MBC exploring possible partnership with Baptists in Ghana, El Salvador
May 2, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Ghana and El Salvador have emerged as leading candidates to be in partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) in 2008, according to MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Norm Howell.
Both nations represent opportunities for Missouri Baptists to do church planting by working with nationals who are already in place. Howell has been on vision trips to both countries, starting in February with El Salvador, the native land of MBC Church Planting Strategist Mauricio Vargas, who accompanied Howell on the journey.
“Mauricio and I trained about 15-20 pastors, doing a variety of training and teaching,” Howell said. “We spoke in about 15 churches.”
The trip to Ghana took place from March 27 through April 6. Keith Vawter, pastor of First Baptist Church of Mansfield and a member of the MBC Executive Board, joined Howell on that occasion.
The MBC is facing a partnership decision on its current relationship with Romania.
“I’m recommending we would extend one more year (through 2007), but any churches partnering there need to continue on with the partnership, even after maybe as a convention we move on,” Howell said. “Our goal is not to see how many churches we can get to partner with the MBC. Our goal is that as we’ve got 10 percent or more of our MBC churches partnering in Romania, could we put 10 percent more in Ghana or El Salvador?”
Howell and Vawter ministered in Ghana with Mustapha, a church planting coordinator for the northeast part of Ghana who has planted about 65-70 churches in the last year in a mostly Muslim area. Mustapha introduced the Americans to the African method of planting a church out in the open. Howell and Vawter skipped a tourist opportunity one day once they learned of requests for their presence in some villages.
“We decided that instead of going on a safari we would go to these villages that were potential church planting sites,” Howell said. “When we went there, the people were just overwhelmed with us coming. There were places where there were no churches and no mosques. They were animist in their belief.
“We had about five national church planters with us, and they worked among the people. I preached in one village for about 45 minutes, and then the leaders worked after that. A number of people responded to the Gospel. Four days later, the first Sunday there, 175 people showed up underneath a tree for church. Out of that group, already they have pulled some men they are training to be church leaders and to start working there.”
Howell and Vawter spent two full days training 40 pastors and church planters.
“We taught methods of evangelism,” Howell said. “We taught about helping them to understand when you can know a person is saved—just basic principles of church growth and getting Bible study methods.”
They then visited about 15 villages. One village of about 1,000 people was “way out in the bush,” Howell said. The village chief welcomed them.
“We had to go through all of the procedures of getting his approval and so forth, because he has lots of power,” Howell said. “He was very receptive to us. Keith did some speaking there, and then we let our church planters do the work. They do all the follow-up. Then again, four or five days later, there was a large group of people that gathered underneath the tree for the first Sunday.”
The Missouri Baptist missionaries were headed to the capital of Ghana, Accra, when they stopped early in the morning at another village. This one was filled with Muslim mosques, but Howell is pleased to report that another church under a tree—a Christian church—has begun there.
“The church planter said he felt that we could plant a church a week in that area if we had teams that could come and help him,” Howell said. “He’s training the pastors, and it’s all done on a national level.”