Why Be An ETEAM Leader?
By Jerry Gibbs (ETEAM Leader to France)
One of the greatest programs of IM is ETEAM. Our website says “ETEAM is a life-changing, short-term summer missions experience for students.” As missionaries in France, we received ETEAMs for years. Since June of 2014, we have been Stateside and during this time, we have taken seven teams (60 students) back to France. This has been an incredible blessing and responsibility. One might say that you have to be a little crazy to do that. That is probably true! For three weeks you are these students’ guardians, their parents, their youth leader, and pastor.
ETEAM begins months beforehand, as we pray for those assigned to us, and communicate with them. The week before the trip is spent together with all ETEAMs and ETEAM leaders, as they learn about cross-cultural ministry, team building, introduction to a foreign language, face painting, balloon ministry, ten to fifteen songs, prayer, and worship together–the week is full.
Then there are the multiple flights. Even though things have gone mostly well, ETEAM France once missed five flights out of five, another year had 11 pieces of luggage lost, once we even witnessed a passenger fall at our feet with cardiac arrest (and pray as medical personnel brought him back to life), and once we spent an extra night in Paris because the airline canceled our plane. Stressful? NO!!!
Why do Barb and I put ourselves through this? We start praying from the day we get the names of our students that God would prepare their hearts for the trip. The terrific group you see here had anchored themselves in our hearts before we ever met them. Then we watch and wait as God breaks their hearts and the connection is made, when they understand that the French people, for the most part, are lost, without Jesus and without hope. Back in the States, they have a final debriefing of their trip with one of the IM directors. One year, Barb and I had seen no visible sign of anything happening in the hearts of our team members. Then they were asked, “Describe in one sentence your ETEAM experience in France.” A long uncomfortable silence followed, and then the tears started to flow.
Here were their answers: gave me hope but broke my heart…exciting but heartbreaking…made me thankful but feel spoiled…realized the need for missions… put reality to my passion…the need is great, I have a lot more to offer…sitting around doesn’t cut it.
Not a word about sightseeing, but about people they had fallen in love with who need Christ. Out of the 60 students we have taken to France, 13 have felt God speaking to their hearts about missions, some are already back as missionaries.
That is why we do ETEAM! We thank you for supporting us and praying for us, as we have the privilege to, as part of our ministry, lead these young people in this life-changing experience.