is love them and share what you know, and Jesus will be the one to change their heart. 

Q. How has GenSend changed how you think about your future? 

A. For years I have felt a call to live on full-time mission which I always thought required me to move overseas. That can be an intimidating call to have when wanting a family. GenSend showed me people and families who have dedicated their lives to living on mission right here in the United States. There are dozens of unchurched cities who are needing church plants and missionaries going out into communities and sharing the love of Christ. This summer I worked with multiple families who moved to these lost cities in order to plant a church and build a community around it that could go out and share the Gospel. Seeing this changed my outlook on how living on mission does not always mean going to a different nation; there are plenty of cities within America that need missionaries. Your mission ground is wherever your feet are, and your location is not enough to assume the salvation of the people around you.

Robbie Fleschner 

Senior, Christian Studies major 

GenSend Pittsburgh 

Q. What did this experience teach you about the Great Commission? 

A. It honestly taught me that it is easier to share the Gospel than you would think. Approaching someone and initiating a conversation is really difficult, but once you are talking to them and are able to share the Gospel it becomes easier because then it just turns into talking about someone you love deeply and all He has done for you! You get to talk about Jesus and how great He is and how much He loves us and has sacrificed for us. I love Him and can talk about Him all day too. So I learned that in a conversation about Him it isn’t as hard as I thought, because I’m passionate about Him and letting others know how He has changed my life and can change theirs! It is still harder, but my experience this summer taught me it’s not as hard as I thought!

Q. How has GenSend changed how you think about your future? 

A. After GenSend I really have a heart for church plants and helping them. So in the future, I’d love to be able to go back to Pitt and help with the church I was at and to help church plants in general. 

Mariah Gonzalez

Senior, Psychology major

GenSend Ogden, Utah

Q. What did this experience teach you about the Great Commission? 

A. GenSend taught me that the Great Commission is for all people and a lot simpler than we make it to be. It is living on mission as an overflow of gratitude for the Lord. I get to share in His mission to love others well through His power. It is not me starting something, but instead joining the Lord on what He is already doing. It isn’t something that means you have to be in full-time ministry but seeking to share the Lord in your everyday life. 

Q. How has GenSend changed how you think about your future? 

A. GenSend changed the way I view people. It changed my priorities. I would much rather spend a day in a coffee shop having Gospel conversations rather than worrying about my social life as my top priority. I think it showed me that you really can turn any conversation into a Gospel conversation. I see opportunities more often and feel the burden to share the Gospel more. I don’t know what this means for my future job or calling. I could see myself working in ministry and that would be a dream, but I don’t know exactly what that looks like. The biggest lesson I learned that changed my view of everything is the joy of being faithful and obedient to the Lord by walking with Him even if I never see a single thing ever happen again. He is oh so worth it. 

Grace Daniel

Junior, Middle Grades Education major

GenSend Denver

Q. What did this experience teach you about the Great Commission? 

A. I had never realized how much the Great Commission affected me. I guess I never realized how urgent and important it is. I had never really done evangelism or missional living before, and practicing that so intentionally for two months showed me how seamlessly I can be living out the commands of the Great Commission in anything and everything. 

Q. How has GenSend changed how you think about your future? 

A. I didn’t realize how much GenSend changed my perspective and mindset until coming back home to my normal routines. I now see the world so much differently. I’m constantly aware of how many people around me I should be meeting and talking to, and I can’t stop thinking about ways I can be sharing the Gospel in every conversation. I think I’m a lot more intentional now, and the Gospel is flowing into everything I do. Now when I think about my future, I think about how the Lord can be using me for His Kingdom. 

Anya Swift

Sophomore, Psychology major

GenSend Chicago

Q. What did this experience teach you about the Great Commission? 

A. The Great Commission is not what we typically think it is. The Great Commission doesn’t always mean preaching the name of Jesus on the corner or cold call evangelism, though it can mean that. More often it looks like living life where God has placed you, exercising the gifts you have been given rather than those you think you should have to love others and to further the Kingdom, telling other people of your beautiful Savior with both your actions and your words along the way. The Great Commission can look like showing up for someone when they are hurt; it can look like serving the drinks at the church potluck; it can look like telling a homeless person that Jesus loves them with both your words and a warm jacket. So often we are tempted to confine the Great Commission to church events and teaching but making disciples is about meeting people where they are and very often the place they need to be met is neither the pulpit nor the pew. 

Q. How has GenSend changed how you think about your future? 

A. I spent a lot of my summer wrestling with where I fit in the Kingdom and the work God has for me. I felt that I was supposed to be comfortable in front of people and fluent in street gospel presentation and though I was given moments of that, I thrived behind the scenes, doing research for the pastor, giving milk and eggs to food bank customers, and loving on smaller groups of girls. It made me realize that being a good Christian doesn’t look one certain way but that pursuing God and reflecting Him to other people can and should come in many different ways so that we may show Christ to those who have not seen Him show up in a way that feels compatible with their own experiences or hearts. This may sound strange because it is the opposite of what so many find, but this summer confirmed for me that I am not called to pursue traditional vocational ministry but to be someone who reflects the love of Christ in other areas of life, particularly for me, somewhere in the education system.

My experience in urban ministry

It was in Pittsburgh that I began to understand the breadth of the mission of God. I was able to live on a mountain overlooking the city and remember looking down at all of the people on the winding roads and towering buildings and being amazed at God’s love for the city and His willingness to work in such a dark, lost place. It was that summer in the city where I saw the Holy Spirit work to accomplish the purposes of God, and I wanted to be a part of it.

While living in the city, I fell in love with urban ministry. I loved the challenge of getting to know a new city and being intentional about learning the story of the people. My eyes were opened to the great need that exists within homeless communities in major cities, and it has given me the habit of seeing people in places where I had otherwise missed them. I was also struck by the multitude of nationalities represented in Pittsburgh and realized that taking the Gospel to the nations did not always mean getting on a plane, but often means taking a train into the heart of America’s cities. Moving forward, I know the Lord has given me a burden for urban ministry and the unique opportunity it provides to take the Gospel to the nations.

Samantha Arp is a junior English with a writing emphasis major. She worked with GenSend in Pittsburgh in the summer of 2021. She is an intern in CSU’s marketing and communication office.

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