MBC churches catch vision for ministry to El Salvador
JEFFERSON CITY – Roy Spannagel, associate executive director for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), led a team of nine individuals to southern El Salvador Feb. 16-26. The team was headquartered in a family-owned hostel in the hill country of Berlin.
The primary goal of the trip was a scouting mission to become acquainted with the churches and missions in El Salvador and to see what needs could be met through the MBC. Spannagel said the main purpose was “to look at mission opportunities that will create excitement in the hearts of Missouri Baptist churches for a potential partnership.”
While the teams were meeting and becoming acquainted with the pastors and churches from the area, they were given opportunities to join with the locals in evangelism efforts. Through prayer walking and street evangelism, the team was able to engage in one-on-one personal evangelism. Through the use of a Spanish and English evangelism tract titled “One Way,” the members were able to begin conversations with the residents.
Spannagel used his knowledge of the Spanish language to attract people to him. He would begin his conversations by saying, “It is very important for you to have Jesus Christ because if you don’t, you cannot go to Heaven.” This led to open doors for conversation. Through street witnessing, the team saw one man pray and ask Christ into his heart.
The team also spent a significant amount of time prayer walking the streets of cities and villages that had pastor-less missions and churches that were in need of Missouri Baptist partnerships. Two members of the team, Jim Taylor and Scott Myrick, were so moved by the needs of a church in Sesori, El Salvador, that they are encouraging their home church in Blue Springs to partner with this ministry.
The prayer walking experience also led the group to pray for areas having no Baptist churches. Suzanne Freeman, a team member from Oakwood Baptist Church in Kansas City, recalled an afternoon that led the team to a mountaintop. “That afternoon we went up to a mountain and looked down below at the village of Algeria and prayed that God would start a mission,” she said.
The Missouri team also spent their time working with the current ministries through preaching, teaching and training. The church in Berlin called an unscheduled service on the Wednesday evening of the trip. The team was unprepared but willing to be used by God. One hundred fifty residents came to hear the word of God. Freeman had 75 children walk from long distances to participate in the service.
“I had grabbed a couple of Spanish [Bible story] books before we went on the trip and I was able to use them,” she said. Freeman taught the children the story of David and Goliath and was able to find supplies from a local store to engage the children in making a craft. “They were filled with excitement and enjoyed doing the craft,” she said.
On a Sunday night the team was able to meet with 20 youth and college-age students. “They were hungry for training on how to share their faith,” Freeman said. The group taught the students how to use colored “Power Band” bracelets to share their faith with others.
Jim Ballard, a director of missions in Idaho, had an opportunity to train adults in leading people to Christ through the Roman Road Scriptures. Over 50 adults learned how to mark the Bibles the team had given them with the appropriate Scriptures that “helped them know how to share their faith,” Spannagel said.
Through the efforts of the Missouri Baptist mission team, the Christians of El Salvador were encouraged to continue to share their faith with their community. Freeman recognized the need for churches in Missouri and El Salvador to partner together.
“The need is very great. We went to encourage the Christians there and to help them to evangelize,” she said. “There is a lot of potential to do things over there. The Christians are very committed. There were always a few that would go with us to minister alongside us.”
Spannagel addressed the mission and blessing that would come from Missouri churches partnering with El Salvador. “We are not there to do the work for the El Salvadorans, but to partner with them to reach the nation for Christ,” he said. “They will grow and we will grow and they will be blessed and we will be blessed and God will be glorified through it all.”
There are many different opportunities for Missouri churches to serve through these partnerships. The churches have little or no tools for Sunday School. Freeman saw the need for Sunday School books, dry erase boards, flannel graphs, and other materials that most Missouri churches take for granted.
Suzanne’s husband, James, a member of the MBC Executive Board, saw the need for groups to come in and team with the church members in Vacation Bible Schools, street evangelism, passing out tracts, music ministry, showing the Jesus film, and conducting sports crusades.
The success of the mission trip has led the team to come home excited and willing to encourage Missouri churches to begin partnerships.
“My general belief is the field is white unto the harvest and it is clear the workers are needed,” James Freeman said. “If you go work you will have a blast of a time…I fell in love with the people in the short time I was there.”