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HIGHLAND LAKES HELPERS: Residents ‘living out the Great Commission’

Bridgett Slyker in Honduras

Two years ago, Bridget Slyker and her family followed God’s call to become missionaries in Gracias, Honduras. Courtesy photo

Many Highland Lakes residents have discovered their own unique ways of “living out the Great Commission,” one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, as told to the disciples by Jesus in Matthew 28. For one family of five, it means living years at a time working with the poor in another country. Others go on mission trips that last from a few days to a week or more. Still others find ways to live it out here at home.

“Each of us has a gift, and (living out the Great Commission) is using those gifts to glorify God,” said Angie Martinez, who cooks meals for the Highland Lakes Crisis Network.

Bridget and Richard Slyker and their three children — 18-year-old Carter, 15-year-old Susannah, and 12-year-old William — moved to Central America in December 2017 as missionaries. Sponsored by First Baptist Church of Marble Falls, the Slykers meet regularly with local pastors and teach at Abundant Life Christian School, a bilingual K-12 school in Gracias, Honduras.

Their work expands into the smaller surrounding villages, which Richard traverses on a regular basis. Students from the Slykers’ “city” mission work often travel with them into the villages to serve as well.

“Helping students take what they learn in the classroom and put it in action is a wonderful discipleship process as we serve together,” Bridget said.

Three years into their service, the Slykers have not decided when they will return to the United States.

“One of my deepest desires for my children is for them to see God’s handprint in everything and to have biblical worldview,” Bridget continued. “Getting out of our comfort zone and learning more about God’s creation and his people all over the world is a wonderful way of teaching us many lessons.”

Many local churches, including Hill Country Fellowship in Burnet, conduct global mission projects that send members out of the country for a week or two at a time. Church members often return to the same communities year after year.

“We develop partnerships and relationships in those areas, and I think we can have a longterm impact on helping when we can do that,” said the Rev. Jeremy Scott of Hill Country Fellowship.

The Burnet church works with seven Haitian schools and an eye clinic in the western portion of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea.

“We pay for teacher salaries, and we pay for at least one meal a day for the students,” Scott said. “And, in a country like Haiti, that one meal is so important.”

Despite the hardships of staying in a third world country without regular water or electricity, mission service calls to Scott and other Christians in the Highland Lakes.

“I grew up loving travel,” he said. “When I gave my life to the Lord at 25, I read the Great Commission, and I thought, ‘How could I live that out?’ Doing this type of mission work is one way.”

The Great Commission

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the names of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirt, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

— Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

Not everyone has the capacity to travel for mission projects. They can still live out the Great Commission at home, said Angie Martinez of Burnet. A member of Hill Country Fellowship, she volunteered with the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, cooking thousands of meals during the spring and summer for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown.

“We made 160,000 meals,” she said. “That’s our mission: to help people in need wherever they may be. This is mission work within our community.”

Martinez, who has since become a Crisis Network staff member, sees herself as the hands and feet of God, using her cooking skills to serve God’s people wherever and whenever she’s needed. For now, that’s for the network and at weekly youth meetings at her church.

“We all have gifts, and if we listen to God, he’ll tell us how he wants us to use them,” she said. “There are a lot of issues in other countries that we have right here in our own community. So, we can do mission work right here.”

Scott and Slyker agree.

“Maybe you can’t go somewhere else, but maybe you can serve here in the community,” Scott said. “Ask, ‘Hey, Jesus, what’s my passion? How can I help here?’”

Bridget Slyker said that many of the mission-oriented people she knows never leave their community to live out their Great Commission.

“I see many friends in the states living ‘missionally’ and making a huge impact in their communities and beyond by using their distinctiveness for the glory of God,” she said. “I am spurred on and encouraged by their example of serving in the arts, adoption, education, medicine, and valuing family as a God-given ministry.”

It’s really about love, Scott added.

“Love God, love people where you are, and look to extend out where you can,” he said.