|FROM THE STATES: Texas, Ky. & Mo. evangelism/missions news
Today's From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist Texan
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
The Pathway (Missouri)
SBTC churches from Golden Triangle develop
ministry to unreached people group in Peru
By Stephanie Heading
AYAVIRI, Peru (Southern Baptist Texan) -- The Quecha people live high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. They are direct descendants of the Incas who ruled South America 600 years ago and developed a very advanced culture. The Inca chief who built the Temple of the Sun in Cusco and the city of Machu Picchu longed to know God and wrote about knowing a God who would be concerned about his creation more than just placing the sun and stars in the sky.
Today, the chief's descendants still search for that same God, and five Southern Baptist churches from the Golden Triangle Baptist Association in Texas have answered the call to share the Gospel with this unreached people group.
"We had contacted the IMB about unreached people groups and they suggested the Quecha in Ayaviri, Peru," said Dion Ainsworth, the Baptist association's missionary. "It was known by the IMB through research that there were a couple of churches in the town but very little evangelical work."
In addition to meeting the need for the Gospel, the association also was looking for an area that would be economical to reach. "We were looking for an area that was not too expensive to travel to from the USA for lay persons to be able to afford the trip," Ainsworth said. "Peru fit that stipulation -- less expensive than Asia, Europe and Africa, and safer than Mexico."
Members from Maplecrest Baptist of Vidor, Liberty Baptist of Bridge City and First Baptist Church of Stowel went on a fact-finding trip to Ayaviri in 2008 and discovered that less than 2 percent of the population knew Jesus Christ as their Savior, and the evangelical churches in the area were doing very little outreach. It was then that the Texas association adopted the region for evangelism and church planting.
"Four of us, along with an IMB missionary and an interpreter, walked the town, talked with people on the streets and prayed for a word from God to start a mission work there," recalled Bill Collier, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City.
Projects to Peru began soon afterward. In the summer of 2009, three summer missionaries worked in Ayaviri and taught English classes. Two medical/dental trips were held in Ayaviri and Pueblo Libre, a neighboring town with no churches at all.
"We were able to start a weekly Bible study in Pueblo Libre that is led by a local Christian," Ainsworth said. "The hope is that this will eventually become a church of its own."
Another focus of the work has been training local pastors. In 2010, Ainsworth led a church planting seminar for pastors within a 100-mile radius of Ayaviri. Approximately 20 evangelical pastors came and spent the week learning about church planting, Bible storying, spiritual warfare and prayer ministry.
In addition to training pastors and sharing the Gospel, several of the Baptist association's mission trips have included humanitarian aid. "This region leads Peru in deaths in the winter due to the cold," Ainsworth said. "One winter they averaged 40 children's deaths in one month due to the cold. Homes in the region have no heat and many children sleep on dirt floors on straw. A warm blanket can cost as much as three weeks' income, so people will walk for miles to get a free blanket. We used that as an opportunity to share the Gospel at the same time. Medical mission trips and blanket distributions helped to create trust and an openness among the people."
Collier and four other members of Liberty Baptist returned for a 10-day trip last November.
"We participated in preaching, Bible study, door-to-door evangelism as well as building relationships with people in the area. We engaged in several cultural experiences so we could understand more about who they are and about their past history," Collier said.
"Christians saw the love and bond of fellowship that all members of the body of Christ worldwide have in common. Many heard the Gospel for the first time and at least seven people gave their hearts to Jesus," he reported.
Impressed by the hospitality shown to them, the team witnessed the faithful commitment of Christians who walked long distances in the heavy rains on a cold night to attend a Bible study. By encouraging pastors struggling with few resources, the stress of family, job circumstances and the burden of spiritual darkness surrounding them, Collier saw relationships grow even stronger.
"Having established a Bible study and strengthened the ministry of two churches there, we have expanded our area of ministry to other villages in the southern area of Peru," he added. "Armed with the Gospel of Christ and mandated by our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20 to make disciples of all nations we are committed to a missional lifestyle."
The Baptist association's efforts not only have reached individuals with the Gospel but also encouraged local churches in the area to begin outreach to their own people. "Two of the evangelical churches in Ayaviri have renewed their interest in outreach and church planting since we have been making trips to the area," Ainsworth said.
One church has started an emphasis on evangelism and is working to start two new churches with the help of Texas Baptist association. Another church started 10 preaching points in the region. Recently, Ainsworth was able to provide funds from donors to purchase a motorcycle for a local pastor to help him reach those preaching points. Prior to this gift, Pastor Pablo did not have any transportation. Among the donors for the association's gift was Little Cypress Baptist Church, which provided half the money needed.
Jim Salles, pastor of West End Baptist, has experienced the work in Peru firsthand, going to the region in late 2012. He traveled with Ainsworth to an area known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This area is unchurched with almost no one having a personal relationship with Christ.
"I want to go back," Salles said. "In Maras where there is no evangelical witness, we spent three days walking and talking in the streets. We saw 10 or so express a decision for Christ, but there are many there open to a gospel witness. I made some great friends there and must return to see about them." For Salles, the trip confirmed the need for and the success of the Baptist association's efforts in the region.
After walking the streets of Maras, Salles said he sees no difference in ministry in Peru and ministry in Texas. "They are people, just like everybody else. And they react just like us. They have wants and needs, fears and apprehensions. If there are any difficulties in gospel presentation, it is entirely with us -- not them. It is no different here than abroad. Jesus met people where they were and for who they were. I can do no less."
Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont also has been making several trips to this area yearly and started a new church in a town near Ayaviri.
Ainsworth sees great value in the association adopting the work in Peru and ministering there for multiple years.
"We go back to the same area because we are trying to establish an indigenous church to an unreached people group. This depends upon building relationships for evangelism and discipleship. If the area had strong churches, then making a one-time visit to help the local church might be an option," Ainsworth said.
"But we are going where the number of evangelical Christians is less than 2 percent, and in some cases essentially zero. Repeated visits are necessary to earn trust and build relationships that allow people to be willing to listen to the Gospel that challenges their world vision."
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Stephanie Heading is a correspondent for the Texan.
Long-Term Investment in Haiti
By Robin Cornetet Bass
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Western Recorder) -- Three years ago this month, organizations around the world were rushing to offer humanitarian aid in Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake that left a reported 316,000 dead and more than 1 million people homeless.
And Kentucky Baptists were among the thousands of relief workers who responded to the overwhelming physical needs of the Haitian people.
But unlike government agencies and secular nonprofits pouring money and food into the devastated Third World country, Kentucky Baptists were additionally concerned about spiritual needs -- and it was that desire to share the Gospel that has led several Kentucky Baptists to remain in Haiti for as long as God needs them.
"We want to invest in Haiti for the long haul," said David Melber, president of Crossings Ministries. "We want to walk alongside the people of Haiti and practice the Great Commission."
In 2012, Crossings formed a partnership with Baptist Haiti Mission, a ministry with a 60-year history of serving the country that currently is affiliated with more than 350 Haitian-led churches. The bond helped establish Camp La Phare on the central western coast as a site for training Haitian Baptist pastors and ministering to both Haiti and Kentucky youth through camps.
More than 200 Kentucky Baptist students participated in Crossings: Haiti last summer and spent part of their mission trips helping to clean up Camp La Phare in preparation for a Haitian youth camp last fall. Crossings currently has three Haiti camps offered in 2013 for Kentucky youth wanting to experience serving in a foreign country.
Melber said plans are to open a second camp in Haiti this year—primarily intended to equip local Christians.
"The long-range plan is that we would have seven camps operating in Haiti, strategically located throughout the entire country so they are more easily accessible and are located near large populations of people," Melber said. "Much like 30 to 50 years ago in the United States, these camps would be a place people could go for retreats and training."
Answering the Lord's call to preach the Gospel in Haiti has not come without obstacles, Melber noted. Voodoo is prevalent in the culture and often is incorporated with newly held Christian beliefs.
Melber also said the Haitian government recently began confiscating imported non-government organization containers filled with building materials and other supplies purchased in the U.S. and elsewhere. Continued...