At the heart of Lipscomb Missions one can find 125 volunteer team leaders who sacrificially give time, energy, and money to lead mission teams for the Lipscomb campus community. Simply put, this ministry would not exist without them! Team leaders often pour themselves into the effort for nine months a year, take a little break, and then gear back up for another season as the fall semester approaches. Our team leaders are faculty, staff, alumni, student, church leaders, and area professionals. Nobody is making them do it; they do it because they love it.
The story of Phil Kinzer is no different. To say his plate is full would be a huge understatement. His day job finds him as the pulpit minister at the West End Church of Christ in Nashville. On top of that he manages to be an effective and adored adjunct Bible professor for Lipscomb University. Then, for the past 11 years he has served as a team leader for Lipscomb Missions. Oh, and we forgot to mention that he is a grandfather of three!
Kinzer is one of the unique team leaders who volunteer to lead two different mission trips every year for the University. Each spring break he leads a trip to Mexico partnering with Baja Missions, then turns around two months later each May and leads a summer effort to work with the Cap-Haitien Children’s Home in Haiti. Kinzer’s passion for missions started after a few mission trips he took in college and his interest has never waned. Kinzer has an incredible heart for missions and his enthusiasm to see young adults discover the Kingdom of God keeps him coming back, year after year. Clint Brumit (‘06) has accompanied Kinzer for the past 10 years to Baja, Mexico. “Outside of God and his family, he is dedicated above everything else to loving and serving students at Lipscomb University. That is why he teaches and that is why he leads mission trips,” says Brumit, “The mission trips are just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to Phil’s mission work, his mission is the students.”
Kinzer leads trips to serve others, but the thing he values most are the relationships. He recalls a passage from one of his favorite books in which missionaries and the locals of other countries who were served were questioned after short-term mission trips. Both groups were asked what happened during the trips. The Americans who went to serve talked mostly about the accomplishments of the week - the building of a house, a VBS that was conducted - whereas the local residents on the receiving end were filled with joy that the participants of the mission trips just came to see them. Much like the people who were grateful just for the time given to forming friendships, Kinzer draws his motivation from spending time with those the team has traveled to serve and focuses heavily on the relational aspect of the trips he leads.
Former Lady Bison basketball player Anna Bowers (‘12) went on two Haiti trips with Kinzer and remembers the impact that he had on her life. “My first trip to Haiti with Phil was my freshman year. He entered into my life during a time of spiritual bleakness. I was searching, and what I found was a man who humbly walked into a society full of God's children in desperate need of God himself. And he did so with grace, and a desire to love the Haitian people as Jesus does. God knew what I needed and provided the perfect picture through Phil of what it means to follow Him. I am incredibly blessed to have had him be a part of my life.”
Kinzer says that he is impressed by the maturity he has seen from the students and that they play an important role in his life, too. “I can see clear evidence of God at work through the lives of the students on the teams and I learn from them that it is never too late to grow in your faith,” says Kinzer, “The young adults that I travel with keep me from reaching a point of complacency in my faith.”
Kinzer sites the source of continuing mission work, even with his busy schedule, as the joy he gets from seeing young adults on the trips develop their own faith. There are two people in particular that are great examples of this. Lipscomb alums Hunter and Jillian Kittrell went to Haiti four times with Kinzer and are now the directors of the orphanage they visited on their previous trips. Jillian says, “I am not sure if we can even begin to list everything we have learned from Phil through our experiences serving with him. If it weren't for him, and his wife Diane, there is a good chance we wouldn't be living in Haiti as missionaries with our two beautiful Haitian children. He helped us make the decision to move here, he helped us find our calling, he helped us find the strength to be obedient. By serving with him through Lipscomb Missions we also learned how to serve like Jesus. Through his example, we learned what it looked like to walk the streets like Jesus, feed the poor like Jesus, teach like Jesus, and love the least of these like Jesus. The Kinzers taught us how beautiful mission work could be and how much we longed for that as a lifestyle!
Missions is a huge part of who God created Phil Kinzer to be. As is evident by those whom he has mentored along the way, he has touched the lives of many – from current and former students on Lipscomb’s campus, to the preachers in the towns of the Baja and to the hearts of kids who used to roam the streets of Haiti. With a heart as full of love for the mission of God as Phil’s, we expect his schedule will continue to be, beautifully busy.