It started off as just another family vacation destination. It was the summer of 2008. Little did the Davidson family from Columbia, TN realize that God had brought them hundreds of miles away to this beautiful Caribbean island to not only enjoy the fellowship and relaxation with each other, but that God had His sights set on something even greater. That’s when siblings and then current Lipscomb students Austin (’09) and Emily Davidson (’10) saw the potential for God’s work to transform the island of Nevis. Having spent a couple of family vacations in the area, this brother and sister tandem felt the need to serve the community and decided to explore mission opportunities.
The road to planning the trip was not an easy one, Emily explains, “When we went back to school that fall and began contacting people in other states who had visited the church there before, we ran into a lot of closed doors.” But, not a duo to easily give up, they continued to pursue the idea until all of the pieces fell into place both in identifying a suitable host partner in Nevis as well as team formation back at Lipscomb. Austin shares that while he did initially, his sister never wavered, “The trip definitely would not have started without her,” he says.
Finding a partnership with Government Road Church of Christ, the Davidsons took their first mission team to Nevis during spring break 2009. The eager group of 14 set out to encourage the community congregation as well as visit schools in order to initiate service projects throughout the area. Knowing that going on a mission trip would be a very different experience from taking a vacation, Austin was ready for the challenge, explaining, “I knew it would be a great opportunity to be a different kind of American visiting the island, not concerned with vacationing, instead focused on the people and who they are.” He goes on to describe the relationship he established with Denzil, the minister at the church, and how the friendship flourished, “It was great to learn from his journey in leading the church on the island. I've really enjoyed being able to maintain the relationship even after being away.”
Many lessons were to be learned upon that first mission endeavor, Emily explains, “One of the most important things when going is to try your best to fit in to the people's lifestyle and go with the flow.” The culture of Nevis differs greatly from that of the American lifestyle, with the natives being less schedule-obsessed and more relaxed. On their second trip, Austin found a role model in teenager Jevon, one of the island’s natives, whom he describes as “a great example of someone who loved his family, God, and searching for the person he needed to be.” Through getting to spend time with the young man and hearing his stories, Austin shares that he learned a great deal about the island and what it was like to grow up there.
Austin and Emily provided solid leadership the first three years of the trip, then successfully navigated the waters of equipping others to guide the ship of leading the team once they both graduated. Since then, multiple people have stepped up to see the vision for ministry outreach on Nevis continue. Ginger Saunders, administrative assistant with the College of Pharmacy, now co-leads the trip with alum Jordan Bates (’12). Saunders shares her excitement about returning for her second trip this weekend, “I can’t wait to see the kids and how they’ve grown,” she says. Each year differs in team dynamic and this year’s group is something special. “God has put together some of the most amazing gifts and talents,” Saunders explains, “Our VBS guys are just incredible.”
Though the path to creating this ministry wasn’t easy, Austin and Emily persevered in the hopes that they might be given the opportunity to show God’s love in a place of need while taking fellow students along for the journey. The vision for the relationship with the people of Nevis does not stop with just the spring break trip - ideas for a longer summer trip are in the pipeline along with exploring partnership ministry opportunities with other Caribbean islands where Lipscomb Missions is serving. Reflecting upon her experiences, Emily says simply, “My life has been blessed by my time in Nevis”. She and Austin may have arrived in Nevis for a family vacation, but they’ve discovered a different, deeper kind of family in that little church on Government Road.