El Salvador partnership accelerates
Several more trips in the offing
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Partnership Missions Specialist Norm Howell looks up at the pretty map of El Salvador in his office, vibrant with shades of purple, red, green and brown alongside a strikingly blue Pacific Ocean, and smiles.
As of Jan. 30, Howell had placed six green dots marking church-to-church partnerships between Missouri Baptists and Salvadoran Baptists. He expects that number to quadruple in the months to come.
“This year I would be really pleased if we had 25 firm partnerships by October,” Howell said.
Howell is hopeful that the new partnership will take off because of all of the work that has gone into laying a good foundation. For example, he has visited El Salvador three times with MBC Church Planting Strategist Mauricio Vargas, a native of El Salvador who has extensive connections throughout the 54-60 Salvadoran Baptist churches. Their most recent visit was Jan. 5-11 as part of the MBC delegation that went to sign the official partnership agreement documents.
“This is a partnership in the truest sense,” Howell said. “We talked about what together we could accomplish—not what individually we are going to do. So I was very encouraged about their participation on a leadership level in their country.
“Everybody knows Mauricio. When you go to El Salvador, every church leader knows Mauricio personally. Their desire is that Mauricio would come back and he would be a church leader for them, like an executive director. Mauricio saw the condition of the churches not growing and he challenged them to plant churches, and for the first time in about a 25-year period they actually saw some churches planted, just because Mauricio gave them the steps to do it. That’s what really has launched this. Now what we’re going to do is just fan the flames.
“Our desire is that at the end of our partnership (in 2009) their convention will have doubled. That can easily be done.”
MBC teams are already scheduled to travel to the Central American nation in February, March, April and May. Summer teams are also making preparations to go with Howell looking at leading a team himself in either August or September. And it needs to be noted that plans for many of these groups are subject to change based on the insertion of strategic translators.
“We are trying to recruit on a number of our trips at least one Hispanic pastor to go with us from here in our state,” Howell said.
One of the 14 total mission teams lined up to go is the English as a Second Language (ESL) team set to leave in March. They plan to help public school teachers improve their conversational English.
“Our goal is through the church that’s here in this area people that are saved from this ESL will then be those that would help us to start new church plants throughout this area,” Howell said.
One of the ways Howell is preparing for what he hopes will be a fruitful year of sowing in El Salvador is by ordering 8,000 English and Spanish tracts.
“We’ve used them on the streets on three different occasions and every time we’ve had five or six people make professions of faith,” he said. “So we know that these things will work.”
Howell encouraged anyone wishing to go on a short-term mission trip to El Salvador to participate March 30 in the MBC’s third annual missions training event. Six areas of ministry training will be offered. To register for the training, call 1-800-736-6227, ext. 621.
A properly trained missionary will find a wealth of opportunity in the land of approximately 8 million people, Howell said.
“We can speak in the schools,” he said. “We can be involved in a lot of different things there and a lot of ministries. We have a couple of different medical teams being put together for the future. I am very encouraged.”