Written by Emily Anne Hoosier.
Emily is a member of Parkway Baptist Church (Moseley, VA) and a recent graduate of Liberty University.
She currently works for the International Mission Board.
If you’ve ever tried to plan or join a church mission trip to a place historically rooted in Christianity, you’ve likely wondered if it’s worth it.
The name of Christ Jesus has been spoken on Argentine soil for hundreds of years. According to the latest Joshua Project data, about 10% of Argentina claims evangelical Christianity, which is well over the minimum qualification of 2% to be considered reached. We can rightfully rejoice for those in the 10%. But in a “reached” country like Argentina, over 90% of the people are still without Christ.
In a spiritual reality such as this, Southern Baptist churches continue fruitful involvement in cross-cultural evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. Missions may look different in Argentina than in other places without an existing church. But by coming alongside a local church to engage the lost in its city, volunteer teams from Southern Baptist churches can serve an important role with a lasting impact.
The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers in to His harvest. – Matthew 9:37-38 (HCSB)
CONNECT WITH THE LOCAL CHURCH
IMB missionaries Jason and Kelli Frealy developed a relationship with a Baptist Argentine church, Iglesia Evangelica Bautista, and invited a volunteer group from SBC of Virginia churches to connect with what God was doing in Argentina.
“This allowed us to really know the people, love [them], serve with [them], and truly worship alongside each other,” said Mike Camire, student pastor at Parkway Baptist Church in Moseley, VA. “I do not think I have ever worked so closely with a specific congregation on [mission] projects in the past. I felt it gave a picture of biblical, Gospel partnership.”
In places like Argentina where churches freely exist, volunteer teams can share the Gospel right alongside a local church body.
SERVE WITH THE LOCAL CHURCH
At the Argentine church’s weekly service, Derek Futrell, pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Ridgeway, VA, thanked the church members for their generous hospitality and reiterated that the volunteer team did not come to Argentina to do the work of sharing the Gospel for this body of believers. Rather, they came to Argentina to do the work with them.
“It was incredible being able to work with the church and make relationships with the members,” said Casey Howell, 17, from Parkway.
The volunteer team of about 20 students, professionals, and pastors joined with members from Iglesia Evangelica Bautista in ministry projects throughout their city. They shared the Gospel in public plazas and in women’s groups. They shared with students and athletes—even with the mayor. On top of hosting, guiding, and interpreting, members from the Argentine church handed out Gospel tracts with the team and sought out spiritual conversations with their neighbors.
“We had conversations in which we shared the message of sin and salvation, possibly with people who had never clearly heard the Gospel explained before,” shared missionary Jason Frealy.
WORSHIP WITH THE LOCAL CHURCH
The Virginia team and the Argentine church relished these opportunities to form relationships and labor together for a new harvest. Their last evening all together was spent worshiping God at Iglesia Evangelica Bautista. An international blend of singers and musicians, including Anna Eckerd, 17, from Parkway, led the congregation in worship.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” said Eckerd, who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish. “It didn’t matter that I didn’t know [most of the Spanish]. It didn’t matter that I didn’t exactly know how the rhythm went. It was an amazing worship time.”
The congregation stood together as one body, worshiping God in two languages yet one voice.
“It reminded me of what heaven will be like, worshiping the Lord for all of eternity together with those who have trusted Him,” said Pastor Mike.
LOVE THE LOCAL CHURCH
Fernando Mangieri, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Conexión in Chesterfield, VA, preached after worship and gave an invitation to pray over anyone willing to serve God in a cross-cultural context. In response, 10 from the local congregation stood and walked to the front of the room. People from both the church and the volunteer team lifted up these brothers and sisters in prayer.
“It is thrilling to see believers—American, Argentine, or otherwise—acknowledge God’s work and call in their lives,” said missionary Kelli Frealy. “There is no telling what God will do with 10 committed Argentine believers willing to follow Him.”
After the service, the team said goodbye to new Argentine friends with several rounds of hugs and selfies, promising to keep in touch. Southern Baptist churches involved in this volunteer mission project not only shared the Gospel to reach the 90%—they also invested in relationships with the 10%, leaving them encouraged to live well among the harvest.
Your church will have its own story to tell as you implement these practices of connecting with, serving with, worshiping with, and loving the local church.
The SBC of Virginia is committed to mobilization and the ongoing partnership of local churches here and around the globe. Your church can partner today with the 700+ churches of the SBC of Virginia. An easy way to get started in cross-cultural ministry is to partner with one of SBCV’s ethnic church plants (contact Larry Black at firstname.lastname@example.org). As you seek to mobilize your church, check out sbcv.org/mobilizing to get started or visit SBCV’s webpage for international partnerships (sbcv.org/missionsmenu). You may also contact Brad Russell at email@example.com or Cathy Almond at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Mission Board (IMB) also stands ready to serve your church as you seek to mobilize. If you would like to connect with a missionary to speak at your church or find training resources and more information on how to get started with the IMB, go to imb.org/for-churches. These cross-cultural ministry training resources and experiences will inspire and prepare your church to mobilize for international missions and will unite your church with the diverse global church even in your own community.
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