MBC eyes partnership with El Salvador
Central America ripe mission field, Romania partnership extended 1 more year
BOLIVAR – Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paris and chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board Church Outreach Committee, is sold on the idea of Missouri Baptists partnering with El Salvadoran Baptists starting in January of 2007.
“I’m excited about El Salvador because I think it will be a lot easier even for pastors like me in churches where we want to get our lay people involved but we’ve not been able to, because of distance or cost or opportunity,” Hammond said. “I think this will provide a genuine entry point for a lot more of our churches.”
On July 11, board members voted to recommend that the MBC enter into a 2007-2009 partnership with the Baptist Association of El Salvador, subject to formal approval by messengers to the 172nd annual meeting of the MBC in Cape Girardeau Oct. 30-Nov. 1. El Salvador is a small country in Central America with a population of eight million.
The MBC’s existing partnership with Romania is coming to an end this year, although messengers at the annual meeting will be asked to extend it through October 2007. El Salvador is seen as an attractive next step for at least three reasons—relatively low cost of travel, the fact that it is in the same time zone as Missouri, and the potential for the 60 or so Hispanic churches in Missouri to help lead the partnership in a Spanish-speaking country.
It costs $1,000-$1,200 to go to El Salvador, which is bordered by Guatemala and Honduras. Trips to other partnership locations can cost upwards of $2,000 to $2,500, according to MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Norm Howell. Not only is it relatively inexpensive, but it only takes a half a day to get to the El Salvadoran mission field by airplane, with one stop in Houston, Texas, Howell said.
Another factor in the MBC choosing El Salvador is the work of Mauricio Vargas, a native of El Salvador who serves as an MBC church planting strategist. Howell said Vargas has made it a habit every year to take vacation time to work among his people and has seen God birth and grow a church planting movement consisting of about 10 churches.
“We believe we could start about 15 churches a year there,” Howell said.
The Romanian partnership has been active since 2004, but the number of churches participating has not been as high as MBC officials had hoped. Howell estimated that there are a maximum of 250 Missouri Baptist churches involved in all of the international and domestic partnerships combined, counting all of the old partnerships like Belarus and Puerto Rico. The potential to involve new MBC churches in El Salvador is very real, Howell said, particularly when the work of Vargas among the Missouri Baptist Hispanic congregations is considered.
With high involvement from the Hispanic churches early on, the MBC could quickly begin to reach the level of its partnership with Romania. There are 40 or more teams that are active in Romania, Howell said, with another 30-35 churches involved in Colorado this year.
Hammond, who has been a part of two mission trips to Romania, mentioned the need for Executive Board members to lead by example in the area of partnership missions
“When we get involved, other people are going to want to be involved as well,” he said.
The final slide of Howell’s PowerPoint presentation to Executive Board members on El Salvador at Southwest Baptist University flashed the message, “Prove you believe in missions. Get a passport.” Both Howell and Hammond emphasized that if a church were to simply take a risk and go to the foreign mission field for the first time, lives will be changed.
The MBC initially was examining a potential partnership with Baptists in the Bahamas, but a partnership with El Salvador would be a better fit doctrinally, said MBC Executive Director David Clippard.