The story of Mark 5 hit home for Simeon Harrar. This parable is one where Jesus heals a man possessed by a legion of demons, then the man begs Jesus to travel with him for his next adventure. But Jesus says, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” When Simeon heard this story in high school, it made him think about ways in which he wanted to change the way mission work is done.
“Even at a young age I was struck by this story because I’d grown up with this idea that missionary work was something that we were supposed to do away from home,” Simeon said. “Like the man freed from demons, I thought I had to leave the things and people I knew to follow and serve Jesus and find the calling for my life, but this story seemed to say quite the opposite.”
This was the inspiration behind the creation of “Backyard Missions,” which Simeon helped start at First Presbyterian Church of Lancaster, PA, where he is the director of Student Ministries. Backyard Missions is an innovative, new ministry designed to provide student groups and their leaders with short-term mission experiences that transform lives, impact the local community and honor Christ. Each day teams explore and learn about a key issue facing society (such as hunger, homelessness, refugee resettlement, stewardship of the earth, incarceration, aging, missional business and others). Students then participate in a hands-on opportunity at the site of a local partner organization that is working to meet this need in creative and tangible ways.
“The most important part of Backyard Missions is what happens when teams return home,” said Simeon, the director of operations for Backyard Missions. “The entire experience is aimed at equipping teams with the skills, experiences and questions that will propel them forward as missionaries in their own contexts. Teams will leave Backyard Missions encouraged and ready to consider the needs in their own local communities and discern together how God might be calling them to mission in their own backyards.”
A Synod of the Trinity Network Grant helped provide startup costs for the Backyard Missions program. This grant has since been renamed a Partnership Grant, and more information on this grant can be found here.
A downloadable brochure with details about Backyard Missions is available here.