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FROM THE STATES: Texas, Ky. & Mo. evangelism/missions news

By Staff

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.

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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.

"You lose your material and you're forced to buy material in Haiti, which is at astronomical prices," Melber explained.

Scott Bidwell, who worked for Crossings for nine years before permanently moving to Haiti as a missionary five months ago, said good intentions might be the cause of the country's current economy.

"There was so much food and other stuff that got dumped in that it killed some of the commerce," he pointed out.

Bidwell now works as part of an effort to help Haitians help themselves. As director of Mountain Maid, a ministry of Baptist Haiti Mission, Bidwell heads up a retail outlet/restaurant in Fermathe that employs 40 people and purchases goods from more than 150 local artisans affiliated with Haitian Baptist churches. He described it as a ministry to disciple individuals while providing them opportunities to earn a sustainable income.

"I know the Lord has called us to be here," Bidwell said of his wife Monica and their two children, ages 6 and 3. "The culture is different, but there are an amazing amount of similarities. People are people."

Bidwell said he is looking forward to finding disciples he can walk with on a daily basis and "watch them grow up to be leaders of local churches and missionaries for Haiti."

The earthquake "opened a door," Bidwell added, but commitment will keep it open.

"We are all looking at this Haiti partnership, and we can honestly see ourselves working there for decades and still facing many of the same obstacles," Melber said. "But at the end of the day, it is worth trying to share the Gospel of Christ with people who are in bondage."

This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Robin Cornetet Bass is partnership editions director of the Western Recorder.

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Wentzville plant catches trend of multiplication

By Kayla Rinker

WENTZVILLE, Mo. (The Pathway) -- It started as a vision and a desire to build a community of believers in his new hometown of Wentzville.

Now, four years later, pastor Jason Zellmer, or "Jay Z," as his congregation affectionately calls him, has witnessed Peine Ridge Church grow from 19 people meeting in his house to as many as 290 on Sundays.

"It's by God's grace that we've seen that many people come through our doors, but that's not the measure of success we use," Zellmer said. "That's not the measure of success God uses. We've all seen the old attendance and offering board that hangs on the wall inside many churches. Well, that means nothing when it comes to what God wants churches to be focused on."

For Zellmer and his fellow Peine Ridge pastors, Jason Myers and Nathan Smith, it's not about expanding numbers, increasing budgets and building bigger facilities.

It's not about adding to what they're doing in Wentzville. It's about multiplying it.

"In 2013, our church will embark on starting a multiplication movement," Zellmer said. "This isn't a new vision, but rather another step to realizing the original vision God has given us. Our church wants to love recklessly, teach the Bible, help the hurting and plant new churches."

He said the key to pursuing church multiplication effectively is developing more disciples so that they can carry the torch for future church plants. Last year Peine Ridge invested in 60 different church members as part of its one-on-one discipleship ministry.

"Our Peine families become the missionaries we are sending," he said. "Making true disciples and planting churches is what the Bible says to do and as long as we are looking toward obedience to the Lord's command instead of looking at the budget and our buildings, we believe God will bless and that God's kingdom will grow. This is where God's heart is and this is how we will have success as a church."

But Zellmer insisted that duplicating Peine Ridge Church over and over wasn't the right move either. He said the reason they chose to name the church Peine Ridge was because the name is a well-known central location in Wentzville, and unique to the people who live there. Their goal is to start three autonomous churches in the next three years starting with "The Credence Campus" in Moscow Mills.

"We have over 30 people living in this community, as well as capable leaders," Zellmer said. "So, rather than starting a new service (at Peine Ridge), we will start a new campus in a new community."

Initially, all resources will be shared between both campuses and leadership would serve under Peine Ridge. But, as the Credence Campus develops its own teams and pastoral leaders are trained and appointed, they would assume the controls and Peine Ridge would only stay in the picture as a helping sister church.

He compared the resulting partnership on the local church level to the partnerships with the Missouri Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board, and Twin Rivers Baptist Association.

"Those partnerships have always been there for us and when we partner to plant new churches we want to be faithful to our partnerships to further the kingdom," Zellmer said. "We are grateful for the legacy of all the churches that have gone before us and for their continued prayer and resources, without which Peine Ridge and future church planting ventures would not be possible."

And while Zellmer's passion for church planting starts with Peine Ridge, it certainly doesn't end there. Zellmer is also on staff with the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association and, along with Darren Casper, is leading a church planting movement called plantMIDWEST. He said the movement is about identifying with the historic principles of partnership and cooperation that helped build the Southern Baptist Convention.

"It started with Darren Casper and myself gathering to pray together in St.Louis and has since expanded to people gathering throughout Missouri and Illinois, from the Ozarks to Kansas City and even to Chicago," Zellmer said. "We want to see a church planting movement in the urban, suburban and small town populations that make up the Midwest."

For more information about plant MIDWEST and its next quarterly meeting, visit www.plantmidwest.com.

This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist convention, Kayla Rinker is a contributing writer for The Pathway.

EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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