CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP)--Rich and Melissa Sivernell are learning that even though metro Denver is less than a thousand miles from Flower Mound, Texas, it's a very different world.

"Where we are starting a church in Stapleton, Colo., 98 percent of the people are unchurched," Rich Sivernell said. "A lot of people say the outdoors is their church, but that's more about nature worship than worshipping God."

Still, the Sivernells are excited about their new home and what God is doing. Stapleton is a new community taking shape in the area that used to be Denver's airport. Nearly 5,400 new homes have been built and more are coming. Many young families have moved there, and the Sivernells are finding many of them open to at least checking into church.

"We're partnering with the local community in some upcoming events," Rich Sivernell said. "This summer, we're going to be conducting a series of soccer clinics."

Rich and Melissa are building a core group of participants who will become the first members of a new church. In January, they plan to begin a Bible study to draw additional people.

The Sivernells were two of the 36 missionaries commissioned by the North American Mission Board at a service in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Corpus Christi Nov. 16. The group included missionaries who are already or will soon be serving in locations throughout the United States and Canada.

Church planter Alan Damron and his wife Sarah are serving in Haugan, Mont.; Zachary and Amber Edwards are planting a church in Cheyenne, Wyo., where research shows 95 percent of people do not have a relationship with Christ; Nathan and Amy Laughlin are starting churches in Vancouver, British Columbia; and David Worcester is reaching college students at San Diego State University.

Kevin Ezell, NAMB's president, told the missionaries, "You are starting well. Our hope is that you finish well."

Ezell challenged the group with a passage from Mark 2, when Jesus healed the paralytic after his friends overcame some great obstacles, finally lowering the friend through the roof in order to get him to Jesus.

"I'm grateful for some guys who said, 'We are going to do whatever it takes to get the job done,'" Ezell said. "Missionaries, there are going to be good days and challenging days, but you may always be assured that there are Southern Baptists all over this world who are praying for you and there are Southern Baptists in Texas who have your back. May you always do whatever it takes."

Addressing current changes and restructuring at NAMB's Alpharetta, Ga., offices, Ezell assured the audience, "As we go through changes, absolutely every change we make and every reduction we make is to put more missionaries in the field."

Jason and Karla Johnson served at First Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, until recently, when the family moved to Rosthern, Saskatchewan, a city of about 1,000 people. Jason had served as missions pastor at First Baptist-Odessa and had led mission teams from the church on several trips to Saskatchewan.

Recounting how God confirmed His calling to become church planters in the region, Jason said, "About a year ago, we were returning from one of those mission trips and my wife looked at me on the plane and said, 'God's calling us to be missionaries here, isn't He?' I said, 'Yes, I believe He is.'"

Now Jason, Karla and their three daughters have relocated and are working to start churches for the First Nations people of Saskatchewan. Currently there are only 11 Southern Baptist churches in the entire province of Saskatchewan.

The Johnsons said one of their primary prayer requests is for the Bible study they are starting with several members of the community.

"Our prayer is that people will not fear it, but see it as the way to the truth," Johnson said.

Before closing in a time of prayer for the missionaries, Richard Harris, vice president of NAMB's Sending Missionaries Group, told those in attendance, "These are your missionaries. NAMB has the privilege to process, deploy and commission them on your behalf, but we can only do it with the support of the churches."

Mike Ebert is vice president of communications for the North American Mission Board.

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