Southridge reaches out to poor in El Salvador
JEFFERSON CITY—Jim Walker, pastor of Southridge Baptist Church, has been attempting to lead his church in what he calls an Acts 1:8 vision for missions for the past several years.
Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So, when Walker was approached by Mauricio Vargas, a church planting strategist from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), and Heber Mena, the pastor of the Hispanic mission that meets at First Baptist Church, with an opportunity to go to El Salvador in February 2005, he jumped at the opportunity.
During the trip, Vargas and Mena introduced Walker to several pastors and that led to a partnership between Southridge and one of the missions, located in Zaragoza, of the Nazaret Baptist Church in Santa Tecla. Southridge also works with the three other Nazaret missions in El Salvador, located in San Jacinto, Antiguo Cuscatlan, and El Pedregal, but their primary focus is Zaragoza.
“Our mission is reaching some of the poorest people there,” Walker said. “And we’re helping people work through their religious traditions to establish a relationship with Christ.”
Walker and his team have made two more trips since their initial visit—including a visit in January. That particular team, consisting of members of both Southridge and Fruitland Community Church (who partner with the mission in Antiguo Cuscatlan), was able to conduct Vacation Bible School for children, go door to door visiting approximately 40 homes, preach nine evangelistic messages at various mission sites, conduct an evangelism conference and put on a medical clinic. Doctors saw 175 people at the clinic and 109 people received spiritual counseling.
Overall, the team celebrated 58 salvations, four baptisms, and more then 20 rededications.
“The highlight of the trip for me was when the administrator of the coffee plantation in Zaragoza opened the plantation for about 150 people who waited after work one night,” Walker said. “And we were able to share the Gospel with them out of the back of a pickup truck and then minister to their children. The people from the mission went out and shared tracts with people who were there and we saw several people come to Christ that day.”
David Ellis, a Southridge member who serves as technology group leader for the MBC, was struck by how well Baptists from two nations worked together.
“For me the experience was one of true partnership in the Gospel,” Ellis said. “Salvadorans worked alongside Missourians in putting feet to the message of Jesus Christ. In most cases Salvadorans, after some brief training, outnumbered Missourians in outreach and evangelism. In my opinion, El Salvador offers a great partnership opportunity to MBC churches as it is a close relative to other partnerships, shares our same time zone and monetary currency, and the primary language is the second most used language in our state.”
The mission in Zaragoza is averaging 42 adults and 15 children each Sunday and they already have a church board and deacons. They are hoping to become a church in the next year and they are praying about launching two new cell groups this winter. Pastor Walker is hoping that two more pastors from the United States will partner with the missions in El Pedregal and San Jacinto since they currently do not have an American partner. Fruitland Community Church is planning to return to El Salvador in August and Southridge is planning to return in November.
“We’re humbled at the opportunity to live at a time in history when local churches can take the Gospel around the world,” Walker said. “It’s a humbling thing to be able to go to someone else’s country to share with them the most important message in the world and to see God work and the Holy Spirit move.”