El Salvador trip kicks off partnership
JEFFERSON CITY – Nine Missouri Baptist leaders – five staff members of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), two MBC Executive Board members, and two Missouri Baptist church members – went to El Salvador Jan. 5-11 as the first official Missouri Baptist team to begin a new partnership with the Association of Baptists in El Salvador (ABES).
MBC Executive Director David Clippard and Executive Board members Wesley Hammond and Eleanore Warner led the inaugural delegation into the Central American nation. MBC staffers Roy Spannagel, David Ellis, Norm Howell and Mauricio Vargas were also part of the team that was active in speaking in Salvadoran churches. Rounding out the team were Mark McPike, member of Calvary Baptist Church, Hannibal, who was representing his pastor, Jeff Anderson, an MBC Executive Board member who could not make the trip due to illness, and John Warner, husband of Eleanore Warner and member of Eolia Baptist Church, Bowling Green.
A 10th Missouri Baptist, Samuel Gonzalez of Greene County Baptist Association in Springfield, was scheduled to be with the delegation in El Salvador Jan. 3-8. The delegation’s goal was to sign the official partnership agreement documents and to fan out all over the nation, which has a population of eight million, for the purpose of filling pulpits as a means of jump-starting the partnership. Howell said about four or five partnerships between Missouri Baptist churches and Salvadoran churches have already been launched.
“Our goal in all of our partnerships is to hook up church to church,” Clippard said. “We’re in a sense trying to broker relationships.”
Approximately 54 Baptist churches exist in El Salvador, which is bordered by Guatemala and Honduras. Vargas, a native of El Salvador, has been responsible for nurturing a church planting movement in his native land that has resulted in about 10 congregations. Vargas, whose first language is Spanish, served as a translator for his fellow MBC staff members on this first trip to the Spanish-speaking country.
“You can be there in six hours,” Clippard said. “It’s convenient. It’s close.”
The MBC now has two international partnerships. Its partnership with Romanian Baptists runs through October, and the El Salvador partnership is scheduled for 2007-2009.
Approximately 60 Hispanic, or Latino, churches in Missouri Baptist life could potentially be involved in the new partnership.