North Metro senior pastor Frank Cox opened the evening by baptizing Bianca, a new church member from El Salvador.
Bryant Wright, Southern Baptist Convention president, and Larry Wynn, NAMB vice president for evangelism, charged the 67 new missionaries and others gathered at the church to be obedient to God's call. The celebration concluded with family, friends and North Metro members surrounding the newly commissioned missionaries for prayer.
Three new missionary families shared testimonies about how God is working in their lives and missions ministries.
"We have a prayer team that is so important to us," said Michael Akinpelu, a church planting missionary serving with his wife, Kemi, in Pointe-aux-Trembles in east Montreal. "We are loving the people there, letting them know that whatever they need, we will try to help them."
Michael came to Canada from his native Nigeria to obtain a Ph.D. "But I felt the Lord asking me to stop and go to seminary. I transferred to the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and received my M.Div. We moved to Montreal in May."
Already fluent in French, the Akinpelus felt called to plant a church in the east Montreal area, which has the largest concentration of French-speaking Quebecois in the city. Missional living led to their first convert. They engaged the women operating the day care their children attend. They shared the Gospel with both. One of them accepted Christ.
The Akinpelus opened their home for Bible study and decided on their first outreach event, a corn festival, capitalizing on a local staple. "We had 300 people in the park. We are hosting dinners in our home and inviting people to Bible study as follow up," Michael said. The woman from the daycare joined the study and brought her husband.
"It took some time, but she coaxed him to attend," said Kemi. "When he accepted Christ she was jumping up and down she was so excited."
In Indianapolis, Ind., Erik and Tanisha Hansen and their five children are reaching apartment communities.
"We started the process when God called us to multi-housing ministry," said Erik Hansen, a Mission Service Corps church planter. "We just did not know where. We explored the possibilities with NAMB and they connected us with Bob Burton in Indiana. One trip to Indy was all it took. We loved the city.
"After three months we hosted our first block party and we had 50 kids. That night at our first Bible lesson, I held up a Bible. Not a single person knew what it was. We knew we were where God wanted us," Erik said.
"We started using the Evangecube," Tanisha said. "We've had 100 children come to faith. We give them a cube to take home and a Bible. We believe we will see family members come to faith through the children." Twenty-five adults have come to faith through other outreach events.
"Our first summer we hosted five mission teams," Erik said. "One was a stomp motion group. They went into five public schools. The school superintendent called me saying he wants the group to return, visiting more schools. That's a God thing."
The Hansons have already launched their first church and have two more core groups preparing to launch the next two churches. They hope to have five churches started by the end of 2012 in five complexes.
"Apartments are neighborhoods. That's how we approach them," Erik said. "We are excited about Send North America and that Indy is a send city."
Missionaries Travis and Ashley Nichols are reaching Nepalese immigrants in San Francisco, and it all began with food.
"We moved to San Francisco in 2006, two weeks after we got married," said Travis, a church planting missionary. "God called us to cross-cultural ministry, and we knew how diverse the immigrant community is here. God confirmed that decision quickly when one of our first Nepalese friends approached us asking for help. He owns a restaurant and wanted to help the community. We started Curry Without Worry. Every Tuesday he provides free meals to Nepalese refugees.
"His staff, the Nepalese servers and cooks, became our first core group. Our first convert was one of the servers. We baptized him in the bay. When he left to go to school, his brother came. He told his brother he had to meet us. We led him to the Lord and he was baptized on our fifth wedding anniversary," Travis said.
The couple helped incorporate Ethne Global Services to help refugees assimilate into their communities by providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, cultural education and helping them find work in the area. They started a knitting business for the women, Himalayas By Hand and the men have started a soccer club.
"One week after our first convert was baptized he wanted to start a Nepalese church. We helped him gather a core group and disciple them. Within two months they had started a church. They started more small groups and are reproducing like wildfire. When you build reproduction into a church plant, that is what they do," Travis said.
Also addressing the missionaries were Robert White, Georgia Baptist Convention executive director, and Kevin Ezell, North American Mission Board president. The commissioning celebration concluded with Woman's Missionary Union executive director Wanda Lee offering a prayer for the missionaries and chaplains and for their service.
Ezell said he was excited about what is happening at NAMB, reporting that the church planting portion of NAMB's budget in 2012 will increase from 28 to 42 percent. "That means that millions of dollars are moving to support your missionaries," Ezell said. "We want to take better care of our missionaries."
Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board.
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